Directed by Wes Ball. Starring Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aidan Gillen, Patricia Clarkson, Katherine McNamara, Ki Hong Lee, Giancarlo Esposito, Barry Pepper, Lili Taylor, Nathalie Emmanuel.
THE PLOT: It’s still the end of the world, or thereabouts, and lead Glader Thomas (O’Brien) and his fellow teen maze survivors have been taken to an industrial underground lair, the suave Janson (Gillen) promising them all they’re about to be brought to the promised land. They just have to sit tight, and each will eventually be called. Thomas has his suspicions about this particular paradise confirmed when another maze survivor, Aris (Lofland), shows him where the daily chosen ten actually end up – hanging on hooks as they’re harvested for their old friends WCKD (aka World Catastrophe Killzone Department). Naturally, Thomas leads a dramatic escape, and these fiesty teens are soon battling demons and reflecting on life, love and the promised land as they trek across a post-apocalyptic America…
THE VERDICT: It’s a franchise that might as well be redubbed The Meh Runner, given just how pedestrian, and largely aimless, these mid-budget adaptations of James Dashner teen novels have been so far. Plainly hoping to get a little of that Twilight and Hunger Games box-office lovin’, The Maze Runner franchise will no doubt give everyone involved a wage, but it’s far from being the worldwide franchise hit Fox would have hoped for. And on the strenght of The Scorch Trials, its audience is likely to get smaller rather than bigger.
The plotting is pure videogame, as out small team of teen survivors face dangerous set after dangerous set, fighting off zombies, the military and, most frightening of all, sidewinder Aidan Gillen. The Irish actor is the king of playing snakes in the grass – so much so, you pretty know from the start that this good Samaritan is the devil in chic clothing. “I’m tired of running,” states leading man Dylan O’Brien at one point, and by the end of this achingly so-so movie, so too will you. RATING: 2.5/5