Synopsis – Young hero Thomas embarks on a mission to find a cure for a deadly disease known as the “Flare”.
My Take – Let me start off by saying, I am glad Hollywood is over the whole YA adaption phase, with the Divergent series trailing off so far that it is now turning into a possible TV series, along with forgettable films like The Mortal Instruments, The 5th Wave and Beautiful Creatures now a distant memory, even the one who started it all, The Hunger games, fell flat in its cash grab two part finale in spite of all hype around it, all I am saying is I am just glad it’s over! Yet, If ever given a chance to pick my favorite of the lot, I would definitely pick out the Maze Runner series, directed by Wes Ball and based on James Daschner‘s YA novel series of the same name. Though not nearly as perfect, I really liked the first Maze Runner film and unlike some really enjoyed the second film, The Scorch Trials, quite as well, mainly as the films being a part of trilogy are able to distinguish itself as series, all by establishing drastically different tones, for example, the first had a mysterious tone, while the second contained more of a horror tone, the finale carries more of an emotional and somber tone as it concludes the story and sees the departure of some of the characters. Finally hitting cinemas, after long delays following injuries sustained on set by the series lead, Dylan O’Brien, this final film of the trilogy, despite arriving a bit late (in the sense the YA boom is now a bust), manages to be a safe yet enjoyable closure. Taking place right after the events of The Scorch Trials, the story follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) who in a dystopian future, is part of group of survivors, rebelling against a corporation called WCKD who has been using human experimentation to research a possible cure to a world-wide plague called The Flare, which turns people into zombies like creatures called Cranks, a plague to which Thomas and his fellow survivors Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden) are supposedly immune to.
Joined by resistance leader Vince (Barry Pepper), Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar), the group has been on a constant rescue mission to retrieve children and their fellow survivor, Minho (Ki Hong Lee) from WCKD after the group was betrayed by one of their own, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario). After the latter is not found among their latest successfully rescue, the group finds out that Minho is already at WCKD’s imposing headquarters in the middle of the walled-off burg termed The Last City, where he is being subjected to psychological experiments all in order to extract a serum that would slow down the virus or possibly cure them. For Thomas and the gang to infiltrate this high-tech quarantine, lorded over by imperious doctor Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) and Janson (Aidan Gillen), her security head, they are forced to join a well-armed resistance led by a shadowy, half-infected figure named Lawrence (Walton Goggins), to take WCKD down and to put an end to this relentless cycle of exploitation and violence. Yes, this is a serviceable story, and there are nifty touches along the way: some set-piece helicopter action, a snarling tunnel attack by a crowd of zombified Cranks, as the Maze Runner is the rare series that has tried to improve with each installment, expanding beyond the organic pen of the first film into a bigger and more thrillingly realized science fiction sandbox. While the overarching narrative fails to impress, director Wes Ball keeps things at a brisk pace and manages to craft some impressive set pieces. In the young adult film genre it is rare to find a film that properly explores the grey between ‘good’ and evil’. This film does this, and does it beautifully, even though this film may not have the best paced plot, or the most logical action/escape scenes, but it has a heart. It doesn’t follow a group of heroes who set out to save the world; it follows a group of friends who just want to rescue one of their own, and are willing to put themselves at risk to do it. Part of the series’ success is its willingness to eschew sociopolitical allegory for straightforward action, and this final chapter is no different. It could dwell on issues of class injustice between those living within the city of gleaming skyscrapers and those living in the shantytowns below; or it could try to make a political statement by linking the massive, heavily fortified walls that surround the city and to some extent, it does flesh out the ethical conundrum of preserving the lives of an innocent few or sacrificing them for the greater good. The main strength of the film in comparison to the other installments is its ability to articulate the moral question at the heart of the whole series: Is it right to sacrifice your humanity in order to save lives? The series provides no clear answer, instead allowing the audience to empathize with both the protagonists’ and antagonists’ motives. The film asks both directly and implicitly, important questions regarding the morality of both sides of the fight. The work of WCKD swears by its intentions to complete their work until they find a cure for the greater good of the world and its people. It asks the questions of what is right versus what is correct. For Thomas, specifically, he must face the choice of saving his friends or saving the world. Sacrificing a whole generation in search for the right immune teen to then extract his life to engineer a cure or to escape, perhaps selfishly, to an island safe haven to start over small. One character, therefore, may be the key to solving their whole problem, but the cost may mean his own life and giving in to the hands of those whose trust is potentially a fickle friend- and time is running out. Director Wes Ball and his screenwriter T.S. Nowlin have shepherded the entire trilogy from print to screen and their affection for the characters is undimmed.
My personal sentiments for some characters aside, director Ball does a neat job setting up motivations, complexities and uncertainties, leaving you guessing right till the end. He also handles Newt’s arc deftly, and without giving anything away, let’s just say fans will be pleased by how that emotional turn of events is depicted as well as Brodie-Sangster‘s heartfelt portrayal. This one is way more action-packed than the previous two films. This one is all about jam packing more than its two hours run-time with one big action piece after another and you know what, most of them are actually pretty damn entertaining, far-fetched and at times ridiculous but still, entertaining. This film isn’t concerned about bringing you up to speed; it’s more concerned about concluding the whole saga on a blaze of glory. The last hour goes from one action-packed sequence to another without catching a breath, but visual-effects-supervisor-turned-director Wes Ball stages the fireballs, street battles and close-quarter fisticuffs cum shootouts with clarity, confidence and creativity, so that as relentless as it gets, it is consistently exciting than exhausting to watch. What I did not like about the film is it can be anti-climatic, as even after 142 minutes of its run time and an active and expensive-looking finale, the film never solved any of the mysteries the series has been setting since the first film came out in 2013, for example why was such a literally labyrinthine plan necessary to discover an antidote? Here’s a series that’s borrowed liberally from Lord of the Flies, Mad Max, and any number of fast-moving zombie pictures, but discarded their themes just like that. The future dystopia, the virus, the totalitarian quasi-government, the war between various factions — it’s all just a lot of stuff that happens. Plus, I am not sure if others out there would scream at characters for making stupid decisions in films, but there was a couple of moments, were characters make frustrating decisions such as when they pull out there gun towards the bad guy and give a long glance and stare down, until reinforcements arrive, than the good guys are on the run again or another moment when Thomas was disguised as WCKD guard outfit and in an elevator with one of the guys that’s always on a manhunt for him, he had the opportunity of ending this manhunt if he took the bad guy out, but he waits it out and moves on, and it leads to a long running away from WCKD and jumping out of buildings. I am guessing this type of cliché just gives the film more running time of action and prolonged fighting. Despite this, the film remains reasonably engaging a lot of credit for that goes to its lead star, Dylan O’Brien. O’Brien proved his dedication to his craft by sustaining a serious injury in a stunt-gone-wrong then returning to work as soon as he was healed. Here, he gives a suitably charismatic performance which makes Thomas a much more interesting lead than the unequivocal martyr-saint-hero seen in YA films. The female leads, Kaya Scodelario and Rosa Salazar have interesting arcs and play their parts well. Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter are stand outs, while Ki Hong Lee and Dexter Darden are good. Walton Goggins is completely wasted in an otherwise juicy role as the mangled leader of the resistance, so is Nathalie Emmanuel, while Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Barry Pepper, and Patricia Clarkson play their parts well. On the whole, ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ is a fun and unpretentious finale to a series which despite its problems never ceased to be thrilling and exciting.
Directed – Wes Ball
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 142 minutes