Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Director: Wes Ball

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is the third and final chapter in this post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller based on the best-selling young adult novel series by writer James Dashner. This one promises to clarify the mysteries set up in the first two instalments.

In the first flick, Maze Runner (2014), Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) found himself walled into an expansive, ever-changing maze, along with several dozen other young men and one young woman, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), collectively known as Gladers. Though life is survivable in the lush green interior of the maze, human nature drives them to escape to the world beyond, which they manage to accomplish by overcoming and outwitting the Grievers, spider-like monsters with a taste for human flesh.

The second flick, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015), finds Thomas and his companions, including Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), ensnared in an even worse predicament, as the maze was contrived by an evil conglomerate called WCKD who re-captures them, along with escapees from many other mazes. Extreme measures, when it turns out that all these young people have a natural immunity to the Flare Virus, which has infected most of the world’s population and their blood is needed to help find a cure. This research is headed up by scientist Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) who is only slightly less deranged than her henchman, Janson (Aidan Gillen). While Thomas and most of the Gladers escape their clutches – a terrible betrayal results in Minho’s capture.

I found both these flicks to be reasonably enjoyable, low-budget, high-concept actioners, heavy on the CGI, driven by well-timed set-pieces. With two solid, box-office successes behind him, director Wes Ball was able to put together an $80 million (US) budget allowing for some jaw dropping action sequences and outstanding CGI for this allegedly final flick in the series.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure opens with a death-defying, white knuckle train heist in a vast desert, air-jacking a railroad car in the hopes that Minho is among the prisoners being transported to the mythical “Last City.” The Gladers have picked up two adult rebels, Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and Vince (Barry Pepper), who have been battling WCKD for years. They counsel the Gladers to cut their losses so they can all go find a safe place to live. But with Minho enslaved, Thomas refuses and sets off for the Last City, where they must now break through walls to get into the maze that is WCKD headquarters. They manage this with some unexpected help and overcoming impossible obstacles and an endless army of orc-like disposable police. There is only one way this flick can turn out and die-hard fans will not be disappointed.

Production of The Death Cure was delayed by over a year when Dylan O’Brien was seriously injured while shooting the opening scene. As a result, there were three years between the 2nd and 3rd movies and the cast matured considerably. They can’t really pass as teenagers any more, but they do a fine job, especially O’Brien who seems poised for a career as an action star.

On the whole, the flick left me feeling a bit let down. I was expecting more – and less. While the action was great fun, the script seemed leaden and predictable, relying on blind luck and  fortuitous coincidence to drive the plot forward, rather than the characters figuring it out themselves. Nearly every time they are nailed into a corner with no way out, someone who refused to help or they thought was dead turns up and saves the day.

It also struggles to tie up loose-ends, without getting to the bottom of just why WCKD was so… wicked. Any rational person would engage rather than alienate the (very few) people who could save the human race. The dialog, which should have been illuminating, dragged on at times, especially scenes with Ava Paige and henchman Janson. They are the embodiment of evil but blather on speechifying at times like doddering idiots, despite the world exploding around them, leaving me wishing for a re-enactment of Samuel L. Jackson’s life-changing speech in Deep Blue Sea.

There are just so many unanswered questions left dangling. And now we have three movies, but four books in the series, plus a prequel. I smell another, more definitive ending, in the works… and maybe a new beginning…

Maze Runner: The Death Cure opens today. Go see it and tell me what you think.

Veronica McLaughlin