From the Archives: Running the Maze Runner series: Part 2 The Scorch Trials

From the Archives: Running the Maze Runner series: Part 2 The Scorch Trials

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.

Originally posted on Cinema76.

Whoa! Holy hell! What just happened?!? Was I just blown away by Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials?!? Yes!  YES I WAS!!!!  No, it’s not high art, but it IS a relentless onslaught of plot on plot on plot on plot, told with such committed intensity that I couldn’t care less that the internal logic is non-existent, or that our lead female, Diet K-Stew, remains a flavorless placeholder. There was just so much ba-BAM, pew pew pew, WHOOOOOAAAAMMMMP, that I barely had time to think critically. And who would want to? There are at least 35 movies contained within Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.

Strap in. We’re about to cover all of them.

First off, Scorch Trials immediately one-ups it’s predecessor by opening with some Patricia Clarkson, rather than saving her until the end. And it’s not even a hologram version of Patricia Clarkson either. She’s here in the flesh. Well, it’s a dream, but still. In the dream, Thomas captures a few of the memories he’s lost, and then he jolts awake in the helicopter from the end of the first movie. They’ve landed, but they are not safe. Why? ZOMBIES, THATS WHY! Run from the zombies, kids! I guess that these zombies are people who are infected by the disease that our leading children are immune to (unless bitten or scratched by a zombie, apparently), so everybody is made to run into a giant stronghold. Thomas turns back to the helicopter however, because he needs to retrieve Piggy’s carving because it’s meaningful or something. Once they get inside, Littlefinger from Game of Thrones is all like “I’m clearly the shadiest person who has ever lived in the history of time, please let me take care of you and protect you from W.C.K.D.”

Note: I’m calling it “Wicked” from now on because typing out periods is an unwanted hurdle to my flow. Deal, y’all.

Everybody except Thomas immediately trusts this guy. Idiots. Show me a movie where Littlefinger plays a good guy and I’ll eat ten shoes. He’s the new Joe Pantoliano in that way. One thing he did that I appreciated is he acknowledged that the kids all smell, which is nice. That’s been bugging me since this series began. There’s just no way they don’t smell like filth. Inside this compound the kids are fed, given beds, and made to adhere to many secretive security measures. Apparently there were a ton of mazes, and this compound contains the former prisoners of all of them. This includes one kid, we’ll call him Egghead, who is a loner weirdo who came from a maze that was populated entirely by women. This never really comes up again in any meaningful way.

Every day a bunch of kids are selected to be moved from the compound to a farm that is apparently a safe haven, but we all know that this isn’t the case because Littlefinger is never ever ever to be trusted. Diet K-Stew (true K-Stew taste, only one calorie) is taken as part of one of these groups, and even though she now has something to do, she is given nothing to do. When Thomas expresses anger that Diet K-Stew was taken, fellow Glade survivor Minho says, “If I know one thing about Diet K-Stew, it’s that she can take care of herself.” What?!? How does he know that? She has done nothing but regularly require rescue since she showed up. Also, this movie seems to lean on the period of time between entries to faux-build character relationships. The Glade survivors have only known Thomas and Diet for like a week at best.

Thomas teams up with Egghead to climb around in the air vents and see what’s up. It seems that this farm doesn’t actually exist and these groups of kids are being brought to a lab where glowing blue juice is drained from their bodies until they die. Hologram Patricia Clarkson says that they need to push harder to find a cure for the zombie disease, but she doesn’t want the kids to suffer. Littlefinger says “don’t worry, they won’t,” and then does this ridiculously evil face twitch that plainly states that making kids suffer is totally his thing. Thomas sees this while sneaking around and then does that thing that all action heroes do where they pretend to fight with a security guard so that they can steal their all-access security badge card.

He rounds up the rest of the Glade survivors, as well as a handful of new kids, and they mount an escape. Minho drives a flying knee into a security guard and steals his lightning gun, which shoots lightning bombs. It’s like a taser but with better pew-pews.

The kids run away and Thomas gives Littlefinger the middle finger. Haha say that out loud, it’s fun. Then more zombies attack and the kids fight them and shoot lightning guns and one kid, Winston, gets scratched by a zombie. It’s gross. The kids run out into the desert aka ‘The Scorch’ as soldiers follow. Thomas yells, “Keep moving! We’ll lose them in the storm!” There’s a sandstorm, and a bunch of kids in t-shirts lose a team of highly trained, heavily armored soldiers on quads within it. Minho and Thomas make a suicide pact since they’d rather die than become zombies. This is a movie for kids.

The kids decide to head for the mountains since at some point someone mentioned “The Right Arm,” a band of rebels that resist Wicked might live there. I must’ve missed the mention but that’s fine.

Diet is starting the get her memories back, and it’s also revealed that she has a neck tattoo that can be scanned like a barcode. At some point much later it is made clear that all of the kids have codes, but I don’t really remember the significance. Anywho, as she recounts her memories she says to Thomas, “Everything was okay until you sh—.”   Oooooh, cryptic. And thennnnnnn… Winston zombie! Winston is starting to turn and asks to be killed. Instead, one of the kids who is also on Game of Thrones (there are a few) gives him a gun so he can do it himself. As the groups leaves Winston behind, we hear a gunshot. We are supposed to assume that Winston is dead, but I like to pretend that he was just cleaning it and it went off. I’ll sleep better that way. Poor Winston.

Off in the distance the group sees electric light (no orchestra), and as they run to approach it, a giant lightning storm occurs and Minho is struck. He’s fine. Kid is an incredible badass.

Inside this new compound (the source of the electric light), the kids are greeted by MORE ZOMBIES! But these zombies are in chains, and a new character, who I now have a huge crush on, walks through a sea of chained up zombies and says, “I see you’ve met the guard dogs.” So badass. We’re gonna get married, which is why I will now be referring to her as my wife. She also says, “You guys look like shit,” which, being a line in a PG-13 movie, makes her even more badass. I love my wife. From this point forward, a lot of people say “shit,” which is really awesome. Between that upgrade in profanity allowances and the sharper effects, it’s clear this movie has a budget.

My wife says she needs to bring these kids to meet someone named Jorge. For a few seconds the camera dances around Jorge’s back as if the reveal of his identity was going to be a novelty cameo. Guess what. Jorge is GIANCARLO ESPOSITO! So I’m all like “hells to the yeah boyeeeeeeee!” Jorge decides he’s going to trade the kids back to Wicked for money or something, but then Littlefinger and Wicked show up and start shooting people. Jorge decides that he will instead use the children as a ticket into the good graces of The Right Arm. He and most of the kids zip line to safety while a bomb is set to go off upon the end of Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight.” Thomas and my wife don’t make the cut for zip lines and instead have to escape via sewer where my wife advises that “full-term” zombies might be hiding. There are also signs of romance blooming between Thomas and my wife, so even if he survives this adventure, I might have to kill him.

During their escape they do run into some full-term zombies which are even more cartoonish than the previous iterations, but somehow still scary. Something about YA adaptations makes cartoonish monsters acceptable. From the dogboys in Hunger Gamesto these full-term zombies, the tone just works. Remember the monsters in I Am Legend? These guys are cartoony like that, but whereas it doesn’t play in Legend, it works very well here. Anywho, there’s a GREAT stunt sequence involving parkouring through collapsed buildings and dangling over steep edges. Unfortunately, my wife is scratched in the leg by a zombie. Not cool. I love my wife. I am concerned.

They head for another “civil” area where they intend to find a guy named Marcus who should connect them to The Right Arm. My wife loudly says “try to blend in,” and as much as I love her, that’s a terrible way to blend in. Especially when paired with looking around incredulously and asking questions like “have you heard of someone named Marcus?” The town is a slum, and the ringleader is … wait for it … ALAN TUDYK! Yusssssssssss! He tells Thomas and my wife that in order to get information, they must drink a psychedelic and party in his club. They do, and all things considered, it’s a pretty great trip scene. My wife is all like “screw it, let’s just stay here and do the dirty until we die.” They both pass out and when they wake up they find that Jorge and the gang (the name of my new funk band), have rescued them and Jorge is now torturing TUDYK (who actually IS Marcus) for information. It works, and then Jorge steals TUDYK’s car, Bertha. TUDYK is like “no, not Bertha,” but screw him. Bertha is a truck with bullhorns. Jorge and the kids drive it to the mountains in search of The Right Arm.

They get stuck in abandoned car traffic and are attacked by snipers. Jorge produces a remote control bomb which they plan to use for a distraction, but then the snipers appear and are like “nobody move WAITAMINNIT IS THAT EGGHEAD?!?”

It turns out that the all girl maze seems to have escaped and joined with The Right Arm, and since they recognize Egghead, all is well. One of these girls is on Game of Thrones as well. And you won’t believe who the leaders of The Right Arm are.

Get ready. Wait for it. You might want to sit down. The first leader is… drum roll…

Barry Pepper! He still hasn’t shaken the cold that he always appears to have, but it’s nice to see him nonetheless.

The other leader… Lily Taylor!!! She’s also a doctor that recognizes Thomas, and uses his blood to make glowing blue juice to help heal my wife’s leg wound. Says it’ll buy her a few months and at least one more Maze Runner movie. That’s good, I love my wife.

Once everything gets all settled, Thomas notices Diet brooding on the edge of a cliff and decides to go see what’s up. She says “Listen, I’m an idiot and I called Wicked (somehow – maybe the neck tattoo?) and told them where we are.” And Thomas is all like “what are you, crazy? You spend two whole movies not doing a damn thing and then you finally do something and it’s this?!?” And then Diet is like “Whatever dude, I just want to help them find a cure and I don’t care what happens.” And I’m at home all like “I still don’t understand the logic of why torturing kids helps a disease get cured, anyway let’s wrap this up, cuz it’s getting a bit late.”

So Wicked shows up and grabs both Diet and Minho, and Thomas somehow still has Jorge’s bomb from earlier and decides the blow everyone up and be a martyr. All the kids are now like “Suicide pact? DOWN!” Thomas doesn’t end up detonating the bomb because Jorge rolls through and runs over a helicopter with Bertha. Wicked decides to cut their losses and leave with their two captives, and Patricia Clarkson indicates that she may not be all bad (which I’m sure will come up later). Thomas is like “Now I gotta follow them and rescue Diet and Minho” and everyone else is like “dude, don’t even start with that shit. Let it go.”

He’s not gonna let it go. There’s another movie to be had!

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