Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hey! I Saw a Movie! - Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

I want to get this out while it's still fresh in my mind. I am doing a big summer movie round-up review that is half finished, so the first installment of that will be coming soon. For now, I review Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.

I'll start by saying I have never read the books. Like with all books adapted to film, your bound to lose valuable details that can help flesh out a story. As I suspect with The Scorch Trials, you probably lost a lot.

The movie is like a two hour car chase that tries to fill the occasional lull with plot exposition and character development. The result is a sense of near constant action while never building any real tension beyond the immediate threat of the moment. Those instances of character development feel forced and insincere.

A great example of this is when one of the group ends up dying and I honestly had no idea he was even a part of their group until a few minutes prior. I seriously don't know if he was introduced in the first movie or this one. While the other characters were crying I was like "Who the hell was he?" Maybe the book would have made him stand out enough to make me care, but the movie failed on that front.

All these complaints probably give the impression that I hated the movie, but I didn't. It was entertaining in an 'in the moment' sort of way. If I watch for the immediate action of the plot and don't actually give any thought to the greater story, it was highly entertaining. This goes back to that immediate threat of the moment thing I was talking about. The plot runs like one of those old serials from the 30's and 40's, except that each cliffhanger is quickly resolved and immediately moves to the next bit of action. It's fun to watch, but the movie doesn't really provide the viewers with a chance to catch their breath or consider the gravity of the situation.

What The Scorch Trials does well, like in the first Maze Runner film, is create high pressure action. This movie also adds a much more expansive and interesting world. While the first movie centered on a wooded glade surrounded by a bizarre labyrinth, this one featured vast wastelands, crumbling ruins of cities, subterranean tunnels and more. Combine those elements with threats such as zombie-like Flare Virus victims, sandstorms, ruthless scoundrels, not to mention the pursuing forces of WCKD and The Scorch Trials becomes a great fast paced adventure.

Then comes the problem... when I try to make sense of everything. Why did WCKD feel the need to construct giant mazes designed to kill teenagers that are immune to the Flare Virus? Isn't that counter-productive? They chase the escaped kids because of their rarity in having this immunity, but would kill them in some sort of experiment? It makes no sense. Maybe the movie explained why exactly WCKD needed to torture and kill these kids in concern to curing the virus, but either I missed it or it was so stupid I shut it out of my brain. It just seems like a cool idea backed by a very flimsy premise.

That's another thing... WCKD. The characters call the organization "Wicked" but the acronym isn't much better... I think in the movie it stood for World Catastrophe Killzone Division. Apparently in the book the acronym is actually the whole word W.I.C.K.E.D. which stands for "World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department." That is just awful. That is the kind of crap that would make me stop reading the book right then and there. If it was a matter of being 'tongue-in-cheek' about it, as if  satire (think Dominic Badguy in Muppets Most Wanted or "People Against Goodness And Niceness" from the 1980's Dragnet movie) that would be one thing. But for all intents and purposes, naming your villains "wicked" is beyond cartoonish for a book/film franchise that wants to deal with heavy handed topics such as death, sacrifice, pandemics, famine and ethics versus the greater good argument. It's like writing a story about a son of a Nazi trying to free Jews from concentration camps and naming the title character Poopy McStinkpants.

I also have to ask how exactly did a scientific research division become a powerful force in this post apocalyptic world complete with advanced gun toting armored soldiers, massive facilities with advanced technology beyond just for medical purposes as well as numerous flying vehicles? That's the equivalent of the CDC taking over the world from actual nations and governments. It doesn't add up, I don't care how bad the solar flare or the Flare Virus were. And, while this likely just plays into the plot of why WCKD is so wicked, they don't actually seem to be using this cure they have to help people. What are they doing, stockpiling it? If it is a means to force the world under their control by offering the coveted cure, what's the point? They're already the most powerful force in the world and everyone is afraid of them. Why would they need to subjugate the desperate survivors with a carrot on a stick when they already have the masses under their thumb?

So there you have it. The Scorch Trials can be a fun, action packed, thrilling movie as long as you don't think about it too much. To me it's about 50/50 as to how good the movie is. I didn't dislike watching it, but there's quite a lot of stupid to ignore. Still, somehow the Maze Runner movies are more entertaining than the Divergent series... they're both dumb but at least Maze Runner is exciting.

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