Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
After the film was delayed for nearly a year following Dylan O'Brien's life-threatening injuries from an on-set accident, Maze Runner: Death Cure is finally here and its fans are chomping at the bit.
For fans of the first two films, though overlong at 143 minutes, Death Cure is going to give audiences much of what they have enjoyed about the previous movies.
Well acted and presented, director Wes Ball rings literally every drop out of his script that he can and directs the heck out of this thing.
Show of hands: Who asked for this to be 143 minutes long? At times, this is a looonnnnggggg movie to sit through.
All we end up with here is a bloated, wheezing film that never settles on whether it is an action movie, a dystopian drama, a love story, or some hybrid of all of the above. What is Maze Runner ultimately saying? You got me...
The movie looks terrific, but has no depth or actual substance to stick with viewers. Everything exists on the surface and the movie feels rather unbridled and immature.
Though it is a franchise of dwindling returns, initially, The Maze Runner was a compelling, curious Young Adult adaptation that provided us a slate of young, talented breakout actors whose exuberance on screen elevated a decent, formulaic screenplay.
In that 2014 first film, we learn the story of "Gladers", teenage boys who wake up in a grassy village surrounded by a large stone maze. As the boys select "runners", who attempt to find ways out of the surroundings, we learn of robotic monsters lurking in the maze - Grievers - who will attack anything that moves. And at the end, the group, led by Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), discovers a secret government entity may be controlling everything they experience, as they learn of a viral apocalypse which wiped out millions of people, but finds them somehow immune.
The Maze Runner drew on mystery, suspense, and themes of loyalty, survival, and adventure, as well as a "Lord of the Flies" dynamic that intensifies when a girl, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), suddenly arrives in the Glade.
For the 2015 sequel, The Scorch Trials, the surviving Gladers come face to face with the Flare, the virus which turns survivors into “Cranks”, or blood-thirsty zombie-like creatures. We also learn more of WCKD, that government entity trying to study those with immunity, as well as root out the resistance fighters who seek to destroy the facility once and for all.
And now, in 2018’s The Death Cure, we are storming the castle.
This time around, one of the core Gladers, Minho (Ki Hong Lee) is in the custody of WCKD and their facility sits embedded within a protected, labyrinthine maze called "The Last City." After a Mad Max: Fury Road inspired opening action sequence, which tragically led to the accident that forced O'Brien's sabbatical from acting and subsequent facial reconstruction surgery, Thomas brings his survivors’ faction to the cusp of the facility.
By this point, we understand WCKD is trying to find a cure for the virus from those who are immune, and Teresa is again working with the organization, alongside lead scientist Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson).
Directed by Wes Ball, who has helmed all three of these films, The Death Cure veers in and out of excitement and seat-shifting boredom. The screenplay by T.S. Nowlin makes baffling choices, as the movie’s energy stops and starts randomly. Just when we think the film is going to find another gear, we get stuck in the mud and lose momentum rapidly.
Maze Runner movies have always exceeded two hours, but this time, The Death Cure is a taxing 143 minutes long, and there are significant stretches of time where an antidote is needed to stay focused and awake. Working in the film's favor is that the whole project is well acted, save a lumbering turn from Aidan Gillen's scientist Janson, whose over-the-top vamping grinds this film to a halt. However, even if we like most of the performances and engage with the actors, we have seen these dystopian adventures played out so many times, by now we have got the basics down of what's going to happen and what to expect before the characters do.
WCKD HQ is so comically, well, wicked in appearance and garish in design, we realize the scrappy Gladers are getting into the facility. Once we see Teresa show a sympathetic gaze upon Minho’s situation, we know everyone is getting back together again. And of course, this is the finale, so naturally, Gladers vs. WCKD becomes our main event.
But for all of Ball’s ability to craft a great action sequence and success in generating spunky, inspired performances from his cast (Rosa Salazar as Brenda is a particular joy…), The Death Cure just draws everything out far too long. An audible groan could be heard around me when a character decides to assert some pent up villainy in the final act, because, like, when has a villain ever been successful in a Young Adult action-adventure?
Telegraphing what’s coming serves as a significant downfall of Maze Runner: The Death Cure. I admire the vision, I enjoyed elements of the film and series, but overall, this is a movie saying nothing profound and fading into the ether with other Young Adult franchises, likely running continuously over weekends on cable television in the years to come.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Rosa Salazar, Will Poulter, Ki Hong Lee, Patricia Clarkson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Walton Goggins, Barry Pepper, Jacob Lofland.
Director: Wes Ball
Written by: T.S. Nowlin
Adapted from the novel "The Death Cure" by James Dashner
Release Date: January 26, 2018
20th Century Fox