Scorch Trials bruns without shining

Watching the new “Maze Runner” is a lot like playing a survival horror game on “very easy” mode; There’s plenty of food and supplies casually scattered around, villains are easily knocked over and, of course, there’s lots of hair products and perfectly form-fitting clothes around with collars that can be so casually turned up. Hey, just because it’s the apocalypse, doesn’t mean you can’t look sexy and cool.”
But unlike with video games there’s no hope for a tougher, grittier version that makes for an enriching experience. Nope, we are stuck with this aimless, ugly, overlong slop that asks more questions than it answers like, “Why is this hero so special while simultaneously so dull and ordinary?” And “Why is everyone living in a place called ‘The Scorch’ dressed like they live in a Himalayan village?” If you are like me and were wondering all these questions and more I’m sure you can ask the tween girl next to you, who will gladly say, “Pssh, did you even read the book? Because if you did you’d know all the answers are in the next one.”
Given no answers about what transpired in the earlier movie, we find ourselves again with the same characters—“Boring Hero”, “Random Girl”, “What’s His Name?”, “That Dude” and “Other Guy”—as they continually find themselves in situations where no matter what’s going the only solution is to scream and run away.
This time they go from the green pasture of The Maze to the barren wasteland of the old world—which given the time frame of the opening flashback-within-a-dream seems to have existed only about 12 years ago. I don’t know what it is with the people who make these movies, but ocean-side cities like San Francisco don’t become the Sahara desert, and the buildings in ruins, in the same time-gap as the one between “Moulin Rouge” and this movie.
That’s all these movies are. Overlong, uninspired trilogies that validate themselves by claiming the mystery will be solved in the final movie. You just have to wait till the end. For now the characters will go to this bland location, and then this one, and then this one, until they are stopped by explosions.
The supposed “mystery” of where all of this is leading too is like Captain Crunch cereal telling you to collect all the special box codes in order to get a special prize. Oh you’ve invested all this wasted energy and nothing has come of it? Don’t worry, just keeping paying for it and you’ll get something eventually.
This would all be okay if we at least got some character progression, because if you can’t progress the story you might as well advance the characters, right? Wrong again. If this movie is any indication of how young girls like their men then it simply means girls like them one-dimensional and sweaty (but the hot kind of sweaty).
“Boring Hero” (Dylan O’Brien) is one in a long series of this archetype, who just ask questions while hopelessly out of breath and seem to have little use beyond, for some reason, being some kind of “chosen one”. He has no charm, grace or intellect—which he’s able to fake given all the luck he has making it out of sticky situations. Then there are his friends, who are only so given the immense circumstances they’re all thrust into together, who don’t even have the saving grace of being stereotypes. Just the same characters in different multi-ethnic bodies. At least they’ll earn points from the PC crowd.
But can’t they at least have horrendous obstacles to overcome, challenging their relationships and will? Of course not, that would mean good storytelling. Instead they, with great ease, cross this supposedly uninhabitable terrain that actually looks rather comfortable, with its nice breeze and blue sky.  Even the mutant zombies (who in design and vocal ques are an exact rip-off from the zombies in the game, “The Last of Us”) are easily taken down with bits of wood and pipes. Then they shake it off and run to the next challenge—which is the same one just in a different location.
There was an attempt at some drama though, when “What’s His Name?” has to take his own life so as to not become “one of those things”. Aw, poor “What’s His Name?” I was really starting to like “What’s His Name?”
Like other movies of the same vein, “Hunger Games” and “Divergent”, the young talent is overtaken by seasoned vets. In this case we have the always great Giancarlo Esposito, Alan Tudyk and Barry Pepper. Aidan Gillan is also here doing what he does best, which simply is constantly looking sneaky. But this time he has a cool leather jacket, with the collar up of course.
At the end there’s some pre-final speech where the good guys were just beaten and thrown into dire straits and “Boring Hero” gives some speech about “knowing what I have to do. I don’t care if I have to do it alone.” Others tell him “its suicide”, but “Boring Hero” cares not. And then when everyone else says they’re with him and ask his plan, the movie cuts to black. It’s because these movies don’t have a plan, not for characters, the plot or even trying to inject a bit of imagination into the bleak proceedings. But don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll have it down in the next one.

GRADE: D

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