Here's the run down on the sequel, Maze Runner: Scorch Trials.
Pros:Plenty of fun "eeek!" factor. It turns out it is totally a zombie movie. There were hints of zombies in the first movie, but amidst the huge shifting maze, genetically altered half-robot half-monster creatures chasing them through the aforementioned maze, and lots and lots of running, there was too much going on to focus too fully on the zombies. But oh yea, there are PLENTY of zombies in this one, spitting what looks like blue ink and eventually morphing into weird half-plant creatures that are still trying to eat you. Go ahead and lace up your tennis shoes now, because we're basically going to be running the whole movie.
The friendships portrayed are endearing. The group of male friends who escaped from the first maze are very tight-knit, and stick with each other and fight for one another no matter what. However, emphasis on the phrase "male friendships"... more on that in the "cons" section.
New and fun characters are introduced! Jorge and Brenda, two Scorch dwellers who help Thomas and his friends out of the oh-so-noble hope of angling their way into the safe haven themselves (totally not blaming them on that one) are both strong and interesting characters. Looking forward to more of them in the next movie.
The scenery / setting is very wiggy. Post apocalyptic cities turned to dust... weird and creepy! We still haven't found out what happened to cause all that though, which is a little annoying.
Spoiler alert! Stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers!
Completely purposeless world. The world is still much more populated than we were made to believe in the first movie, but pretty much everyone seems to be simmering in hopelessness waiting to turn into a zombie. In the first one, it seemed like the rest of the world had already been wiped out, leaving only the WCKD people alive and running the maze trials, but oh no, there are tons of people still alive out in the "scorch." So many in fact, that they're manufacturing hallucinogens and having raves, though nobody seems to be working or farming or otherwise generating food. Everybody's just loitering in the dessert, preying on one another and partying. WCKD seems like they should actually be a force of chaotic-good ("stop the plague by any means necessary"), but the movie seems determined to turn them into a hollow, mindlessly "bad" entity, by having one of the WCKD leaders shoot a doctor who was opposing them, but still could have been helpful to them. (We keep being told that there is a safe haven somewhere where there is order and purpose, but we haven't seen this yet to know how it fits into this world.)
Females seem excluded from meaningful friendship. This movie is an unabashed bromance, and Theresa, the girl who was also with them there in the maze, is a definite afterthought. She, poor thing, seems to always be off on the outskirts of the group, acting zoned-out or being conflicted, and with a perpetual mouth-half-open, deer-in-the-headlights, look on her face. The majority of the time the guys seem to forget she is even there, which I find funny... as if a group of teenage boys would forget the presence of a member of the opposite sex for a single moment? *rolls eyes*
The plot meanders... a lot. They call it "Scorch Trials" but "trial" implies a beginning and an end meant to prove something or test something... there was no such purposeful action here. The kids run away because they see other kids in a comatose state, hung up on what looks like meathooks, while the protein needed to cure the plague is "harvested" from them. They run into the desert, and then bounce haphazardly around reacting to whatever they happen to encounter until Theresa decides that WCKD is still the only hope of saving mankind from the plague, and betrays the group back to them.
We lack one simple fact to tell us who is good and who is bad... Does "harvesting" the zombie-antidote kill the host? Or could it be like volunteering to donate plasma? It's filtered out of you for a period of time, and then you go on your way fine and dandy? Presumably WCKD would just openly ask for the Maze Runners' help if it DIDN'T kill the host, but none of the Maze Runners ever tried to verify that those being used to harvest the protein were actually being killed as a result. Even if it does kill the host, there is a "sacrifice yourself to save the world?" question that never comes into play. Presumably in the third movie we will encounter the safe haven with labs and things necessary to cure the plague without necessitating that particular moral dilemma, but at the end of this movie the Maze Runners are resolving to go destroy WCKD... which does currently seem like it would be equivalent to destroying the last hope of mankind.
One other minor grievance.... When the group first starts to run into the scorch, they come across what looks like a warehouse to hide in. After hiding there for a bit, they realize zombies are also lurking there and start to run away. In the process of running away, the warehouse turns into a massive mall. Its gave me the disoriented feeling that I've sometimes had in a nightmare, when the surroundings morph into something totally new once the monster jumps out at you... annoying!
This movie was very short on plot, and nearly devoid of character development. However if you like dystopian movies and/or zombies, it will probably still provide a mindless couple of hours of enjoyable "eeeek!" for you, and then of course discussion material for you and your other geeky friends as you pick it apart like I just did. I would still wait for Netflix rather than seeing it in the theater though. And you could always just watch Walking Dead for the eek factor, combined successfully with plot and character development... ;P
Somebody who has read the books, tell me if the third one gets better! 'cuz if not, I'll be giving it a miss.
Edit: My friend Melody has read the books and shared some interesting comparison points with me... in the books, it actually IS a trial they undertake in the Scorch -- they don't escape from WCKD, they are set free to accomplish set tasks. So, no meandering aimlessly, there's a purpose to their travels. Also, Teresa isn't around for most of the middle of the novel, which is probably why she seemed like an afterthought when they had her tag along for the whole of the movie! Lastly, Teresa and Thomas are telepathic in the book, and they aren't in the movie... which makes their occasional sense of connection seem much more random. All three things that would change up the plot a great deal! Seems like the movie veered away from the book in some disappointing ways... =/ (Melody and anybody else who has read the books, correct me if I misunderstood or left anything out!)
Here's the preview, in case you're curious:
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