The Scorch Trials stars Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario and is a sequel to last years’ Maze Runner an adaptation of the popular young adult book series of the same name. After being rescued from the mazes by a seemingly benevolent military group, Thomas (O’Brien) and his friends find themselves in a huge and safe facility run by Janson (Aidan Gillen). 

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There, our heroes and other groups who escaped other mazes are clothed, fed, and can live in safety. All’s well and good until Thomas discovers that Janson works for the organization that had locked them in the mazes and that they plan to do malicious things to the escaped teens. Thomas and his companions escape and venture across “The Scorch,” a huge desert in a ruined city populated by “Cranks” (which are just zombies). Our heroes must survive the punishing heat, Cranks, other survivors, and Janson, who pursues them, in order to make it to a fabled safe haven in the mountains.

Despite the fact that I did not enjoy The Maze Runner I was still compelled to watch its sequel mainly because the entire first film was for all intensive purposes, a two hour lead up to this movie. The entire film piled on mystery after mystery and and answered none of them in a ploy to make the viewer want to watch the next one to get answers. I felt that it was a cheap plot to get people to watch the next film without having to use any energy by making compelling or interesting characters. However, I guess it worked on me because I wanted to see how all that build up would pay off. I was pretty much betting that they would use the same tactic and make this entire film a build up to the last one and I expected this movie to be horrible. However, I was pleasantly surprised, not that the film was good (because it wasn’t) but because it was much better than the previous one and at times I even found myself enjoying it.

My enjoyment of this movie mainly boils down to the new setting and the fact that the makers of the movie didn’t use the same dirty tactic as The Maze Runner. The Scorch Trials does not present the moviegoer with a hundred questions and doesn’t answer any of them, in fact this film is billed as being the one where all questions and answered. And although I don’t really think it delivered on that front (I am still unaware as to the purpose of the mazes and why the civilized world turned into a barren, arid wasteland) at least the movie didn’t raise any new questions. As to the other reason for me enjoying this film more, the setting of a ruined modern city slowly being consumed by a desert is the best aspect to this picture. It’s a visually interesting setting that lends itself to action and chase scenes and is for me the most memorable part of the film. Speaking of action scenes, those are another great aspect of the film. They are tense, exciting, and all around well executed. There are some scenes of genuine emotion that stand out and far exceed anything in the first film. For example one of the unmemorable side characters gets infected by a zombie as they roam through the scorch and they give him a gun to kill himself with and continue on. As they walk away silhouetted by the hot sun a echoing gunshot is heard and all the characters stop walking a few seconds pass and they continue their march. This is a compelling moment that shows the grimness of their situation and how this is the lowest point for our heros. Why they don’t go back for the gun escapes me but none the less there are a couple scenes of this ilk which give the Scorch Trials another leg up on the last movie.

This sequel does share the same major problem its predecessor had, the characters. Of course I use the word characters generously because they aren’t so much characters as they are wheels to move the plot along. Almost no person in this film has a definite of unique personality. I would dare anyone who wants to defend the greatness of these “characters” to name more than three personality traits for anyone in this film. You can’t because they are all just game pieces to play out the plot of the film. Our hero, Thomas, is the best example of this with his only two character traits being that he’s brave and loyal to his friends, not bad traits for a hero to have but they are exhibited so little that they just become like side notes, making him just as bland and boring as all the others. I can except that to some extent because the main characters aren’t the main characters, the world and the story are the main characters. No one watches this series because they love and identify with Thomas and his motley crew, they watch because the story and world are intriguing.  The story is this franchise’s main selling point and because of that, that is obviously that aspect the creators put the most effort into. However the plot of The Scorch Trials gets very convoluted and dumb at times. Add that to some glaring lapses of logic by the characters and the story ends up feeling bloated.

All things considered this movie just ok. Its setting, action, emotional scenes, and lack of the mystery gimmick make it rise above its predecessor, but it’s boring characters and forgettable plot keep it from being anything special. I was entertained well enough and if you liked the first one then you will probably like this one as well. I will give The Scorch Trials a C-.

By Sam Finbury