Downhill After Exciting Opening
Maze Runner: The Death Cure opens with an exciting action sequence that seems to set the tone for what’s to come in the third and final(?) installment of the Maze Runner trilogy. It is an over-the-top, Mad-Max-inspired chase sequence involving our gallant hero Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), accompanied by friends Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Brenda (Rosa Salazar), and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) as they attempt to hijack a speeding transport train carrying a captured member of their band of rebels. It is elaborately staged, well executed and simply exciting as hell as dangling cables are attached to the train car before it is swiftly lifted into the air by a hovercraft and transported back to the rebel base.
Unfortunately though, it’s all downhill from here. Not only does the sequence represent the high water mark of what follows, it also beautifully illustrates how logic and sound reason will continue to give way to stupidity and pure spectacle as this thing lurches towards its conclusion. See, our heroes somehow managed to steal the wrong train car! So they spend the remaining 140+ minutes attempting to rescue their colleague who wasn’t on the train car they hijacked. The Death Cure is long and it is formulaic with occasional moments of intrigue. But mostly it is dumb and disposable.
The film picks up about 6 months after Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials ended. The survivors of the Flare (an infection that has devastated the world’s population and left them as flesh-eating zombie-like crazies) are reunited and have found a safe base of operations away from the influence of WCKD, the all-powerful entity that believes the cure for the Flare rests in sacrificing the few young people left in the world who are apparently immune to the disease’s ravages.
Thomas has rounded up his fellow survivors, joined the massive resistance around the walled last city, and together they’ve set their sights on the WCKD headquarters where captured colleague Minho (Ki Hong Lee) is being held and where Thomas’ one-time love, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) has turned to the dark side as she tries to discover an antidote to the disease using Minho’s blood.
What follows is more than two arduous hours of repetitive action sequences and torturously bad drama as Thomas and his angry band fend off hordes of starving zombies, attempt to breach the city’s towering walls, and navigate the labyrinthine entanglement of the glass and steel city. Nearly every “Okay, that was kind of cool” moment is followed by twenty minutes of ho-hum predictability and actors delivering stilted lines while staring out into green screen space. It’s not that what we are watching is stupendously bad. It’s not. But following nearly a decade of YA novel adaptations, ranging from Harry Potter, to The Hunger Games, and then through the Twilight/Divergent phase, we’ve seen all that the “band of rebels going up against a dystopian power in the future” has to offer. Sure, they are all watchable, and, at times even blow our skirts up. But every one of them becomes played out by the third installment and that is certainly no different with this Maze Runner closing chapter. It is riddled with one chase scene after another, big dumb action set-pieces, and over-the-top CGI. And at nearly 2 1/2 hours, it can be quite trying to get through.
But it is not just a bloated runtime, uninspiring characters, and a played-out subject matter that plague The Death Cure. Several critical lapses in logic in writer T.S. Nowlin’s script deliver a significant blow to our ability to suspend disbelief. For instance, it is never quite made clear why the screening and blood drawing process from the “immunes” must be so brutal and violent. And why must they be captured? After all, wouldn’t they want the world to be cured from the infection as well? Also, several lingering questions left dangling from the previous films haunt this one, adding to its many problems. Why were they tasked with completing the maze in the first installment if the cure for the disease is blood-based? Oh, what a maze of unanswered questions. Okay, sure. There’s very little point in investing too much time and thought into the story’s underpinnings. After all, it is a zombie movie, of sorts. But what a shame this chapter doesn’t stand up on its own merit.
(Released by 20th Century Fox and rated “PG-13” for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, and some thematic elements.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.