The Maze Runner: The Death Cure | Wes Ball | January 26, 2018
It’s fitting that The Maze Runner: The Death Cure, the final entry of The Maze Runner trilogy, is released well after the well of Young Adult action films have totally dried up. While we had the high marks of The Hunger Games series and the lows of the later Divergent entries and a little franchise known as Twilight, The Maze Runner fits somewhere in between. It never quite reached the soaring heights of The Hunger Games in terms of quality or entering the zeitgeist, but one could make the case that the series had a pretty solid run that provided some popcorn fun good for all ages.
This concluding chapter was originally set for a 2017 release but, of course, had to be pushed back after star Dylan O’Brien suffered horrific injuries during production. While fans of the series were of course understanding and sympathetic, it was hard not to believe that the series lost a bit of momentum with the extra gap year since 2015’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.
The Death Cure picks up right where The Scorch Trials left off, wasting no time dropping fans right into the thick of the action with a rather impressive action sequence that absolutely hooks you in. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), along with his good friends Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden), work with Right Arm resistance fighters Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito), Brenda (Rosa Salazar), and Vince (Barry Pepper) to infiltrate a WCKD train hoping to rescue their friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee). They do rescue a train car full of fellow Gladers (those who are immune to the deadly Flare virus), but Minho isn’t one of them.
Not able to let Minho be tortured by vengeful WCKD leader Janson (Aidan Gillen), Thomas, Newt and Frypan embark on a mission of their own to find their friend and take down WCKD for good, no matter who gets in their way, even if it means Thomas’ former lover Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), who betrayed them in heartbreaking fashion during the closing moments of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. To do so, they must find a way to break into the guarded walls of The Last City, embarking on a mission features plenty of heart-racing action sequences and a few surprises along the way.
After two films, you pretty much get what you expect from the final installment of this series. It won’t come as a surprise that your connection to the previous entries steer just how much you’re invested in the actual story and not just the well-executed action setpieces. At a very lengthy 142 minutes, T.S. Nowlin’s screenplay takes its time applying the finishing touches to James Dashner’s novels. It’s understandable that they want to tie up loose ends and give it all finality, but the story gets stretched way too thin and aside from the touching moments of true friendship shared between Thomas and Newt, I found myself losing a bit of interest as the clock ticked on and on.
With that said, credit has to be given for director Wes Ball seeing his vision through for the entire trilogy. If there’s one thing the Maze Runner series had going for it, it’s the consistency that having one director gives your series and that definitely played a role in the series working in any form. The man definitely has a knack for staging some incredibly thrilling action sequences.
It’s just that his handling of the plot-driven material, unfortunately, isn’t quite as convincing. What did work is the action and the surprisingly touching performances from Dylan O’Brien and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, whose friendship is put to the ultimate test in a surprisingly emotional fashion. Sadly, Aidan Gillen and Patricia Clarkson don’t get to add much heft as disappointingly unthreatening villains and Walton Goggins is completely wasted as a new character named Lawrence.
There is no death cure for the Young Adult moment in cinema, but The Maze Runner finds a way to cross the finish line in a solid-enough fashion that didn’t blow me away, but it provided a bit of harmless entertainment that gave the series the closure that I’m sure diehards are thrilled with.