Movie review: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before the highly anticipated The Hunger Games finale rolls into theaters in November, let’s review the latest entry in a different dystopian franchise, which ultimately will be compared to both THG and Divergent series’ films with or without its permission. Let’s talk about Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.

IMDb summary: After having escaped the Maze, the Gladers now face a new set of challenges on the open roads of a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles.

The first thing that I would like to mention when talking about this film is the speed at which it was made. The first film in the series (review) was released in September of last year and the studio only greenlit the sequel when they saw, how much money the first film made. So, this means that they had less than a year to shoot and edit the second installment. For me, that seems really fast. Some movies get stuck in stages of pre-production or production for years and this one was shot, edited, advertised and distributed in 10 months time. Usually, such a short production period suggests that the movie was rushed and, consequently, might not be great. Thankfully, that’s not the case with The Scorch Trials.

Book&Writing

As some of you may know, this film franchise is based on a book series by James Dashner. I loved the book series and have read all 3 novels before going to see the first film. Now, I don’t really remember  all the details from the book, but can tell you that they changed a lot of it. However, as I have said numerous time before, I don’t care if the film’s creators alter the plot because I treat the book and the movie as two separate mediums and two different interpretations of the same story. Still, it’s interesting to see what is the same and what is different between the book and the motion picture. Though, which story is better is definitely not the argument that I want to have here.

Anyway, as much as I remember from the book, I can tell you that they did change much. While all the main points of the story were similar and mostly all of the characters from the book made it into the film, the details of the plot differed a lot. To begin with, the Gladers escaped from the facility at the beginning of the story for completely different reasons. Teresa and Thomas couldn’t communicate telepathically, so their relationship wasn’t that well realized in the film as it was in the book. Also, tattoos/title tags on the necks of the Gladers were not present in the film. These tags really raised tension between the characters in the book, so if they would have used them in a film, maybe we would have gotten some more character development/ conflict/dialogue and not just a lot of running. Lastly, the book had no Right Arm subplot and the ending of the film was very different from the ending of the book. However, I can at least imagine how they can get Thomas to a place that he was supposed to be in at the end of The Scorch Trials if they decide to follow the 3rd book a bit more.

The film’s screenplay was written by T.S. Nowlin, so those of you who like the book’s and film’s story to be exactly the same can be angry at him. (Please, don’t be!). Nowlin wrote the screenplay of the first adaptation and will probably be writing the script for the last film as well. He doesn’t have any other writing credits on his IMDb page, but he has produced a few independent films. I applaud his efforts on The Scorch Trials because he handled a plethora of characters and variety of different events, which influenced each other, quite nicely.

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Directing

The movie was directed by Wes Ball. He has also directed the first installment, so there is no shift in the tone. The wide shots in the Scorch were realized beautifully, especially when you could see the profiles of all the characters. Action scenes were also exciting and fun to watch. If Ball returns to direct The Death Cure (an adaptation of the last novel in the series), he said that they won’t split the film into two parts, which I’m very happy about, so I do hope that he returns. That film is planned to be released in 2017, so they will have more time to actually produce it (update: the movie was pushed back to 2018 because of Dylan O’Brien’s injury on set). In addition, Ball is set to direct an adaptation of Fall of Gods – an epic Norse fantasy. I would love to see that one as well.

Visual effects

This movie, as a lot of other dystopian/futuristic films, had a lot of CGI in it. The landscapes were beautiful and the zombie-like-creatures, who were sick with the Flare virus, were scary and ugly. Everything looked very realistic, especially when you factor in the cost of CGI and the budget of this film. The 1st Maze Runner was made for only 35 million dollars, so I don’t think that they’ve spent  a lot more than that on the 2nd film as well. At best, the studio could have given them 50 to 60 million dollars to work with. Other dystopian films cost a lot more, for example, Mockingjay Part 1 had the budget of 125 million dollars, while Insurgent was made for 110 million. To my mind, all of these 3 YA adaptations have the similar level of computer effects, so props to The Scorch Trials for saving money. And yes, I know that big name actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley have much bigger salaries than Dylan O’Brien, but even if you take that into consideration, The Scorch Trials still has the smallest amount to spend on visual effects.

Acting

This movie had a lot of character and all of them were realized quite well with a limited amount of screen time. This movie also received a lot of praises for how diverse its cast is.

  • Dylan O’Brien as Thomas was a great leading man as in the first film. He is a great sidekick on Teen Wolf, but he was great in the main role in this film as well. I also liked that he was a leader without a plan. I know that this makes him seem like a shitty leader, but that’s just the realistic portrayal of a young adult in the situation that Thomas was in.
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt and Ki Hong Lee as Minho are one of my favorite supporting characters of all time. I just love the trio that they and Thomas make. In addition, I loved how the director gave some screen time to both Newt and Minho to shine in the action scenes.
  • Rosa Salazar as Brenda and Kaya Scodelario as Teresa were the two very different female leads. I loved how they only implied the love triangle aspect of their story. They set up the twists in the stories of both girls quite nicely as well. On a side note, who would you like Thomas to end up in a long run? Even though, one of them might not make it till the end…
  • Nathalie Emmanuel as Harriet was a supporting character at the end of the film. She is the 2nd of 3 Game Of Thrones actors appearing in this film. First one being Thomas Brodie-Sangster and 3rd one being….
  • Aidan Gillen as Janson. He literally played the futuristic version of Littlefinger. I have no idea if I ever will be able to see actor Aidan Gillen and not think about his iconic role.
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Jorge was a nice addition to the cast. Weirdly, while reading the book, I always imagined him to be much younger, but he worked really well as an older father-like figure.
  • Alan Tudyk as Marcus and Patricia Clarkson as Ava Paige provided great support to the film as well. Alan’s line after Thomas’s speech at the end of the film mirrored my reaction to the same speech perfectly and although, Ava’s role as the evil adult from the government in YA movie is a cliche at this point, she was good in it.
  • Jacob Lofland as Aris Jones, Dexter Darden as Frypan and Alexander Flores as Winston were also great secondary characters and did a great job with what limited screen time they had.

All in all, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is a great adaptation of YA novel as well as an improvement in the franchise. I might be biased, because I am a fan of the dystopian genre, but I highly suggest you go see this film for a number of reasons, for example: if you want to see a male lead in a YA movie after a bunch of female-driven films, if you want more action than you got in Mockingjay Part 1, if you are a fan of any of the up-and-coming actors that are part of this huge cast or if you just want to have a good time at the cinema.

Rate 4.5/5

Trailer: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

P.S. The review of the 1st film – The Maze Runner – is my most viewed post ever, so I guess this franchise has quite a few loyal fans or at least plenty of people who are interested in it.

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Movie review: The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Movie reviews

Hello!

So, last night, I went to see the second installment in The Divergent Series – Insurgent and this is going to be my review.Enjoy!

First of all, I would like to give a spoiler warning because I might spoil some details of the film in the review. Still here? Let’s go then.

IMDb summary: Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.

As a young adult myself and a fan of dystopian genre, I was really excited about this film. I have read all the books by Veronica Roth about 2 years ago, so, going into this film, I knew what was going to happen. Still, since it’s been quite a long time since I’ve read the original material and I have read a lot of books since then, I couldn’t remember all the details of the story, so I got to experience everything once again, like for the very first time.

Having said that, before I did this review, I reread the plot of the book at The Divergent Wikia page and realized that I would have probably been surprised by the plot of the film even if I had remember the book’s plot because they changed a lot of stuff.

I am usually really open-minded when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations and the changes they make but this time I had a few problems.

To begin with, they left out a lot of characters. Marcus had nothing to do in this film, Tori was also left out for the bigger part and even though they gave Tori’s twist to Evelyn, she was also an undeveloped character. In addition, other characters like Shauna, Lynn, Edward were cut. Christina was forgotten and Uriah didn’t really stick out to me.

Moreover, they changed the story a lot. The whole box and the test story-line was completely different than it was in the book (though I really liked it – not more than the book version but they were on an equal level at least). The book also had more democracy in it: more trials, more meeting and, in the film, they were just straight up killing each other. However, I really liked that they didn’t shy away from the killing in a PG-13 film. The books had a lot of deaths in them (a lot of unnecessary ones, especially the 3rd book – book readers will understand:)) and the movie should portray the cruelty of that wold correctly.  Visuals

You can definitely tell that they spent 110 million dollars on this film because it looks spectacular. I immensely enjoyed all the simulations and the way they were realized. Those particles looked extremely cool. The whole world building and Jeanine’s holographs were also realistic and interesting. I just wish they hadn’t spoiled all the cool Tris’s simulation scenes in the trailers and teasers.

Character by character (acting)

I believe that the 4 main young actors did a great ob. I am a huge Shailene Woodley fan (the whole post about her) and really like her in a role of Tris. I also dig the new haircut: it makes her look more edgy and sophisticated at the same time. Theo James was also good in his role, though, he didn’t have much to do. On the other hand, he will have a bigger role in the 3 and 4 films if they stick to the Allegiant’s (book’s) plot.

Miles Teller was also very good in the role of Peter. I am also a huge fan of his (post about him) and really liked his characters changes of heart. Ansel Elgort – also a favorite of mine (TFIOS!). However, his story-line was a bit weak and the betrayal wasn’t really realized properly.

The adults: Kate Winslet as Jeanine was okay. I wish she would have done more with this role. Evelyn played by Naomi Watts wasn’t realized properly too as I have already mentioned. I wish they would have spent more time with Tori played by Maggie Q because she is one of my favorite characters. The only adult character I really liked was Daniel Dae Kim’s Jack King – the leader of the Candor.

Themes

The dystopian genre always explores the same themes: humanity’s self destruction, society’s division into groups and the cost of rebellion. Interestingly, this particular series also dells deeper into psychological issues of the main character: the ability to forgive oneself and be at peace with oneself. I really like when big Hollywood block-busters have some heart in them.

My favorite quote was said by Evelyn: “I am factionless because I don’t belong to any faction and you are a divergent because you belong to too many” (sorry if I couldn’t remember it word by word). It gives a nice perspective on the differences and ,at the same time, similarities of the people. No matter how different we all are, we are all outsiders of society. There is no inside circle.

All in all, I enjoyed the film but it was far from perfect. Next year, we will be getting Allegiant Part 1 and then Part 2 the year after that. I wish they would have stayed more faithful to the book while making the 2nd film and changed the 3rd book’s story-line but I really doubt that that will happen.

Trailer: Insurgent trailer

Rate: 4/5

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Photos: Screenshots form the trailer, poster – LIONSGATE.