Movie review: Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Movie reviews

Hello!

The last of the YA dystopias is coming to an end. This is Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

IMDb summary: Young hero Thomas embarks on a mission to find a cure for a deadly disease known as the “Flare”.

Writing

The Death Cure was written by T.S. Nowlin (the writer of the two previous pictures in this series and the upcoming Pacific Rim: Uprising film), based on the book of the same name by James Dashner. I’ve read the original trilogy more than 5 years ago now, so I hardly remember its plot details (I might have remembered a bit more a year ago, when this film was supposed to come out but, as it was pushed back due to Dylan O’Brien’s injury on set, I’m now more in the dark than I’ve ever was). However, this movie franchise has gone so far off the books (especially in the second film) that my background of having read and not remembering the book hardly impacts the motion picture watching experience. Having said that, I did recount two major things from the last book that managed to stay with for 5+ years and both of these developments were preserved in the film. I was quite upset that the filmmakers kept the first thing (from the selfish fan perspective) but quite glad that they retained the second one (from an objective-ish reviewer perspective). Let me elaborate. Also: SPOILERS!

The first thing I had in my mind was the death of probably my favorite character from the series – Newt. I distinctly remember being very sad after finishing the book and hoping that, when this novel will finally reach the big screen, Newt will be allowed to live. However, I’m not surprised that the screenwriter kept such an ending for one of the main character’s, as his final scene was pretty emotional and made for a great and powerful moment on screen. His nickname for Thomas – Tommy – was heartbreakingly sweet too. The second development that I’ve mentioned as having liked from a more objective point of view was the movie’s (and the book’s) ultimate ending. The film ended with all the surviving characters living on an island (a more realistic version of the safe haven from the books. In the original novels, a portal had to be taken to reach safety rather than just a boat). I’m glad that the screenwriters didn’t change the ending into fairytale/happy one but kept it ambiguous: what will Thomas do with HIS gift? In addition, I feel like a happy ending (like a sequence of the cure being spread to everyone) would have undercut all the losses that the surviving characters had to go through.

Now, having explored some of the narrative details, let’s look at some themes. One of the major topics of discussion for the film was memory (and my musings about remembering or forgetting certain details of the plot somehow feel more appropriate). Another big concept for this series has always been friendship, which was on display here once more (Thomas, Newt, and Minho are one of my favorite trios in YA fiction). The shades of the love triangle (Thomas, Teresa, Brenda) were present too, though, they weren’t on display that much.

My few slight criticism towards the writing were mainly just two and both of them had to do with the antagonists of the series. For one, I have never fully understood the hierarchy within the WCKD. In this film, Ava Paige had to ask somebody else for the permission to start the human trials of the cure as if they haven’t been experimenting on humans for years already to get the vaccine in the first place?! Also, I’m still not entirely sure whether I buy Teresa’s shifting allegiances or it might be that I just don’t understand her character and the scale she uses to judge what is right on.

 

 

Directing

Wes Ball directed The Death Cure (he also did The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials) and did quite an amazing job, especially with only around $60 million budget. The last entry into the franchise was highly action-packed. The said action was also quite varied: the film had a variety of sets (all brown and broken but still cool looking) and a ton of CGI that looked quite good (I’ve seen movies that cost double what this one did and looked four times worse (*cough, cough*, Geostorm). The focus on the action in this film also allowed this series to finally differentiate itself from the other YA dystopias, mainly The Hunger Games. While THG finished off as more of a political thriller, TMR series seems to have always been more about the spectacle and only then about the ideas. The ideas – the attempt to go the political thriller route with the cure only being meant for the privileged – were present but they did feel like an afterthought. The Maze Runner series should not have tried to shy away from its action roots, as these sequences were the best ones in the movie. Having said that, the characters had to break into The Capitol-like city in this film, so maybe these two series aren’t that different after all. I wonder how the Divergent/Allegiant situation is going on? That series probably won’t end ever.

Anyways, the fact that this movie had a lot of action, also helped it with the pace, which was quite fast. The only dip came in the second act, however, the first and the third acts were rapid and intense.  My only critique of the action sequences was that, at times, they were filmed with a bit too much of the shaky cam. Nevertheless, those moments were far and few in between, while the majority of the action was captured by a handheld but steady enough camera, while the mobile frame helped with the intensity. I also loved how the action scenes in the first act (the maze and the grievers; the cranks) were used as a slight reminder of what happened in the previous pictures. Lastly, how nice was it that they the filmmakers (and the suits) didn’t divide the finale of the trilogy into two parts!

Acting

The Death Cure saw the return of all the favorites. Dylan O’BrienThomas Brodie-Sangster, and Ki Hong Lee were all great as my favorite trio: Thomas, Newt, and Minho, respectively. I only wish that they would have shared more scenes together. O’Brien’s TV show – Teen Wolf – has ended last year but he has been steadily racking up movie roles (in this series, Deepwater Horizon, and American Assasin) and seems to be fairing much better than the actual lead of his TV show – Tyler Posey. I really hope that the relative financial success of this franchise will allow Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Ki Hong Lee to be cast in more projects too.

Will Poulter (The Revenant, Detroit) also returned as Gally, while Dexter Darden had some neat moments (operating a crane) as FrypanKaya Scodelario (Pirates 5) was okay as Teresa, while Giancarlo Esposito’s (OkjaJorge and Rosa Salazar’s Brenda were neat to watch in their father-daughter-like relationship. On the villain side, Patricia Clarkson (The Party) was still immaculately dressed in white as Ava Paige, while Littlefinger – Aidan Gillen (Sing Street) as Janson – was doing his thing as usual. Another GOT family member (who also stars in Fast&Furious franchise) Nathalie Emmanuel (as Harriet), as well as ShadowhuntersKatherine McNamara (as Sonya), appeared too, although the film didn’t really know what to do with them, after having introduced them in The Scorch Trials as members from a different maze/test group.

In short, Maze Runner: The Death Cure was an entertaining finale to the, overall, surprisingly strong YA franchise, that pleased my heart and mind. And this praise comes from somebody who was once the biggest fan of the book and this genre in general.

Rate: 3.8/5

Trailer: Maze Runner: The Death Cure trailer

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Movie review: The Maze Runner + book

Movie reviews

Hi!

Today, I went to the early screening of The Maze Runner because I am in love with the book series by James Dashner and I couldn’t wait for the movie. I was really happy with the casting choices but more about that later.

Let’s start with the summary: When Thomas wakes up trapped in a massive maze with a group of other boys, he has no memory of the outside world other than strange dreams about a mysterious organization known as W.C.K.D. Only by piecing together fragments of his past with clues he discovers in the maze, can Thomas hope to uncover his true purpose and a way to escape? – Written by 20th Century Fox

The first book in The Maze Runner series came out in 2007 and the two sequels The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure in 2010 and 2011 respectively.  The prequel for the series The Kill Order was published in 2012. I have heard about these books a couple of years ago but, just when I got the news that they are making the movie with Dylan O’Brien, I decided to read them. It took me just a week to fly through all 4 books. I love this particular genre – dystopian science fiction – and a lot of people do too. Some readers state that The Hunger Games started this new phase in young adult’s literature and all other series are just copying THG. I can agree with them only partly. Of course, THG added to the overall success of the dystopian genre, but, for example, the first book in The Maze Runner series was published a year before THG came to the bookstores. Also, I personally don’t care if these books have similar premise – if they weren’t fresh and exciting for me, I would not read them. Other similar books: Divergent, Uglies, Delirium, The Giver, Gone.

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But back to The Maze Runner. I loved the characters of the books and I believe that they made perfect casting choices. Dylan O’Brien was perfect Thomas, Thomas Sangster – Newt to the point (By the way, I am a huge Teen Wolf and Game of Thrones fan so I was familiar with the work these actors have done. If you haven’t seen any Dylan’s movies, I suggest you watch The First Time – you will laugh and cry all the time) and Ki Hong Lee – was a real life Minho. Plus, Will Poulter portrayed Gally, the first enemy of Thomas, superbly and Aml Ammen did a good job as Alby. Special props go to Blake Cooper who played the most annoying but the most loveable character – Chuck. The only casting choice I wasn’t particularly excited about was Teresa – Kaya Scodelario did a good job but didn’t blow me away. Strange, how I love the entire male cast and feel kind of shaky about the only girl in the group? This shows that if the movie is dominated by one gender that doesn’t mean that just that gender will go to see it.

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First of all, let’s acknowledge book to movie changes: There were quite a few changes in locations, appearance of some stuff and even in the overall plot. However, these changes were small and not critical. They basically added more action (CGI and color palette looked great). I didn’t mind these changes because I had already learned to enjoy the book and the movie separately. I read the book before I go to the film because I like to be familiar with the characters and the setting of the story but not to know what will happen to the smallest detail. I might imagine the story in one way while the director has his own imagination. And the character or plot point changes are just another interpretation of the same story.

At first, I was enjoying the movie but not loving it completely. But as it went on, it got better and better and belter. I didn’t want it to end. I hope that it will deliver in the box office and that we will get the 2ND movie because The Scorch Trials is my favorite book in the series.

Trailer: The Maze Runner Trailer

Rate 5/5

UPDATE: The Scorch Trials got a release date – September 18st, 2015 !!!

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