Scorch Trials simply simmers

“The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” released in theaters on Friday.

Based on the novel by James Dasher, “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” plays like a weird mash up between “The Hunger Games” and “The Walking Dead.”  The film is average, but it is an improvement over the first one.

The film follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his group of friends as they escape from the evil organization WICKED.  This film drops the convoluted plot twists of the books and simplifies the plot down to a chase between WICKED and Thomas and his group. The film is far better for it.

The movie does its best to work with the twist ending of the first film, by simplifying it to its basics and never mentioning it again- and it works. WICKED is reduced to generic paramilitary bad guys but it’s far better than the vague organization who loves being mysterious, just because being mysterious is “cool.” There is one plot twist at the end, but it’s so heavily foreshadowed that one expects it to appear far sooner than it does.

While a huge improvement over the first film, the script is paper thin and built upon ideas that have been done better in other post-apocalyptic movies and television shows. The clichés wouldn’t be so blatantly obvious if the script did a better job at making the characters more interesting.

They’re very one-dimensional and one note. At least this film attempts to show the characters personalities through actions as opposed to the first “Maze Runner” which just had characters say the other character’s traits without the characters doing anything.

“Scorch Trials” still uses the stupid nicknames for everything, for example, the desert that the characters wander through is called “The Scorch” but it’s not as in your face with the nicknames as the first film was.

The weak characterization is saved by the strong charisma of the actors. The main actors do a fine job with the script that they were given, but the highlight of the film are the supporting characters. Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad”) and Aiden Gillen (“Game of Thrones”) bring a lot of their natural charisma to the roles.

            Wes Ball, director of the first film, returns and does a great job with the action sequences. He does an excellent job of creating well-shot scenes that capture the ‘trapped’ feeling one experiences when being chased. Ball uses dark hallways for his action set pieces a bit too often, but the film does occasionally mix up the scenery.

            The set design is well-done. It does a good job of capturing the wide and barren nature of the post-apocalypse theme. The destroyed skyscrapers make for a cool and creative environment for the characters to play in.

But with the explanation the film gives for the end of the world, one can’t but help but wonder how the cities became so destroyed so quickly. Much like most of this film, it looks cool, but if one thinks about it for too long, it doesn’t really add up.

The concept of ‘WICKED’ works about as well as one would expect it to. Who is funding these lunatics so that they can build hovercrafts and super deadly mazes? Will we find out in the next film?