OPINION BY ERIC DEUTZ
Boy, it’s tough to be a young adult in the world today. Jobs, money and the time to Instagram, Snapchat and Netflix as often as is required to keep up your 21st century image are all so hard to come by.
Luckily, if there’s one place that does keep those poor young milennials in their hearts, it’s Hollywood. America hardly lets a month go by without a wide release of another film adaptation of a YA novel, a book genre that is quickly becoming one of cinema’s most counted-on screenplay sources — second only to comic books.
For the month of September 2015, that wide range of releases came to the world in the sequel “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.” And with so many of these being put into production, the real challenge is making them stand out (see “The Hunger Games” or “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”), rather than simply falling into cliché and being forgotten (see the “Divergent” series or “The Giver”).
The first “Maze Runner” film survived quite well on its strong, unique, intriguing premise. But knowing how the first one ended, I had my doubts going in. The filmmakers’ biggest challenge, ironically, would be avoiding getting lost now that they were out of the maze.
“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” starts right where the first film left off, with Thomas and the rest of the Gladers being taken in by an organization that swears to be an ally, helping to protect them from WCKD.
Of course, in these films, nobody is who you think they are, and the Gladers quickly realize this organization can’t be trusted. They strike out on their own, and we follow them for the rest of the movie as they try to figure out what exactly is going on and how to put a stop to WCKD.
Oh, and they run. They do a LOT of running.
Having left the maze behind, what viewers are hoping for are a new puzzle and a new adventure to carry the story forward. And though this film doesn’t quite rise to the occasion as it may have, it sure isn’t for lack of effort. “Scorch Trials” throws surprise after surprise at the audience (Zombies? Drunk night club? What?), and the moral dilemma at the heart of the film is enough to keep the story engaging.
But at the end of the day, all of these efforts to keep the story alive mostly just feel like well-played efforts that don’t add up to much.
The storyline, the characters and the setting, while all looking nice and feeling exciting, don’t have enough substance to leave the audience walking away with much. It is a lot of fun. I just don’t know where else this franchise has to go.
Arguably the best ongoing film franchise alive out there, “The Hunger Games”, has its final film opening this November. “Scorch Trials” is exciting and light enough to wet your tongue for “Mockingjay,” but not much more.
The writing is sharp, and the actors are committed – what “Maze Runner” lacks in an overstuffed world of dystopian action films is something that makes it stand out. The first film had that. I just wish they hadn’t found their way out of the maze so soon.