VOD film review: Maze Runner: The Death Cure
James R | On 31, May 2018
Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen
Watch Maze Runner: The Death Cure online in the UK: All 4 / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Sky Store
The Maze Runner: an ambitious young adult franchise destined to go down in cinema history as that trilogy that was better than Divergent but not as good as The Hunger Games. The very mention of those series highlights just how outdated the idea of young adult dystopias has become in the modern cultural landscape. While The Hunger Games will live on thanks to Jennifer Lawrence’s sizzling central turn and its pertinent political themes, The Maze Runner is already hard to remember, with its central plot involving a maze and, erm, some running.
That maze, you may not recall, was an elaborate science experiment, designed to terrify young kids so that their bodies would secrete a chemical that could used as an antidote to a virus that had wiped out most of the population. It was far-fetched, absurd and borderline nonsensical, but the rigid structure and claustrophobic atmosphere of the maze itself was enough to result in a gripping, fast-paced novelty that was genuinely creepy and impressively acted.
All that promise was undone, though, by a directionless sequel, which left our rebellious teens running every which way they could to avoid infected zombies and the dodgy henchmen of the sinister science organisation WCKD – you can tell a company is bad when their name is one letter away from a lucrative sponsorship deal with an alcoholic beverage. The Death Cure rescues the series somewhat, less because of its quality writing and more because its very role as the concluding part of a trilogy means that it must have an end – an immovable barrier against which our forces can fight.
And so we rejoin Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) as he, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar) race to infiltrate WCKD headquarters to release their kidnapped friend, Minho (Ki Hong Lee). He, we learn, is being subjected to VR simulations of monsters trying to kill him – a relatively harmless lab-based scenario that renders the entire first film rather pointless in retrospect. Add in the central premise that Thomas’ blood contains the key to immunity and the second film becomes unnecessary too. On the plus side, that means it’s easier to sympathise with Teresa (the excellent Kaya Scodelario), who betrayed our gang last time around to work with the people trying to save the planet.
Should a small number of people be sacrificed to save the greater good? It’s an age-old moral dilemma, and one that is commendable to have at the heart of a teenage-targeted blockbuster. It’s just a shame that this core question, shared by Channel 4’s Utopia, has become lost in a muddle of illogical plot holes and often meaningless set pieces.
The Death Cure, though, aptly ups the stakes enough to counter the franchise’s lightweight feel, with Brodie-Sangster’s charismatic sidekick, O’Brien’s well-meaning hero and Scodelario’s conflicted former love interest all putting their own lives or those of their friends on the line. Their subtlety is undone by Aiden Gillen’s Janson, the head villain of WKCD, whose mission mostly appears to be devouring as much scenery as possible before the credits roll.
But if it’s unsubtle you want, director Wes Ball certainly delivers: he clearly enjoys switching gear from part one’s sci-fi and part two’s horror to out-and-out action, serving up an opening train sequence that owes a debt to Mad Max: Fury Road and a stunt halfway through involving a bus and a crane that could have come from a Fast & Furious sequel. Throw in Giancarlo Esposito romping about as desert pirate Jorge and you have yourself a daft burst of high-octane cinema that has just enough adrenaline pumping through its veins to keep moving before it keels over altogether. The trilogy won’t go down in history as a classic, but this final instalment can at least go down as an admirable shot at redemption.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure is available on All 4 until 31st March 2021.