The Maze Runner series is stuck in a precarious position. The genre that spawned its film adaptation is already dying, if not already dead in the water.
Ever since the conclusion of the genre’s darling child Hunger Games, other young adult film adaptations have fallen apart at the seams. The Divergent series has fizzled out. The Ender’s Game and 5th Wave series sputtered out before they could even start. Even John Green’s vast library of novels receive only lukewarm responses from critics and viewers.
Thus, Maze Runner: The Death Cure is tasked with two titanic tasks: concluding its aging film trilogy and evolving the YA genre out of its tired shell.
Thankfully, the third and final outing ends the series in spectacular fashion. It’s arguably the strongest in its trilogy. However, the movie still suffers from a plethora of growth pains, including a lack of identity, a prolonged conclusion, and a bland protagonist.
Fresh off their escape from WCKED and Teresa’s (Kaya Scodelario) betrayal in The Scorch Trials, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and company have to infiltrate the “wicked” company again to rescue Minho (Ki Hong Lee). They are again supported by smuggler duo Jorge and Brenda (Giancarlo Esposito and Rosa Salazar), and freedom fighter Vince (Barry Pepper). Aiden Gillen and Patricia Clarkson reprise their roles as WCKD honchos Janson and Ava Paige, respectively.
The Death Cure starts with a train robbery worthy of either Fast and Furious or Mad Max. It wastes no time with reintroductions or expository text. It assumes that the viewers already know everyone is. To its credit, the plot isn’t difficult to pick up even for the Maze Runner newbie: someone’s missing and they have to find him. Simple, but it’s an indication of how fast The Death Cure will barrel towards its fiery conclusion whether you like it or not. And that brings us to its first strange trait.
The movie doesn’t quite know where it wants to grow into. From a YA flick, it alternates between high-pace action, zombie apocalypse horror, and a Michael Bay extravaganza. Oftentimes, The Death Cure gets creative, alternating genres freely. It’s a breath of fresh air to see the film stray away from conventional YA story tropes, but too much of a good thing can be harmful. It quickly becomes a problem as the film overstays its welcome with a 2.5-hour runtime.
Just when you think The Death Cure has already reached its climax, it gears you up for 40 more minutes of set pieces and plot points. Both directors (Wes Ball has been behind the helm all throughout) and actors have a tough time letting go of the franchise, filling its runtime with insane stunts and sequences. This even includes a reality-breaking scene with a crane and a bus full of kids. You’ll even see heroes jump from twenty stories into a shallow pool. It’s brilliant entertainment but it draws you out of the plot a tad.
Speaking of plot, The Death Cure brings The Maze Runner’s unique plot to weird heights. Inarguably, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner series carries the most engaging premise among the slew of YA series out there—amnesic wakes up in a labyrinthine maze. However, the plot degrades into a labyrinthine maze of its own after the first film/novel.
It’s not just a maze. It’s also a zombie apocalypse, an evil corporation, and the classic YA struggle of kids versus adults. There’s a sense of messiness with the plot. Fortunately, The Death Cure wraps up its multitudinous plots nicely. Most plotlines are tied neatly with a few holes here and there.
For its genre, the film concludes unconventionally, setting aside its revolutionary plot for a more personal one. In fact, the story’s revolution was cast aside as an incidental subplot. There are no chosen ones or rebellion leaders. (Walton Goggins magnificently plays Lawrence, the infected revolution leader.) You never feel that The Death Cure is retreading the same ground as Mockingjay and Allegiant. It even plays like a conscious attempt to right the wrongs of the “chosen one in a rebellion” trope.
The film’s cast was highlighted by Scodelario, Brodie-Sangster, and Lee. O’Brien, however, suffers from a generic protagonist tasked to look concerned at everyone in his path. Despite their lack of a more prominent role, veteran actors Goggins, Esposito, and Pepper round out the young cast. For all concerned, the cast thankfully matured throughout the trilogy. The formerly young actors and actresses showed that they’re ready for more roles in the future, given the right script. (In fact, Nathalie Emmanuel already has mature roles in Game of Thrones.)
Overall, despite its flaws, The Death Cure is an entertaining romp through Bay City’s post-apocalyptic wasteland. Among the recent YA series shown, Maze Runner definitely makes a case for the strongest. Its unconventional plot and willingness to try different genres put this final outing above the rest.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure opens January 24, 2018 in Philippine cinemas from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.