Review – Still Running… (“The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”)

When last we saw our plucky band of rag-tag dystopian teens, they had just escaped the inescapable Maze and found out their whole world was merely a test for sequel. Figures, right? They go through unimaginable heartache and pain, death at every turn, and NOW they gotta do it all again? Geez, Louise! What’s up with that?


Those who escaped the Maze from 2014’s movie are back and very confused. And rightfully so. After being told by some weird company called W.C.K.D. (via video) that the Earth was scorched by a solar flare and left almost everyone dead or affected by a pandemic virus called The Flare, THEY were immune to the virus! Surprise! AND their whole Maze running and escaping experience was simply a test to see if they were worthy to go on to Phase Two. What’s Phase Two? Glad you asked!

Flown to a massive outpost in the desert, Maze leader Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his buddies, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Honh le), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Frypan (Dexter Darden), and Winston (Alexander Flores) are shuffled inside away from the super-fast Cranks (think zombies from 28 Days or World War Z) and find other teens from other mazes that survived their tests. The facility leader, Mr. Jansen (Aiden Gillen), tells of an idyllic life for them, but you KNOW all is not happiness and popsicles as they’re led to believe.

One kid, Aris Jones (Jacob Lofland), discovers all the kids are being harvested by WCKD’s sinister leader Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), who wants to find a cure for the Flare virus at any cost. Thomas and his gang flee the place (running and escaping) and take off to find “The Right Arm”, a supposed resistance group hiding in the mountains. (more running and escaping). But first they encounter Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito), Brenda (Rosa Salazar), and their outlaw fugitive gang who’ll take them to The Right Arm, but WCKD finds them first! (more running and escaping)

After even MORE running and escaping from Cranks, WCKD, and a devilish peddler in flesh named Marcus (Alan Tudyk), Jorge, Brenda, and our Maze heroes finally find The Right Arm’s location and Vince (Barry Pepper), their leader. This armed group are planning on striking that big ‘ol facility we saw in the beginning and freeing all the kids, but oh no! One of our heroes (I won’t say who) turns Judas and betrays the others, as WCKD shows up and ruins the day. Yes, more running and escaping ensues.

But just as the bad guys leave with their cargo filled with immune people, Thomas, Vince, and some of his escaped friends vow on settling the score by going back and killing Paige and freeing the others. That means you gotta wait for The Maze Runner: The Death Cure, which won’t be out until 2017…  AND there’s talk of that movie being split in two parts! Egads!

T.S. Nowlin, who’s writing/adapting all of James Dashner’s popular YA books into movies, really likes the catch-phrases, “Go! Go! Go!” and “Run! Run! Run!”, as it’s spoken SO often by everyone it should be a drinking game. Seriously, it’s used A LOT! Plus, there’s is SO much aforementioned ‘running and escaping’ it becomes a (pardon the pun) running joke after a while. Did Nowlin really need to pad-out the screenplay that much? It’s an exciting story that is reminiscent of the CW’s The 100 and NBC’s Revolution, but really, you could have shaved off a good 35 minutes without all that tiresome running and escaping.

On the other hand, newbie director Wes Ball is damn good for a novice, never shying away from trying something new and shows real promise for a fledgling. Seeing his work on screen, you’d never know this is only his second major motion picture he’s ever made. Ball is also shooting part three as well. Bravo!

The teens are all genuine here, given all the freakin’ running and escaping they gotta do, it’s just a shame they aren’t given anything more meaty in dialogue to handle. The scenes are played out very fast to build tension, but our heroes are never given time to show any real emotion or depth of character, like in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which stopped down to focus on Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s feelings.

Lord of the Flies (1963)
Gathering up a rag-tag group of kids and leading them ain’t so hard to do, unless you’re on a deserted island, you’re about 10-years-old, and there are other kids your age who want to kill you. Yeah, that’s gonna mess up your day.

Based on the 1954 novel by William Golding, this gruesome movie tells the tale of a bunch of British schoolboys who, after being evacuated from England, have their airplane crash land on a remote island. . .with no adults anywhere. Most of the boys survive, including older Ralph (James Aubrey) and a chubby boy (Hugh Edwards) whose nickname is Piggy. They find a large conch shell and blow it, calling to other survivors to gather. Others soon appear, including a small faction of choir boys led by a tough boy named Jack (Tom Chapin).

The boys decide to appoint a chief and the vote goes to Ralph, not Jack, which does sit well with the young’un. Initially Ralph is able lead a reasonably civilized and co-operative society and have meetings, Jack has other ideas. His choir boys make wooden spears, further reinforcing their appearance as warriors within the group. This is mainly because Jack has a knife, capable of killing an animal. Piggy and Ralph (apparently the only sane ones) want to build a signal fire using Piggy’s glasses, but Jack could care less.

Sides are drawn after a harrowing trip to see a “beast” (a dead parachutist) that lives on the cliffside, and Jack takes off, grabbing most of the other kids to his forest encampment, where he rules like a crazed ruler drunk with power. They even steal Piggy’s glasses to make their own fire. During a night of intoxicating revelry around a bonfire, young Simon (Tom Gaman), tries to tell Jack the cliffside ‘beast’ was a just a man, is mistaken for the mythical beast, and killed on site.

Outraged, Ralph goes after Jack by the cliffs to verbally chastise him and get Piggy’s glasses back, but sadistic Roger (Roger Elwin), Jack’s right-hand man… er, boy, ends the conversation quickly when he drops a huge boulder on Piggy, crushing the boy into the rocks. Ouch! With two deaths chalked up and no one to stop them, Ralph takes off for his life as he’s next on Jack’s hit list. Ralph tries to hide in the jungle, but Jack decides to burn that sucker down! The islands on fire, all the kids are after Ralph with spears intent on spilling his blood, so who’s this grown-up walking up the beach with other grown-up’s?

Adapted screenplay and directed by Peter Brook, this black and white masterpiece is hauntingly eerie in it’s simplicity. Almost looking like a documentary, the style is so voyeur, you’d swear the kids don’t know they’re being filmed. They’re so innocent and shockingly good because all the kids were non-actors. They were told what the scenes were going to be and told to “just act it out” with some scripted lines, but mostly all improvised lines by the kids. Christopher Guest (This Is Spinal Tap) would have loved this! Shot on location in Puerto Rico, the boys were all isolated from their own parents during filming and started to go wild as the months progressed, all captured on film.

A terrible and forgettable remake, starring the then-hot Balthazar Getty came out in 1990, but quickly died at the box office. A little trivia here: Filmmaker Rob Reiner’s company, Castle Rock Entertainment, got it’s name from Lord of the Flies! That huge boulder that squashes Piggy? It’s referred to as ‘Castle Rock’ in the book. Strange that Rob wanted this piece of murderous masonry as his company’s name, but, there ya go!