“The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” Movie Review (from a fangirl)

*SPOILER WARNING. Don’t read if you haven’t seen the movie and want to avoid spoilers.*

HOLY F***. Oh my frickin’ gosh.

Okay, you lucky souls barely know me. Which means you have no idea how completely obsessed I am with The Maze Runner series. Hahaha, right now you’re thinking, “Oh, she really likes The Maze Runner. That’s nice.” No. I mean, Maze Runner is my absolute favorite book series, the author is amazing, and I fangirl about Maze Runner ALL. THE FREAKING. TIME. You would not be thinking “That’s nice” if you knew me in real-life or were friends with me on Facebook. I have annoyed the crap out of every single person I’m friends with on Facebook with my obsessive fangirling, and it’s a miracle my family haven’t permanently sealed their ears shut from me talking about the books and movies so much.

The Maze Runner series, written by the awesome James Dashner, is a series of books following the story of Thomas, a teenager who finds himself in the middle of a giant maze without any memories of his life, surrounded by a group of teenage boys who also have no recollection of where they came from or who they are. It’s really a great series (that isn’t over yet; Mr. Dashner’s currently writing a prequel), and it is so not the typical YA novel. The Maze Runner was adapted into a major motion picture last year, and the sequel to that movie, The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials officially premieres tomorrow, September 18. However, tonight was the “midnight premiere” (even though it was at eight o’clock), and my dad was awesome enough to take me and my little sister, Yazmin, to see the first showing.

Now, I could go on and on about my deal with The Maze Runner, but I think I’ll save that for another day. My mom has been telling me for a while now that I should start a movie-review blog, so I thought, “Hey, why not just do that here?” So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials :

Photo source: www.forbes.com
Photo source: http://www.forbes.com

The film opens with a very powerful flashback involving Thomas and his mother that may be especially appreciated by fans of the books. However, readers will note that Thomas’ mother refers to him as “Thomas”, contrary to the books where it’s revealed that “Thomas” is not Thomas’ actual name. I didn’t like this change, but after discussing it with my dad and Yazmin, I realize that it’s not an important detail in the grand scheme of things and was a necessary change to save time and make sense to moviegoers. The sequence in which the Gladers are transferred from the helicopter to “WCKD’s” facilities was well-done and gave a nice taste of the action to be later seen. I liked the nod to Chuck, as well.

This first part of the movie was good – possibly the strongest part of the movie. As fans were warned by James Dashner and the creators of the film, The Scorch Trials film blends parts of the second and third books of the series, which I really noticed in the scenes at WCKD’s compound (I’ll be honest, I don’t remember the second book too well, and I hardly remember the third book). Viewers are almost immediately introduced to the primary villain of the whole series, “Rat Man” (or Dr. Janson), and he’s just as I remember: an oasis in the desert at first; then, very suddenly, he shows his true colors, and we realize that he’s been the enemy all along.

A major change from the books that I find to be, quite frankly, unnecessary and confusing, is that there are more than two Groups. The Gladers are led into a cafeteria full of Maze-Trials participants – it’s not made clear exactly how many different Mazes there are, but one can assume there are at least four. I’m just not sure why the filmmakers felt it was necessary to add so many Groups, except I suppose to fulfill a later plot point (that I also found unnecessary and confusing).

The next scenes with Aris and Thomas are nice. Unlike in the books, I really liked Aris’ character and enjoyed his scenes. The escape scene was very intense and well-done, as was the following mall scene – that is, until the Cranks show up. And here is what might be my biggest complaint about the movie: I may not remember the books very well, but I know that the Cranks were much scarier than the zombies encountered in this film. In the books, the Cranks are indeed zombie-like, but what makes them so scary is that they retain some of their humanity. The movie-version Cranks had no humanity. They were just fast, eyeless zombies that vomited blood and screamed. They were scary, but they weren’t Crank scary. They didn’t live up to the high standard set by the books, and what worries me is that they didn’t stand out from the crowd. In the first film, the monsters were unique, and that very well may be one of the big reasons The Maze Runner did as well as it did. In The Scorch Trials, the monsters were something everyone’s seen before. For such a huge fan of the Cranks, this was a huge disappointment, and now that the formula’s been set for the film series, there’s no reform. We’re stuck with mindless, fast zombies.

That’s not to say the Cranks didn’t scare. There were certainly some jump-scares and frightening, intense moments. The mall chase-scene was fun (for the viewers, at least), and each of the characters was given a chance to show their strengths.

The next sequence was nicely done, if not slightly infuriating for Newt fans. No, he doesn’t die in this movie. But the writers were definitely referencing/foreshadowing a certain page 250 during a different character’s death scene – a death scene, which, by the way, differed greatly from the book, but, again, upon reflection, it made sense for the movie, as it simultaneously took care of the character, showed the dangers of the Cranks, showed the dangers of the Flare, and showed that the Gladers are, in fact, not all immune.

After this, though, the movie got confusing for me. This is where they really started changing stuff…and/or where my memory really starts fading. I found myself distracted trying to piece together the events of the book to compare it to what I was seeing on the screen – and trying to remember Jorge and stupid Brenda. I know that I like Jorge, and that Teresa will always be better than Brenda. I just couldn’t remember why. But since I can’t remember the book version, I’ll move on and say that the characters’ introductions were nicely done for the movie.

So, my second biggest disappointment ties into the whole Crank thing: the tunnels scene. UGHHHHH! You had one job, Scorch Trials, one job! Include the damn nose-stealing Crank! The “Rose took my nose, I suppose” scene very well may be my most favorite scene in the whole main series, and I know I’m not the only Dashnerd who likes that scene! But it wasn’t in the movie! Not even a hint at it! Instead, we get a dumbass Crank eating a rat (I like rats…even though I’m a mouse), and more mindless zombies! At least we get to see how stupid Brenda is…Hint, Brenda: don’t go wandering off alone in the tunnels, and when you’re in a precarious position, DON’T MOVE!

After the tunnels scene, it took me a while to get over my disappointment. Like, I was (am) really f’ing disappointed this didn’t make it in. But, moving on…

The next couple scenes were nice. After that, the movie really doesn’t follow the book at all, and it’s hard for me to separate the movie from the book in such a drastic way. In the case of the first film, all the changes that were made made sense to me. In The Scorch Trials, all these changes just confused me. I wish they’d stuck more to the book instead of pandering to the masses, ’cause in the end, the masses aren’t going to remember the movie, the die-hard book fans are. Still, if I look at just the movie and overlook the confusing tid-bits, the final action scene was a good one. I mean, Rat Man is just awful. Horrible. And Teresa? She’s even more infuriating than she was in the books (Teresa’s still the best, though; plus, in the books she was kinda being mind-controlled and manipulated by WICKED – I do hope they make that clear in the next film, or redeem her in some other way). There were explosions, there were guns, there was death – what more could you want from a final fight? And Thomas definitely secured his role as leader – it’s been built up throughout the first film and this one, and at the end there’s no doubt he’s in command of the Gladers. I liked seeing his growth.

However, I will say this: As the final scenes played out, the film started feeling more and more like a Hunger Games knock-off. While WCKD is certainly a dangerous, corrupt organization that needs to be stopped, that never was the main theme of the books. The books emphasized the Gladers’ will to survive, and the overall message was that nothing is black-and-white. But the movie made its own intentions clear when Thomas declared at the end, “I want to kill Ava Paige.” That’s not Thomas. Thomas is not a revenge-bent murderer. Thomas is a leader, and a protector, and a fighter, yes, but he is not a murderer. Thomas’ main priority is simply to achieve true freedom, safety, and the freedom and safety of his friends. The Maze Runner‘s biggest asset was its uniqueness. When the series starts to mimic its competition, it’s going to lose potential fans.

So, final thoughts.

The Cranks were a disappointment. There were too many noses. No more rat-killing unless it’s the Rat Man. The Rat Man was very well portrayed, very well done. The returning cast also did well – each character was expanded upon from the last film, and Thomas and Teresa saw some growth. Jorge was very well done, too. Brenda, well…I’ve never liked her. I’ll always be extra critical of her. The effects were impressive – an improvement from the last movie (the first film didn’t have bad effects, you can just tell there’s an improvement; The Scorch Trials does have a noticeably higher budget, though). The score was great like last time. I’m not too impressed with the writing, this time around. The film started to deviate from the main themes of the book. While changes are to be expected in any adaptation, the primary themes of the source must be honored if you want a favorable response. This definitely wasn’t the best movie adaptation, but I am hoping (and expecting) that, once combined with the third film, the series overall will equal the experience book fans are looking for.

Overall, the film was enjoyable as an action movie, but did not live up to all of my expectations as a book-to-film adaptation. Hopefully it will be more satisfying to those who have not read the books, and the next movie will be done better. As of right now, I prefer The Maze Runner film over The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.

I hesitate to give the film a number score after just one viewing, but I suppose if I’d have to give the film a rating, I’d rate The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials 6.5/10. I expect my rating to change given time to adjust to the changes made, though, and I really hope you’ll go see the film, or, at the very least, read the books.

Thanks for reading this super long post. As you can tell, I’m very passionate about Maze Runner! (What’d ya think? How’d I do on my first movie review?)

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