Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the second film in the Maze Runner series, based upon the YA novel series of the same name. Following the events of the last film, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and company are taken in by Janson (Aidan Gillen), who is protecting them from the Scorch. However, Thomas soon finds out about some things related to his past, which drives the team into the Scorch, where they must survive.
I actually quite dug the first Maze Runner movie. Its approach to the a young adult novel adaptation and thrilling action sequences made it an entertaining watch (and definitely better than those god-awful Divergent movies). But while the first film piqued my interest and excitement for another good YA film series, this second film just threw it aside.
One thing a sequel could (and most times, should) do well is further developing the characters and pushing forward the plot in a coherent and interesting way. This sequel does neither of those. Sure, the introduction of the Scorch and its different areas and factions is interesting, and the somewhat exploration of the mysteries left behind at the end of the last movie is welcome, but those positives are relatively minor, compared to the lackluster characters and, at this time, unengaging plot.
Other than Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the story doesn't really express any interest in developing the main cast. Thomas proves himself to be the one-note main protagonist-type character, and the other characters simply pay service to moving the story along, not really doing anything remotely interesting.
For one example, the film introduces this one character, Aris (Jacob Lofland), and he plays a pivotal role in the beginning film, but he ends up literally not do anything in the middle portion of the film. He merely stands in the background, among these group of characters, waiting for when the story is in need of him. He ends up getting lines in one scene towards the climax, used for plot purposes, but then he's completely forgotten by the climax and the ending of the film. That's just one of the character mistreatments I can recall from the film, but it gives a good idea to the film's attitude towards plot and characters.
What's even more frustrating is that the film introduces even more characters. Granted, it was a pleasant surprise to recognize talented actors that I've seen in their other works, but none of them add any substance to the film. The film is mostly keen on spending the down time in between action sequences in favor of the less than interesting plot.
Even the action sequences disappoint by failing to live up to its predecessor's. The first action sequence is thrilling, comes together nicely, and ends on a pretty high note, but once they get out into the Scorch, sloppiness kicks in. Most of the action sequences are set during nighttime and staged as running-in-the-dark sequences. It's disorienting seeing the camera shakily follow the runners, equipped with their seizure-inducing flashlights. It's confusing... just like the plot!
The visual style is quite plain. There's nothing visually interesting or appeasing when it comes to the daytime Scorch sets, and the nighttime Scorch sets and creature mechanics look like they were pulled straight out of The Last of Us video game- you'll have to see it to believe it. It may just be the fact that Mad Max: Fury Road came out this year, but there's nothing distinct or good-looking about the visual style of the movie, as the promotional material made to believe.
Somehow, the director of the first Maze Runner film, a film that showed a promising story, cast, and action (for a YA film, at least), delivered a film that's weak on character and story developing, and is just an all-around incoherent jumble of a sequel. It shows little promise, and is a big sprint in the wrong direction.