Maze Runner: The Death Cure: Film Review
Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Ki Hong Lee, Aiden Gillan
Director: Wes Ball
The Maze Runner series has generally been a good and ambitious YA adaptation from James Dashner that's pandered to little of the excesses of its literary genre and provided a good whack of dystopia for those missing The Hunger Games franchise.
The conclusion, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, arrives on screens after a substantial delay due to Dylan O'Brien being injured on set and filming being put back. After a three year delay, you could be excused for not remembering exactly how it The Scorch Trials ran into this latest. (Certainly, the latest has no desire to recap the series for newbies.)
With their friend Minho kidnapped by nasty organisation WCKD and apparently betrayed by Teresa (Pirates of The Caribbean and Skins actress Scodelario), what's left of the Gladers, headed up by Dylan O'Brien's Thomas, set in motion a plan to storm the city, snatch their friend and escape from the trials and adults once and for all.
Opening with a pre-credits' heist sequence that blows any potential for brooding out of the water, Wes Ball's The Maze Runner: The Death Cure seems intent on settling for action over anything else, as it pulls together the strands from the first two films.
Unfortunately, what emerges is somewhat hindered by a lack of real emotional edge (potentially due to the exorbitantly long yet unavoidable delay) and prefers to favour solid yet formulaic sections of action over anything else.
The set pieces are delivered dependably by Ball, but there's little flair in the formulaic here, more a solid representation of what you'd expect at this point in the series. As the revolution grows and the parallels of shadowy organisations gunning down their own populace seems to draw on one of Mockingjay's darkest scenes, Ball handles it all with gusto, if storyboarding it unremarkably to generic execution.
Essentially an extended jail break movie, The Maze Runner: The Death Cure's break-in-to-break-out ethos gives the Gladers the chance to be on the front foot throughout, rather than looking like victims and lab-rats.
O'Brien's solid if lacking a little charisma and it's left to Brodie-Sangster and the ever dependable Poulter to deliver some of the heart and humour that's sorely needed.
Much of Maze Runner: The Death Cure's MO is the unspoken love affair between Brodie-Sangster's Newt and O'Brien's Thomas, and certainly the betrayal by Thomas' ex Teresa never quite reaches the emotional peak and fruition you'd hope for and expect with involvement.
In terms of villains, Gillen's smirking Janson's on hand to provide conflict, but the conflict never quite builds on the promise of previous films, and feels rote at best.
Parts of the film are narratively convenient, and the use of the zombie-like Kranks feels more shoehorned in to allow parts of the story to progress, even if logic and behaviour never follow through and develop consistency within their own world.
However, that's been problematic of the series, one that's content to use characters to propel the action, rather than to engage with - and certainly the ethos of the lab rats / children conundrum is never anything but skin deep.
And with the scale of an apocalypse building, you'd expect Maze Runner: The Death Cure to have higher stakes, but by concentrating on the Gladers' insular world, and falling back only on the outside world when it needs to punctuate moments, Ball's Maze Runner conclusion feels more like it's slightly fumbled the scope of what it wants to achieve - and certainly its conclusion feels lacking in a wider resolution.
In the wash, Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a solid and just about watchable, if overlong, action film that never quite achieves the emotional highs of its mysterious first outing.