Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie Sangster, Will Poulter, Ki Hong Lee, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Walton Goggins with Aidan Gillian and Patricia Clarkson
Plot: With Minho (Hong Lee) kidnapped by desperate scientists, intent on sacrificing him to concoct a cure for a zombie virus, Thomas (O’Brien) launches a suicide mission to bring him back home.
Remember when Maze Runner was a series about maze running? Me neither. Wes Ball’s third and final entry into the Maze Runner series follows the same trend of not really repeating the formula, or even genre, of the film that followed. Movie one was a Young Adult social experiment movie? Movie Two was a zombie apocalypse film. And with the third, we find our heroes neck deep in a fascist city, taking it down from the inside. At the very least, the thrills come thick and fast, as the story proves to be one that can veer down any avenue at any given moment. You can hardly blame Wes Ball on the inconsistencies of his films; most of the issues audiences have to contend with stem from the book. The Death Cure strikes as a solid film held back by a mediocre final novel. Will Poulter’s character returns from the dead with a half-cocked excuse and a total change in character. Ball’s script feels so trimmed down that the remnants of a story are tattered. The Death Cure is riddled with plot holes: a lot of the time the good guys’ plans revolve around specific people being in specific places at specific times. Wes Ball does his best with the story, cutting out useless plot point after useless plot point. On the downside, The Scorch Trials feels even more defunct; odd diversions in the story last time are now totally meaningless. On the positive, The Death Cure is probably a lot better than it could have been a streamlined story that focuses on Thomas’ fight to get his friend, rather than all of the unnecessary plot junctures.
At two hours, it is a demanding watch, but Ball does his hardest to make it fly by. The action is pulse-pounding, opening with a stunning train heist and rarely slowing down. There are certain set-pieces that grab you and refuse to let go. Moments like O’Brien and his friends jumping from a skyscraper window feel like the kind of sequence that shouldn’t go with something technically dubbed a young adult movie (a term I really despise, as it shoots franchises like this in the foot before they even begin), yet here we are, gripping the edge of our seats, mouth agape at the severity of the action. There is also an air of thoughtfulness about the plot. Realising he has got his hands on a zombie movie without the zombies, Ball focuses his story on the importance of sacrifice and scientific study. Kaya Scodelario does very well out of this movie, with a villain character who does the opposite of what you expect. While she ended the last film as a traitor, Ball splits this film into a story of two perspectives. While Thomas fights to save his friends, a hero in a rebellion cause, we get a peek under the psyche of Scodelario, as she battles to save the infected patients in her lab. As she promises a dying young girl that she will find a cure, you begin to see why the bad guys are so intent on tracking down the heroes from the last film. It is oddly satisfying having your viewpoint shifted so dramatically, sending your own morality spiralling in the final chapter of this saga. Even Patricia Clarkson finds a warmer note to act from, the pair of them definitely the antagonists of the film yet definitely not the monsters the previous entries into Maze Runner made you think they were. In fact, Ball is forced to write Aidan Gillian into a monstrous man on the edge of desperation to hammer home a sense of villainy in the final third (the terrific actor happy in his comfort zone as creepy bad guy). This ‘two side to every story’ element really does make Death Cure an unpredictable watch, the audience unsure which direction Ball is going to take his movie. He has licence to send his series out with a bang. Every character could hypothetically die. It makes for a thrilling ride, as the director neatly wraps up his, never-perfect, always-earnest, movie series.
Final Verdict: The Maze Runner franchise is never what you want it to be, yet it is entertaining in the right places, saving the series from a shoddy set of novels.