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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

I have a hunch that Maze Runner: The Death Cure is not just the last hurrah for the franchise, but also for the numerous "teenagers trapped in a dystopian future based on Young Adult novels" movies that Hollywood has been churning out ever since The Hunger Games hit big.  These kind of films used to be flooding the market, but after declining interest and box office (Divergent, another franchise similar to this, didn't even get its final movie.), things seem to be drying up.  I'm happy for fans of this franchise that they at least get a climax to the story.  To be honest, the movie's really not that bad.  It just pretty much speaks solely to an audience that is already in love with the previous two entries.

It's actually somewhat of a miracle that this movie is even playing in theaters at all, after its lead star, Dylan O'Brien, was injured and hospitalized while performing a stunt, which pushed the film's release date back a full year.  The last movie was released in 2015, and since this one dives right into the plot with no recap or attempt to catch up, those who aren't up on the story might be confused.  It's not that it's hard to follow.  I actually had no problem, and I haven't exactly been keeping up on the series.  The problem is the movie gives us no clue into these people or their relationships with one another, so unless you're up on your Maze Runner lore, you're not going to know who these people are.  Not that it matters much.  This movie is essentially one large action scene, which is well done, but with a running time of nearly two and a half hours, does start to wear after a while.  There's nothing really bad here, it just will only mean something to a very select crowd.

The plot once again throws us into a post-apocalyptic setting, where a plague has turned most of the world's population into zombies, except for a select few who seem to be immune.  Our hero, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) is one of those immune, and may actually be the source for a cure.  But the means to extract that cure can kill the source, which include many young teens, including Thomas' friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee), who is being held captive in a science lab by the cold Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), and fellow scientist Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), who used to be Thomas' love interest until she betrayed the heroes at the end of the last movie.  Thomas and his good friend Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) are determined to rescue Minho, and this sets into motion a grand battle that will hold all humanity's survivors in the balance.

As far as post-apocalyptic teen thrillers go, The Death Cure does have some pretty big stakes, and an overall sense that lives are in the balance if our hero does not succeed.  This is lessened somewhat by how extremely lucky our heroes often seem to be.  There are a lot of scenes where Thomas and his friends are backed into a corner with no escape, only to have help literally come flying in at the very last second.  Some of these escapes are quite absurd in theory (including a scene where a bus and a train car are literally airlifted), but on camera, are actually kind of impressive.   As long as you don't think too much about these sequences where a group of kids arrange these kind of elaborate escapes, it can be kind of fun.  Of course, it helps that all the bad guys are terrible shots.  This is one of those movies where the bullets have read the screenplay.

Honestly, I admired how a lot of the bigger stunt moments do have a sort of authenticity to them.  They don't look heavily CG'ed, and they are impressively mounted.  This too helps add to the overall intensity of the film.  And while the lead hero Thomas never quite becomes anything more than a bland but attractive hero, he at least is surrounded by characters more interesting than him, and who each get a moment to stand out.  Again, should you not be familiar with who these people are, don't expect to learn much here.  Everybody seems shocked when Gally (Will Poulter) shows up, who was believed to be dead at the end of the last movie, but they don't go into much detail about what exactly happened, so you're out of luck if you don't know.  I guess this will increase interest in the last two Maze Runner movies on DVD.

Is this a series that really needed to be concluded?  Not really, but I had some fun with it while it played out.  Like a lot of these movies, there are some good actors doing what they can with the material they've been given, and you admire their effort.  And while this isn't a great movie, there are some impressive action moments.  I wish I could give this a stronger recommendation, but I can't imagine anyone but the already converted getting a big thrill out of this.

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