It’s pretty rare for me to be able to write a positive post about a film or TV series. I recently wrote about The Cloverfield Paradox (which I’m still unsure about posting or not) and how it had so much potential but just didn’t deliver. It seems over the last year or so there has been disappointment after disappointment. Even films where I expected absolutely nothing (The Last Jedi) I still ended up being let down. So it was with a sigh of relief and satisfaction that finally, not only just a film but a film series has been worthy of a thumbs up. This post will be exploring what was great about the Maze Runner trilogy, particularly The Death Cure.
It should be noted that I haven’t read the books and as it stands right now I really have no intention to do so. Just keep that in mind as you work your way through this post as all my comments are entirely based on the films and having zero background knowledge about the plot or characters. I’m going to do a quick summary of each film and then explain why they were great, my concerns at the time and ultimately what made the trilogy as a whole brilliant.
The Maze Runner
So of course we will start with the first in the series. Nothing about this film appealed to me. I think we were all sick of teenagers/young adults in dystopian futures where the oppressed rise up against the elites. It was a formula that had been used over and over again in previous years with Hunger Games, Divergent, ETC. I was curious about the maze aspect though and eventually I did watch it.
The Maze Runner follows a bunch of kids (I’m not sure how old they are meant to be) who are trapped at the centre of a changing maze with no memory of life prior to it. Some of them have been in there for three years. Every day runners enter the maze (which opens in the morning and closes at night) to try and map the maze. The film starts with Thomas arriving and ultimately being the trouble maker: running into the maze, taking risks, questioning everything. Thomas discovers first hand that the maze at night is full of Grievers (strange mechanical spider-like cyborg monsters). After being the first to kill one of these creatures, Thomas and the others start experiencing strange things. First of all people start going crazy (which can be attributed to a virus: the flare) and the first girl ever is sent up into the maze: Teresa. She knows Thomas and explains how they used to work with the people controlling the maze.
One day the walls don’t close and the group has no choice but to head to one of the potential exists they’ve found. Here they discover the base of operations that the controllers of the maze have been using. There’s a dead woman there who appears to have killed herself, leaving a message revealing that WCKD (World in Catastrophe: Killzone Department) are responsible for the mazes when suddenly a team of soldiers comes in to rescue them, taking the surviving kids to “safety”.
After seeing this film, I was intrigued but also didn’t really understand it. Very little of what I had just seen made sense to me and even after a couple of viewings, I just didn’t get what was going on. If this had been a standalone film then it would have been awful. Side note: The music for this film is excellent! Anyway, as it turns out this was actually an incredible introduction to the series if you have the patience to bear with it. For me and possibly others like me, it wasn’t until the sequel that the pieces started to fit together.
The Scorch Trials
The middle film of the trilogy picks up right where the first one ended: the kids are being taken away in helicopters to some secret location with a dude named Janson assuring them that they’re all safe now. Upon arriving at this complex, they meet kids from other mazes. Pretty quickly Thomas begins to realise something suspicious is going on and once Teresa is taken, he has no choice but to investigate. This reveals that Ava Paige (the women who killed herself in the first film) is not only alive but is running this operation: it’s still WCKD. The group escapes with some new members and head off into the scorch (the name given to the now desert-like world outside).
A lot goes on in this film and I don’t want to describe every single detail but essentially the group comes face to face with cranks (infected people) and soon learn that despite their previous thoughts, not all of the maze dwellers are immune to the virus. The group searches for a rebel group supposedly hidden in the mountains and after encountering (and aligning with) Brenda and Jorge, they eventually find this group who it turns out are mostly escaped kids. Here we learn that Thomas’s reason for being thrown into the maze was that he sent out the maze locations to this group so that kids could be rescued. This film ends with Teresa betraying the group, most of the kids being recaptured and Teresa and Minho being taken by WCKD (Teresa voluntarily).
By the end of this film I was hooked! It goes onto explain pretty much everything about the first film that didn’t make sense. It reveals details from the past that explain what is going on in the world and ultimately, it ends on an amazing cliffhanger (of sorts). This film manages to be a rebellious, sci-fi zombie film all in one…and it nails it! The flare virus is a constant factor within the film but it’s not the motivation behind the main characters actions. Ultimately, they want freedom. They hate WCKD for capturing kids like them and draining them of their virus-fighting anti-bodies.
The new characters added to this film are awesome (I’m always going to be a fan of Giancarlo Esposito). As this was the middle film, you have to acknowledge the expected change in tempo. The film only slows down a couple of times but it’s to delve into the plot and ultimately the character development and personally, I think it was a great film as far as part 2 of 3 films go. The character development in particular was something I could totally get behind. It left me desperate to see the final film.
The Death Cure
Let me start this off by clapping my hands. I was so relieved to hear they were keeping it a trilogy instead of simply following suit and doing a part 1 and a part 2. The Death Cure starts off X amount of time after the previous film (I’m not sure how long but enough time has passed that a whole new base of operations is in use and prisoners of WCKD are being transported by train. This film essentially follows the group trying to rescue Minho from WCKD. After locating the last city, they head there and infiltrate its high walls with the help of an old “friend”: Gally, who “died” in Maze Runner.
After kidnapping Teresa who claims she sometimes regrets what she did but would ultimately do it again, it is revealed that Thomas’s blood doesn’t just treat the flare virus, it actually heals it. Teresa helps the group into the main medical building of the city where they free the kids (including Minho) and escape. Their plan works almost perfectly but Newt, who has the flare, turns and has to be put down just before a cure is available. The rest of the group escape in a helicopter thing while Thomas heads back to the main building to confront Teresa. Ava is killed by Janson and he plans to use Thomas as his own money-printing machine (or power printing I guess, I don’t think they use money anymore). Just as Jansen is killed, Thomas and Teresa have no option but to climb to the roof as the building begins to catch fire and collapse. The helicopter squad comes to the rescue but only has time to save Thomas.
I was nervous watching this. There are so many ways they could have ruined it but honestly, I think they did a great job. I think the problem with films is that it can be hard to show how much time has passed and I think the trilogy as a whole feels sort of rushed: not in the sense that they should have dragged it out with more films (God no, they nailed it) but just that so much happens and changes in such a short amount of time. Regardless, I think they did an excellent job with it!
Even as I was watching it, I was worried about certain clichés taking place (this was the case in some instances). I find that films like this often have a bittersweet ending but what they really need is a dark ending. Think Hunger Games where Rue dies (along with many other characters) but there’s still a happy ending. Divergent is the same: bittersweet but still on a happy note. You often don’t get the satisfaction of certain character deaths that you were hoping for and I worried this would be the same. Remember when Bane died in The Dark Knight Rises? It was the least satisfying thing in the world. We’ll explore the death of certain characters in a moment but let’s focus on the ending first.
By the end of the film, we know that Thomas has unique blood that actually cures the flare virus. Let’s look at the situation in the final moments of the film: most of the main characters have died. Alby and Chuck die in the first film, Winston dies in the second film, Newt dies in the third film. The only main characters left from all three films are Thomas and Minho (and some guy called Frypan but I honestly didn’t notice him at all until this final film). Teresa has just died (thank God) and while she does redeem herself, her dying had to happen in my opinion.
But let’s focus on the bigger picture. Thomas may be the cure but think about what has just happened: the flare has become airborne and most of the people in the LAST CITY are now infected; assuming any of them survive the rebellion attack that has led to the destruction of the city at the hands of already infected people. The group escapes to an island somewhere on their boat but what about the rest of the world? This isn’t a happy ending by any means. The rest of the world is literally populated by cranks that within a few days, weeks or months will have completely turned into mindless flesh-hungry monsters. I’m not sure how long they live for but only the people on that island are left and they only survive as long as Thomas does.
I think that’s a GREAT ending. You get the satisfaction of certain characters surviving and the ending isn’t completely bleak which for a film aimed at teenagers, probably makes sense. The world ends though and most of the characters die which for a film like this is entirely necessary. They could have ended it with Thomas and Teresa working on a cure to save the world and that would have completely ruined the tone of the film, in my opinion. There are some very minor details I perhaps would have changed but overall I think they did an excellent job. So let’s take a look at the character deaths quickly.
Let’s take a moment to explore some of the characters I wanted dead. The main one (believe it or not) was Teresa. The emotion I felt at the end of the Scorch Trials was unbelievable. I can’t think of a time when a character in a film made me feel so angry. I thought maybe in this film they would send her character on a path to redemption (which they did slightly) but she ultimately sat by as Minho was tortured, all the time preaching about how it was necessary. Yet wasn’t she immune as well? Why wasn’t her blood being used? Even when she admits that she would betray them again, I felt happy that she didn’t regret it. All the time her focus was on finding a cure which in a sense is admirable…but it was at the cost of her friends lives. Not even just their lives, if they died that would be one thing but they were literally being tortured.
We also had Ava and Janson. Ava was doing bad things for the right reasons but she wasn’t by any means a good person. I think that’s the one flaw with this film. I would have loved for Thomas or another character just to shoot her, no emotion, no drama, nothing. There was the perfect moment when they encounter each other during the rescue of Minho where everything seems to pause for a moment as Thomas lifts up his gun. I just wish he had pulled the trigger. This sort of happens at the hands of Janson but I think that robs the satisfaction from the audience.
Janson’s death both nailed and ruined what I’d hoped for. The way he dies was a little annoying but at the same time, it was just. Thomas essentially kicked his ass and my hat goes off to everyone involved in those scenes because you really felt the anger. Every single punch to Janson made your heart sort of race with excitement. His death seems to be a bit of an Ex Machina and I’d much rather Thomas has drove a knife into his heart or perhaps trapped Janson in a room with cranks only to give him the finger and bail, not even watching as the cranks tear him apart. I’m not sure the word evil applies to anyone in this film because there is always a reason for someone’s actions but Janson was a selfish dick with little to no empathy, so he’s probably the closest.
That is one thing that I love about this trilogy. Every single person in these films, no matter their actions, believes they have a reason for it. They might do things they regret, they might hurt, anger, kill other people but it’s never out of hatred (with the exception of Janson perhaps). WCKD is seen as this evil group who experiment and torture children but at the end of the day it is their last hope to find a cure for a virus that by the end of the film has become airborne. They are just people grasping at straws in an attempt to stop the extinction of the human race.
This film is one of the better dystopian survival films I’ve ever seen. Could have been a bit darker? Perhaps…but for what it is, I think the hit the mark. There is mystery through all the films but no questions are ever left unanswered by the time the credits roll in the final film. They could easily have made 4 but chose not to which in itself is admirable.
As always, leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Do you agree or did you find this trilogy was just the same as any other? Be sure to head over to Twitter and follow me there!