Film Review: Maze Runner sequel Scorch Trials 'too old for children, too young for adults'
With nods to Aliens, Terminator and Indiana Jones, plus swearing, emerging sexuality, and some genuinely unnerving zombie attacks, this is very much not for children
Less Hunger, more Games, Wes Ball's The Maze Runner (2014), based on James Dashner's novels, was one of the more efficient YA cash-cows of recent years. This swift sequel follows on immediately from the first film, and barely pauses for breath throughout its 131 minutes.
The setting is the usual understaffed post-apocalyptic dystopia. Having broken free of the original Maze, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his fellow boyband-alike buddies are given shelter at an army facility by the clearly-not-to-be-trusted Janson (Aidan Gillan). When Thomas discovers bodies being harvested by W.C.K.D, a shady medical corporation with a very unfortunate acronym, the gang escape across The Scorch, a Mad Max-style desert wasteland, with Janson and co in pursuit. But where's left to go?
With nods to 1980s favourites such as Aliens, Terminator and Indiana Jones, plus swearing, emerging sexuality, and some genuinely unnerving zombie attacks, this is very much not for children. Yet the acting and dialogue (mostly “Hey guys!” and “Let's go!”, often in combination) will try all but the least-demanding adults. For anyone in the sweet spot between, there's much to hold the attention: expertly staged, flashlight-strafed chases; vast ruined cityscapes that channel Inception and Escher; and an imaginative fight sequence that plays out on cracking glass over a vertiginous, 3D-friendly drop.
Exciting when on the run, wretched when at rest, Scorch Trials is passable, in a plasticky kind of way. Katniss Everdeen has nothing to worry about, but when it comes to focus-grouped entertainment, viewers could – and, indeed, will – do far worse.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials opens on September 10