The Popcorn Periodical
“The Maze Runner” sprints to the finish line in “The Death Cure”
When bestselling book series The Maze Runner by author James Dashner was adapted into a feature film and released in September 2014, the thrilling tale jumped into a sandstorm of dystopian teen novels-turned-movies: The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments and Divergent were all the rage. With an already established fan base, it was the perfect recipe for a series, and The Maze Runner did a lot better in sales than anticipated. At first.
20th Century Fox took a chance on rookie director Wes Ball, who distinctly portrayed The Maze Runner story as it played out in the young adult (YA) novel. Audiences praised the live-action adaptation and opening weekend went on to surprise with a $32.5 million domestic opening. The Maze Runner earned $102.4 million in North America and $238.2 million overseas for a remarkable global haul of $340.8 million! Fans were ready for the sequel.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials went into production immediately after the first film wrapped and premiered exactly one year later, in September of 2015. Out of the “Maze” and into the “Scorch,” director Wes Ball’s adaptation of the best-selling second novel was lukewarm in comparison. The film swayed from the original story quite a bit and although production costs for the sequel doubled, opening weekend underwhelmed with a $30 million domestic opening, $82 million in North America and $310 million worldwide. Besides swaying from the original story and making less at the box office than the original, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials was bigger, badder, and faster; fans remained dedicated and anticipated the final chapter of The Maze Runner saga.
Leading up to The Death Cure, a deadly virus known as the “flare virus” was deliberately released across the globe for population control. The remaining world governments realized they created a much larger crisis than expected but without a cure, this could mean the beginning of the end for the human race. Determined, they combined their resources to form WCKD (World Catastrophe Killzone Department).
WCKD selects a large group of teenagers in the name of experimentation (both immune and non-immune control subjects) and passes them through “The Trials,” which consists of the Maze (The Maze Runner) and the Scorch (Maze Runner: Scorch Trials). Thomas (Dylan O’Brien, Teen Wolf, American Assassin) is one of the immunes, and though WCKD has wiped out his memories, his humanity remains, and he narrowly escapes The Trials with a handful of fellow test subjects before WCKD tracks them down, killing and capturing most of Thomas’ allies, specifically Minho (Ki Hong Lee, The Mayor), one of Thomas’ best friends from the Maze.
Thomas has to now catch up to a desolate world he knows nothing about – treading carefully through uncharted terrain – but when safety is pulled from under him by a former ally, Thomas faces the wicked ways of WCKD, yet again.
The final installment of The Maze Runner picks up immediately where The Scorch Trials left off – WCKD ambushed Thomas and his allies, killing the majority of them and capturing Minho. The fugitives are all considered to be “Property of WCKD” and have a traceable tracking device surgically inserted into the back of their necks. When WCKD is near, they can locate their control subjects experientially. Thomas’ love interest, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales), betrays the group, and the wait for what happens next is finally over.
Delayed more than a year due to the on-set injury of star Dylan O’Brien, The Death Cure premiers nearly three years after the sequel. The series might have lost its mojo due to that interruption in its rollout, but this third film makes up for it with the sheer number of action sequences on display. The final installment of the Wes Ball-directed trilogy is a fast-paced Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead meets Robocop – an action/adventure genre mashup worth seeing.
The plot takes some wild left turns and a few stunts will receive an eye-roll (jumping into a water fountain from 60 stories up without a scratch?) but with characters like the relentless Janson (Aidan Gillen) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) from HBO’s Game of Thrones, or a partially decomposed and noseless leader of the resistance, Walton Goggins (Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul), you almost forget about how impossibly fortunate Thomas and his friends are – how many times can someone be in the right place at the right time?
Overall, this film is a lot of fun. With infected zombies running at full speed à la 28 Days Later, a diverse and well-rounded cast of young and developed actors, gripping adventure, explosive action, and a beloved YA book series at its helm, Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a long-awaited but decent finale.
“Every maze has an end.”
About the Author
Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.