2018 in Cinema:
Maze Runner: The Death Cure, 2018
Directed by: Wes Ball
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Walton Goggins, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson
The third and final instalment in the Maze Runner series, Maze Runner: The Death Cure sees the epic conclusion as Thomas (Dylan O’Brien, Maze Runner: Scorch Trials) and his friends make a plan to attack the last city to stop WCKD from torturing immune kids to find a cure. While The Death Cure is an improvement on Scorch Trials, it is a final confirmation that this film has transformed from the post-apocalyptic interesting film that The Maze Runner was to a full-blown action film.
Once again coming in at over two hours long, this film is just as fast-paced as Scorch Trials but uses it a lot better as the plot feels like it’s progressing, rather than the copy-and-paste feeling I had with Scorch Trials. From saving a group of kids to sneaking into the last city to ambushing WCKD’s headquarters, this film progresses quite nicely and the climactic battle scene is gorgeous. The special effects and the action sequences come together to make a very entertaining set of scenes. And you feel more invested in the action as the acting is the strongest it’s been throughout the series. When I first watched The Maze Runner I honestly wasn’t sure in the opening few scenes if Dylan O’Brien could be the man to lead a trilogy of films; he seemed quite nervous and wooden in his delivery, but he soon settled, and this now, which he would have filmed alongside American Assassin with Michael Keaton, is the best I’ve seen Dylan O’Brien and has completely wiped away any doubts I had about him. He’s settled into the team and has morphed into a very talented action star which helps with the sheer amount of action scenes we have. He’s also joined by a very talented cast, even if I can’t shake the small kid from Love Actually whenever I see Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Maze Runner: Scorch Trials). However I still think Kaya Scodelario (Maze Runner: Scorch Trials) is a poor actress, and her performance ruined any chance of the acting score being higher.
The biggest issue I had with this film, though, was its story. I know it’s derived from source material so they can’t alter too much, and I haven’t read the Maze Runner books so I don’t know how well James Dashner told the story, but The Death Cure fails, as the others have, in really going into detail of the actual story. WCKD are using and abusing immune kids to find a cure, from lab experiments to the mazes, but it’s never revealed why they’re doing this. I’m not a scientist but surely if a person is immune the logical thing is to analyse their blood, not scare them with virtual reality style goggles. It also fails in telling us why only WCKD are trying to find a cure; is no one else on planet earth trying to find a cure in a more humane way? WCKD own the biggest building in the safest city left in whatever place they’re in, yet everyone seems to turn a blind eye to their methods which have proved useless for well over three years. This is made all the more frustrating later on in the movie when a breakthrough is made but not through abusing one of the immune kids. It was something I was screaming about when I first heard why they were trapped in the maze and for them to finally get some hope in finding the cure through this method, it made everything else seem pointless. And another aspect of storytelling I didn’t like was how it never felt like Thomas vs. WCKD. In most young adult novels and films there is a clear good and evil divide, with the final instalment bringing them together: Harry and Lord Voldemort, Katniss and President Snow, yet Thomas isn’t going after WCKD to fight them: he’s trying to save his friend. The whole film is about him trying to save his friend, with taking down WCKD and their city a secondary act, and this meant that by the time they’d gotten to Minho (Ki Hong Lee, Maze Runner: Scorch Trials) the film’s plot had been executed, leaving the climactic showdown a little less investible. Add to that the unnecessary love triangle and the flip-floppiness of one character (it becomes ridiculous at one point how this character goes back and forth on whether they want to be a hero or a villain, to the point that by the end when they’ve made their choice we just don’t care) and there is enough to complain about with this film.
That’s not to say that this film isn’t exciting, and fun, and entertaining, though. It settles itself as an action film, and forgets the storytelling along the way, but the action sequences are brilliant. And one of my favourite things about this series, which culminates in this film, is how they’re willing to kill off characters so frequently. When Chuck (Blake Cooper, The Maze Runner) died in the first film, and the subsequent deaths in the second, they established that not everyone was going to make it out of this film series alive, so when a character has the virus in The Death Cure it is genuinely intriguing as to whether or not they’re going to survive. And this is one nice element of storytelling, the way they managed to make it a mystery to their fate, rather than to just assume you know based on the outcome of other characters in similar circumstances.
The Death Cure is a fine film to end a fine franchise; none of them have been terrible, none of them have been terrific. I wish the storytelling would have been better, rather than putting more attention into the action sequences, but a great cast of actors (bar Kaya Scodelario) and great visuals do make for an entertaining film.
Plot: * * * Acting: * * * Writing: * * Presentation: * * * *