ByRyann Whelan, writer at Creators.co
Yes to life, yes to love, yes to staying in more!
Ryann Whelan

The second installment of The Maze Runner series debuts this weekend and is even more action-packed and thrilling than its predecessor. The kids find themselves thrust out of The Glade and into a world where there are threats around every turn, and that's only if they can escape the evil institution trying to hold them captive. Here are three reasons you should escape the heat by going to see [Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials](tag:1142567) this weekend.

The Horror, The Horror!

Scary, although mall zombies exist in our world too.
Scary, although mall zombies exist in our world too.

While The Maze Runner was certainly intense, Scorch Trials introduces an element of horror to the series that will have you jumping out of your seat. Although there are other franchises that The Maze Runner series shares much in common with, none of them feature the kind of raw, visceral threat the heroes of The Scorch Trials must face.

The three most prominent teen dystopian franchises of the day-- The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner-- all feature young people in a post-apocalyptic society standing up to an oppressive authority, however, each features a different theme or subgenre. The Hunger Games series is socio-political revolution, critiquing relevant aspects of our culture, including class disparity and reality television. Divergent plays out like a militant Myers-Briggs and takes a heavily psychological approach to a society all about labeling and constricting.

The Scorch Trials takes an apocalyptic scenario, crashes it into an ethical quandary, and in the wreckage emerges a nearly uninhabitable world of horrors, including a zombie infestation. When not running from zombies (of the terrifying and gross variety, not the Scooby Doo variety) or a powerful institution searching for the right thing in a very wrong way, they’re running from their own pain and the reality that there may not be hope in their very broken world.

Strong Performances

Scorching.
Scorching.

The Scorch Trials benefits greatly from its young, strong cast, led by Dylan O’Brien. O'Brien plays Thomas with urgency, always trying to push on to the hopeful horizon, restless without a path. Thomas proves himself to be a leader worth following. Though sometimes foolhardy and stubborn (and with a dangerous habit of running at quickly closing doors), O'Brien conveys Thomas's undying loyalty to his friends and commitment to goodness in a wicked world.

While the heart of the film lies with Thomas and the other kids from The Glade, Scorch Trials gets the opportunity to bring some new faces in. Rosa Salazar does a great job as Brenda, tough and tired and ticked off, while managing to also be likable. She shows us that, although WCKD has done despicable things to these kids, being left behind hasn't been much better. Giancarlo Esposito also joins the cast as Brenda's guardian, Jorge, and it's nice to see someone having fun in this bleak setting. Esposito brings an unhinged kind of charm to Jorge, like a ruthless Willy Wonka if he went into the post-apocalyptic trading business.

Patricia Clarkson, clearly elaborating on her guest role as Ron's ex-wife on Parks and Recreation, is cold and stalwart as Ava Paige, a villain who believes she's the hero. She's got a strong grip on Thomas and the other kids, but the real question is how she manages to always be in pristine white despite the frequent dust storms. Most of the WCKD action in Scorch Trials, however, comes courtesy of her second-hand, Janson, played effectively by classic sly-guy Aiden Gillan, who struggles a bit to part with his (admittedly terrific) Irish accent.

World-Building

The Maze Runner gave us a glimpse into a tiny, contained area, utterly shrouded in mystery. The Scorch Trials widens the scope of the world physically, as the protagonists travel across deserts, through abandoned cities and tense settlements, and up into mountains. It also reveals more about the world Thomas and his friends find themselves in--how it got that way and what people are doing about it.

Mad Max Jr.
Mad Max Jr.

This installment gives further insight into the WCKD institution, its motivations, and its relationship to the heroes. Scorch Trials also showcases the different ways in which humanity has devolved, whether it be into aggressive, mercantile gangs, apathetic hedonists, or, worst of all, zombies devoid of all humanity. But there are also whispers of hope, of a resistance group called The Right Arm that rescues kids out of WCKD.

In many ways, it's the sequel that's the real introduction to this world, as The Maze Runner took place in such an isolated environment with next to no information about the outside. The faceless threat from the first movie is given a face and some serious legs, although Thomas and his friends learn that WCKD is not the only thing to be afraid of.

Go see Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials out in theaters today!

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