Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials picks up directly after the events of the original film. The group from the Glade, led by Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) are trying to piece together what's going on, and who they can trust. Ultimately, to fulfill the title of the film, they escape out into The Scorch in search of answers, or help, or to take down the evil WCKD. In doing so, they gain the assistance of Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) & Brenda (Rosa Salazar), who have been surviving in The Scorch for years. The group of Gladers also meet up with the resistance group led by Mary (Lili Taylor) and a zealous Vince, played wonderfully by Barry Pepper.
Throughout, there are many run-ins with WCKD as they constantly hound the teens to try and bring Thomas back. This sequel is not short on action, but so much of it feels hollow. The group that we grew to know in the first film are relegated to background duty and sacrificial captures during battles in order to introduce all the new characters. But even with so much screen time given to new characters, the film still just feels like "Thomas and the Gang".
One such new character was Blondie, played by the always entertaining Alan Tudyk, who served to help with a bit of exposition while meandering around a mid-Scorch rave party of some sort. It was his character mixed with Esposito's Jorge that I found the most pleasure when they were onscreen. They brought an air of credibility to their work.
My biggest issue with this Maze Runner sequel is it feels like it could be a sequel to several other franchises. It borrows so heavily from other films' themes that it never feels like it's own world. The sudden introduction of zombies into the mix only reinforces the idea that this series has very little original substance. I am having trouble investing in yet another series in which a charming, yet reluctant teenager is "The Chosen One" who must right all the wrongs and uncover all the mysteries while struggling with their personal demons, all while leading a ragtag bunch against the evil government. I loved it in Star Wars, but not so much in the endless franchises following that formula recently.
Throughout my viewing of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, I longed for the fun intensity of the original. As is with most second acts, it was replaced with action and turmoil for our hero. But even as Thomas fought his good fight, I grew weary of it all. Hopefully the culmination of the franchise, with 2017's The Death Cure, will offer something exciting and original to wrap it up with. If so, it may just help pull my score up a little. But for now, I only recommend The Scorch Trials to those who are hardcore fans of the series.
Jamison Rabbitt can be found on Facebook & Twitter @reelreviewstv. Jamison also hosts a podcast discussing documentaries @realfilmcast