Before you read this post, I have a bit of mood music for you to enjoy. It's a sample from the soundtrack for the movie I just saw in theaters today, and it's one of the best pieces of movie music I've heard since the theme from Pacific Rim. It's fast-paced, intense, and perfectly exemplifies the panic-inducing Holy Shit Quotient of its movie, especially around the two-minute mark with a sound effect that's best described thusly: "It's quiet. Too quiet...wait, that's a goddamn countdown clock! EVERYBODY RUN!"
Say the title in your best Aidan Gillen impression: "You're Not Getting Out Of Here." And enjoy John Paesano's finest:
Now...my review. (WARNING: SPOILERS!)
At long last, I've gone and seen the second Maze Runner movie, The Scorch Trials. I went into it knowing that it would be quite different from the book, even more so than its predecessor. Remembering how the differences between book and movie made the latter that much better, I had high hopes for this second installment.
My hopes were met and then some.
Talking with my friend after seeing the movie, I've realized something. God love James Dashner and his #DashnerArmy, but The Maze Runner is a rare example of a book (or, in this case, series) that works so much better as a movie that the book actually suffers for it, paling in comparison. It's especially noticeable with this second movie, because I found the original Scorch Trials to be the weakest novel in the trilogy, but I'm thinking that for the movies, it'll be the opposite for me. For me, The Scorch Trials movie could be this franchise's Catching Fire, the middle installment that wipes the floor with its predecessor and sequel on so many levels.
The first major difference between the book and the movie here is that, instead of having two Mazes (one mostly boys, one mostly girls) competing to run across the Scorch to safety (except it's really not), the plot is instead kicked off by the Group A survivors (Thomas, Newt, Teresa, Minho, etc.) and newbie Aris (from Group B) discovering the deadly, Island-esque secret of WCKD. Instead of sending the survivors of the many Mazes to a safe place, they're harvesting them for the cure to the Flare. That's when Tommy Boy and company realize they gotta vacate the premises yesterday, and maybe even take down a few hapless security guards in the process.
The outcome of the plot is largely the same as in the book, though, with Teresa still being a traitor and bringing WCKD to the safe place, exactly where they're least wanted. It would've helped if Thomas could have discovered it sooner with the telepathic powers he had in the book, but the movies wisely discarded that element, because I think the writers knew it would make it harder to believe that Teresa could be so good at hiding her betrayal for so long. (Also, on the subject of Teresa, Kaya Scodelario's American accent has improved considerably since her appearance in the first movie. There, my cousin and I both agreed that it sucked, although she definitely made up for it with the throwing-of-fruit scene.)
Along the way, it's a pretty bloody wild ride, as Newt might say. (Or as I would say - my most attentive Pinecones would've noticed why by now, I bet.) The desert landscape of the titular Scorch looks like Mad Max by way of I Am Legend - postapocalyptic, more broken than the outskirts of that Limbo city from Inception, and eye-catching in every way. It helped that I saw it in the new Barco Escape 270-degree format, with two additional screens positioned to the side of the main one. I hear this technology was first showcased last year on the original Maze Runner movie, which I was not able to catch in theaters, sadly. This year, however, my local theater was one of the lucky few selected to feature the Escape screens. While the display needed a bit of work - anytime the extra screens kicked in for close-up footage, the three images didn't join together as seamlessly as they should have - it was perfect for the inevitable sweeping, panoramic first shot of the ruined city in which our protagonists found themselves.
That's just one of many serious visual treats this movie has in store. And boy howdy, does this movie deliver on the effects. Both Maze Runner movies are shockingly less expensive than the appear. The first movie was budgeted around $35 million, and this one at $61 million. You probably wouldn't know that, though, from the lifelike CGI ruins, insanely pyrotechnic climax, the collapsing factory (which is itself prefaced by an explosion with a highly original ignition source - an electrically-tipped device attached to the needle of a record player, playing a hilariously dissonant-for-the-scene Hawaiian-type ditty which I will refer to only as "Jorge's song"), and of course the Cranks. While Dashner doesn't do their description much justice in the book, as far as my best friend and I can remember, in the movie, they're the stuff of Greg Nicotero's nightmares. They're the most gnarly zombies ever put to film, if I do say so myself. I'd like to see the walkers of The Walking Dead run up stacks of escalators, or pop out of underground undergrowth, or take terrifying plunges through broken windows in half-collapsed skyscrapers.
Thanks to this movie, I think it's safe to say that Wes Ball has landed squarely in my list of top five directors whom I would love to see helm a film version of Red Rain. Other top contenders include Len Wiseman (from whom I have only one degree of separation, because we graduated from the same high school about twenty years apart), Marc Webb (director of my favorite movies, The Amazing Spider-Man series), James Gunn ('cause Guardians, you know), and Joss Whedon (who could do with a slight change of pace following his two-in-a-row Avengers kick.)
There are also a number of actors here whom I would love to see in a potential Red Rain movie. There's a whole buttload of professional Hey, It's That Guy! stars - here we have such examples as Lili Taylor (Da Chief from Almost Human), Aidan Gillen (you'll never see Littlefinger the same way again, and certainly not without wanting to punch his lights out for being such an assbutt prick to our poor Glader friends), Alan Tudyk (whoever decided on his character's wardrobe needs a medal for extreme tackiness), and Giancarlo Esposito (Jorge. 'Nuff said.)
And as for the young up-and-comers, there are plenty of great ones to go around, and they need our eyes on them, 'cause the vast majority of them are going places, methinks. Chief among them are my three most fancastable. Katherine McNamara (my pick for Rachel from Red Rain), the new Clary Fray, appears here as Sonya, a survivor of Group B, and it was awesome to finally get a glimpse of her at work before the premiere of Shadowhunters. Not to mention I was not-so-secretly fanboying, 'cause she's my new celebrity crush. And why not? Between her great looks, her big brain (IMDb informs me she graduated high school and college early), and her being a fellow Spider-Fan (unless I remember her recent Twitter Q&A wrongly), what's not to love about her?
Newt deserves mention as well. I've noticed that everyone and their mother wants Thomas Sangster to play a part in their books-turned movies. My friend would like to see him as the lead role in her rabies-themed survival horror story. Taran Matharu would love him to be Tarquin in a Summoner movie. I've chosen him as the face of Gabe (and before I forget, does anyone know of any proof that Sangster's got a good fake American accent? I'd love at least one character in Red Rain to have one, the better to fool my dad like Andrew Lincoln did on The Walking Dead.) Sangster is a talented dude, because these three characters I've mentioned are a pretty diverse lot, and he could prove more than a match for their roles. Also, these are all barely-post-adolescent roles at most, but that's okay, because Sangster doesn't seem to have aged much beyond seventeen. Therefore, any extreme Andrew Garfield-level Dawson Casting is excusable for him.
If Newt dies, we riot. You with me, you cheeky bastards?
Let us not, dear friends, forget Dylan O'Brien. But what could I say about him that hasn't been said before? I believe he's our generation's next great action hero.
And, like the rest of us, he's an incurable goofball. Just see any Teen Wolf blooper reel for proof ('cause most of the highlights of the latter are his fault).
Between the movie-magic eye candy and the serious star power, I have no choice but to award The Scorch Trials an A+ grade. It's my favorite movie of 2015 so far, and while there are some serious future contenders for that same title (Crimson Peak, Mockingjay: Part II, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), this one's guaranteed to remain in fourth place at worst. The next movie's less than 18 months away now, but the wait for Feb. 2017's probably gonna feel like forever. But it's less torturous than waiting for Sherlock.
And now, I have to stop writing - I really need to sleep, but I might dream about the Scorch instead. Till next time, Pinecones!
Remember: Denis Leary is always watching. Always.