'Maze Runner: The Death Cure'
After four years and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, the ‘Maze Runner’ trilogy has finally come to a close. And yet, there’s a very good chance that you didn’t notice any of it. Why? Well, because no one really cares about the ‘Maze Runner’ movies.
The franchise emerged in the post ‘Hunger Games’ haze of YA dystopia blockbusters that just wouldn’t stop happening. The series started around the same time as ‘Divergent’, and even though the studio behind that franchise of diminishing returns gave up before concluding the story, Fox is sticking with this ‘Maze Runner’ thing to the bitter end. So here it is. That winter tentpole you didn’t ask for and possibly weren’t even aware existed is finally here!
Much like ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’ (kinda), ‘Maze Runner’ began as a game that unfortunate children of an unfortunate future were forced to play by evil adults who had led the world astray. In this case, it was a death maze. By the third chapter, the hook that sold the series is long gone. Now it’s a revolutionary tale of barely distinguishable teens dressed in black trying to topple the evil adults who have spoiled society.
Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is the hero. He’s not just super good at maze challenges, making friends, leading revolutions, and making girls swoon, he’s also a Chosen One. In this case, that means that he’s the key to the cure for a vaguely zombie-esque epidemic that has kept the last bastions of society locked in an ivory tower city in the middle of a scorched desert. Of course, he doesn’t know that secret yet (even though anyone who has ever seen one of these stories before does know it). For now, all he knows is that he’s got to save his best bud Minho (Ki Hong Lee) from the evil corporation/dictatorship following the betrayal of his somewhat girlfriend Teresa (Kaya Scodelario). She’s leading medical experiments that torture teens to find the cure that her lover held all along. Fortunately, all of Thomas’ buddies from the previous movies are here to help and hopefully take the whole society down in the process.
Yeah, it’s that old story – the one you’ve seen many times before over the past few years and, mercifully thanks to the diminishing box office returns on these things, you won’t have to see it again. Many characters need curtain calls. Plot threads need to be wrapped up and ongoing character arcs need to be competed. The relatively recognizable adult character actors (Patricia Clarkson, Giancarlo Esposito, Barry Pepper, Aidan Gillen, Walton Goggins) need screen time to justify their multi-picture contracts. The former bully (Will Poulter) needs to be redeemed. The love triangle needs to be resolved. Stuff needs to blow up. There needs to be edginess without slipping over the PG-13 rating. There needs to be a happy ending, but one that also allows for the proper amount of pouting required by the genre. All that crap. It’s all here. Every predictable beat is stretched out to a seemingly endless two hours and twenty minutes. If you’re angry this series got a finale and not ‘Divergent’, fear not! Just squint your eyes to a blur and it’ll feel like the same thing.
Possibly the most frustrating element of ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ is the fact that it isn’t even really that horrendous of a movie. If only it were, then it would be easier to completely dismiss (not that you shouldn’t do that anyway). The young cast are actually decent (beyond the requisite charisma-free lead), and the older actors carry the weight of the picture admirably. Even effects-artist-turned-director Wes Ball handles the dour action beats nicely.
A lot of people put a lot of work into this threequel and actually even cared about the project to an extent. Unfortunately, the source material is deeply mediocre and this is arguably the worst tale of the whole trilogy. There’s not a moment that doesn’t play out exactly as expected, especially the alleged surprises. The movie expensively struts across the screen and then disappears with a thud, taking an entire trend and genre down with it. It’s time to stick a fork in these cynical teenage dystopia flicks. They’re done, and not soon enough.