With this week’s announcement of the Oscar nominations, many moviegoers are heading out to catch up on the titles they missed. For those who don’t exactly care about Hollywood patting its own back, only one wide release takes the stage this week. It’s the third (and final) installment of one of the better Young Adult adaptations, but it’s been a while since the second was released, so let’s hope you remember where we left off.
The ‘Maze Runner’ trilogy was intended to arrive in theaters over three consecutive Septembers, but when its leading man was critically wounded in an on-set accident (while performing a stunt atop a moving vehicle, his security cable unexpectedly yanked him from the roof of the car, causing him to be hit by another moving vehicle), production on the final film was halted. Now, nearly 18 months after its original release date, ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure‘ is finally here.
I had never heard of the ‘Maze Runner’ books until the first movie opened in 2014. At the time, YA was still all the rage (well, as much as it ever was), but I was already burned out on the genre’s lack of quality writing and filmmaking. However, ‘The Maze Runner‘ came as a pleasant surprise. The confined setting allowed its many characters to be relatable and the story was strong enough to create solid tension. Then the second movie tried to go a little grander than it should have and the story wasn’t as compelling or focused as the first. That leads us to the third movie.
‘The Death Cure’ takes its time not only concluding the story, but bringing the three-movie-arc to a satisfying close. Our ensemble cast has been split up. Thomas, a few friends and both arms of the resistance are looking to overthrow WCKD, the evil corporation that toys with teenagers immune to an unstoppable virus. Teresa the Betrayer and one of Thomas’ kidnapped friends are now with WCKD. Turning into a seemingly massive-budget (although shot with a low $62 million) and high-spectacle action movie, ‘The Death Cure’ is surprisingly great. The IMAX version contains an opened-up aspect ratio that should make a few of the well-shot sequences feel grand (including the opening ‘Fast and Furious’-like scene that injured star Dyan O’Brien). If you enjoyed the first two, you’ll surely enjoy the third.
You’re probably wondering why I spent so much time talking about ‘The Maze Runner’ in a post dedicated to all of the week’s new releases? Well, that’s because it’s the only wide release this week. Christian Bale’s gritty Western ‘Hostiles‘ expands to 2,815 screens, but ‘The Death Cure’ is the only new title opening wide.
I didn’t know anyone was still making them, but apparently a new ‘Kickboxer’ movie is in limited release. Set one year after the new main character (Alain Moussi) in ‘Kickboxer: Vengeance‘ vowed to never return to Thailand (what happens in Thailand stays in Thailand, right?), ‘Kickboxer: Retaliation‘ takes him right back there against his will. The movie begins with him being roofied and waking up in the same place that he just swore off. The only way that he can earn his freedom and return home is to fight and take down a 400-pound grizzly bear of an opponent.