MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE turns YA into something worth watching
Maze Runner: The Death Cure is the last in the chronological timeline of a series of young adult (YA) dystopian novels based in a not so improbable future. While you don’t have to see the preceding movies, The Maze Runner (2014), The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015), it probably wouldn’t hurt to know who the players and motivations are ahead of time. I didn’t and still enjoyed myself, so perhaps your mileage may vary.
Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is on a “leave no man behind” mission to save his friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee) from the fate of barbaric testing from the morally ambiguous corporation WCKD. See Thomas and some of his friends are more or less immune from the Flare, a slow-rot brain condition that turns victims into mindless cannibals, or Cranks, and WCKD wants to know why so they can reproduce it. Once WCKD captures those they believe are immune, they put them through horrifying tests so their bodies can produce antibodies that can destroy the Flare virus. WCKD needs lots of these antibodies, but very few immune children can produce it. Hence the raids on far-flung places to car kids by the freight car full to the Last City, which is literally that.
You really didn’t need that backstory to enjoy Death Cure, because this is, after all, dystopian YA. It’s supposed to be simple and straightforward, and it absolutely is. I had no problem following along and even the least seasoned movie-goer can bridge the gaps between callbacks to previous movies. The shock value may not be there, but we’re just along for the ride. There is enough filler for the average person to connect the dots and still enjoy 142 minutes of pretty boys, English accents, dirty ghettos, and heroic sacrifice.
Thomas is our “Chosen One,” and the connection to the first two movies. I didn’t see them so all I know is he’s loyal, thoughtful, and carries a torch for Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) who’s considered a traitor because she works for WKCD. Minho is a potential “munie” so he’s captured and his “essence” or whatever is extracted to create a cure. Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is just hot and provides the aural lubrication necessary to get through some of the expository scenes. Frypan (Dexter Darden) is the driver and Brenda (Rose Salazar) is the tough bad-ass counterpart to traitor Teresa. Oh, and Giancarlo Esposito is an Adult.
Other adults are Ava (Patricia Clarkston) a scientist at WCKD who sees Thomas as a savior and Janson (Aiden Gillen) who only sees Thomas as a means to an end. I know these are adapted from a series of 5 books, but with what I’ve read and heard, the movie series is a departure from the books, which I also haven’t read, so I’ll leave that decision up to you.
It’s pretty thrilling for a YA story most folks would simply turn their noses up to and walk past, but for a Saturday Popcorn Matinee that you can take the kids to, it’s absolutely worth an afternoon’s entertainment. I like my movies to have story and plot, not just mindless action, so while you may balk at a movie that’s a bit over 2 hours, it doesn’t feel long, especially if you’re new to the series. You’re there to be entertained and get your money’s worth, and Death Cure delivers the antidote to your boring afternoon.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure is rated PG-13 for lots of shooting, teens getting shot, lots of blood when they get shot and die, the “Flarification” of a child, swears, and some pretty intense action.