Is anyone else burned out on dystopian dramas?
“The Hunger Games.” The “Divergent” series. “The Giver.” “Ender’s Game.”
It’s why “The Maze Runner” grabbed our attention four years ago. The film offered an engaging star (Dylan O’Brien) and a visual gimmick worth the ticket price: massive walls hiding something sinister.
The second film, “The Scorch Trials” proved a dramatic letdown. We still wanted to find out what made W.C.K.D. tick as well as the fate of our gallant heroes.
“The Maze Runner: The Death Cure” has all the answers. By the end credits you may forget the questions.
O’Brien is back as the Glader known as Thomas, following an on-set injury that delayed the film’s release. He’s heading to the Last City to rescue an old friend, but he’s got some help.
Cool heroes never face danger alone, you know.
It’s one of several action movie cliches sprinkled throughout the overlong sequel. You’ll also hear, “hang on to something!” a time or two. That’s all forgivable if the saga moves forward in a substantial way. Instead, we’re left with pretty stars going through the dystopian motions.
It doesn’t help that the film’s twin baddies, played by Patricia Clarkson and Aidan Gillen, won’t threaten Darth Vader for big screen villainy. Not even close.
FAST FACT: The stunt that left O’Brien with a head injury was shot in Canada. Once the production resumed the scene in question wrapped in South Africa. The studio used CGI to match the two very different backdrops.
It all begins with a bang. Actually, more than a few. “The Death’s Cure” opening sequence is so good, so daring it connects you to headlines about O’Brien’s injury. This wasn’t a stubbed toe moment. It looks like the star is risking life, limb and a bit more to convey the action’s authenticity.
The camera keeps his face in focus so long you’ll want to chew out his agent. It’s as good as any “Fast and Furious” franchise.
That’s no small praise.
Thomas remains stoic to the core. He’s no Ah-nold quipping his way past the bad guys. He’s on a mission, and nothing can deter him. Well, maybe thoughts of Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the beauty who betrayed the group in “Scorch Trials.”
From there we re-team with our bland but affable heroes … but what’s their purpose? To stay out of W.C.K.D.’s clutches, of course. Beyond that? To rescue an old friend? No doubt. What about the possible cure to the plague turning hapless souls into zombies?
That breakthrough floats in and out of the narrative when it should be all consuming. At least something should be. Still, the action beats in “Death Cure” are never less than solid, and the film looks like big-budget fare in the best of ways.
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“The Death Cure” teases us with talk of saving some while putting others in risk. That morality pretzel never gets enough traction. Pin the unsatisfying results on the screenplay, perfunctory at best.
“Maze Runner: The Death Cure.” should satisfy hardcore fans without drawing any new devotees. What’s missing? The sense of urgency found in the best film franchises.
HiT or Miss: “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” opens with both promise and delirious action. The intensity never lets up but the story slows to a crawl.