Treading new ground. The Scorch Trials is absolutely not a repeat of the first film, a refreshing change of pace from copy-and-paste sequels that we’ve all grown so tired of. However, the novelty of the first film was that the maze was a character of its own. Outside of that, it was pretty standard, above-average YA fare. We are no longer with the maze, now finding our heroes in a desert wasteland. It’s not as zany and wild as the one depicted in Mad Max so it comes off as bland and tired. The production design and visual effects are great, especially considering the budget. Just because it’s well-rendered doesn’t mean it’s interesting.
This movie is a deadbeat dad. Dylan O’Brien is absolutely the lead here and he is a very charismatic on-screen presence. His charm and likability elevate the character over the poor characterization and bland writing he’s working with. More characters are introduced, of course, this is a sequel after all, but not many make a real impact. Aidan Gillen, everyone’s favorite Game of Thrones character that’s named after an appendage, chews the scenery with aplomb and delivers a pronunciation of “scorch” that I will never not find entertaining. However, it’s the supporting cast from the first film that gets left in the dust. They tag along, but never have much to do. This is especially true for Kaya Scodelario’s character who is basically sidelined the entire time and almost becomes a MacGuffin.
He’s still getting his feet wet. By he I mean director Wes Ball, who looks like he has the talent to go places in Hollywood. The action is done well and the world is expansive and well-realized. His love of Spielberg is felt throughout, with two obvious homages or rip-offs depending on your cynicism. If he’s given some good material, he could be a very good genre filmmaker. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have great material to work with and for some reason he is enamored with this cookie-cutter YA universe. He elevates it into something relatively entertaining and perfectly watchable, but it is completely unmemorable because of the dull story and characters. This guy will make great actions movies; I’d put money on it. He just has to ditch the YA adaptations to get to that point.