Movie Review: Maze Runner finishes strong

A long-delayed final entry into the Maze Runner trilogy, The Death Cure comes far after the Young Adult film craze — but leaves most movies of that genre in the dust.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a relic of the Young Adult film franchise craze that ended somewhere around 2015. It was simultaneously not long ago and what feels like a lifetime ago that all the Harry Potters, Twilights and Hunger Games crowded the screen.

Maze Runner was a lesser franchise that came on the trend’s tail end, and has been running just to keep up. The first two films released in 2014 and 2015 to mixed reviews and box office receipts.

Production on The Death Cure, the final installment, screeched to a halt when star Dylan O’Brien (best known for TV show Teen Wolf) was injured while filming a stunt. The hiatus went on for much longer than anticipated, and the movie only just now huffed across the finish line in 2018.

It may be last in the race, but don’t count it out — The Death Cure is easily the best of the underrated trilogy, and (though overdrawn at parts) is a somewhat refreshing reminder of what made the genre a phenomenon in the first place.

The plot has largely veered from its source material book trilogy written by James Dashner, and will just sound like gibberish to someone who hasn’t followed along with the movies, or forgot what happened in the two and a half year gap.

Suffice it to say: the world has fallen to a virus that’s turning people into “cranks” (just another word for zombies), and an organization subtly named “WCKD” is trying to find a cure through some morally gray methods. It’s up to a group of edgy teens to save the day, and their friends, because of course it is.

You’ve come to the wrong place if you’re looking for logistic narrative in The Maze Runner. The first installment offers the most compelling premise — a group of edgy teens wakes up in the middle of a deadly maze filled with monsters, and has to find their way out. The series has fallen back largely on post-apocalyptic tropes since they found their way out, and despite a charming cast, it’s nearly impossible to finish watching an installment without scratching your head at the blatant plot inconsistencies.

What Maze Runner brings to the table is adrenaline, atmosphere and shockingly well-done action sequences. The first two films of the series were budgeted at a collective $100 million — an amount smaller than a typical single YA film at the genre’s height of popularity.

But the action sequences stand with the best of them, and they’re better than ever here. The film immediately kicks off with a high-octane train ride in which Thomas (O’Brien) jumps from speeding car to train in an effort to save his captured friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee). It was during the filming of this stunt that O’Brien’s harness malfunctioned, resulting in the injury. It’s a no-holds-barred marathon from that risky starting point — it only builds from there.

Also in the fold is Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), a once-Maze Runner who turned her back on the group in the name of finding a cure for the zombie virus. Her segments of the film allow for crucial world-building for what was mostly a blank slate previously — even if it does come a little too late in the series.

For as glaring as its flaws, the film more than makes up for them with its highs. After a few years apart, it’s undeniably exciting to see the cast back and more confident in their roles than ever. No, it couldn’t possibly had wielded the impact Harry Potter and Hunger Games unleashed on pop culture. But the series stands on its own as more than an also-ran. ••