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Friday, 18 December 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Maze Runner:
The Scorch Trials.

I remember when I reviewed The Maze Runner, and one of my principle thoughts on it was 'it's a good thing I'd read the book, because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to keep up with the plot at all.' Well, you'll be - I don't know, probably not pleased, but interested, maybe - to know that I haven't read The Scorch Trials, but I have read a synopsis, and one of the things that immediately struck me about this film was how almost none of the plot elements mentioned in the synopsis actually happen in the film.

So striking were the differences between what happened in the film and the plot points in the synopsis that I had to seek out the opinion of somebody who had actually read the book and seen the film, to get it confirmed: And yes, there is almost no resemblance between the two stories. While the book is incoherent but at least trying something new as far as its storyline goes, the movie takes all but a few bare bones elements of its story and throws it all out, replacing it with an extremely generic, predictable plot.

I've advocated quite strongly for the right of people who adapt properties to make changes in their adaptations - there are demands of form to consider, there are elements that perhaps didn't work in the initial story that could do with being altered or removed, if the property is part of a series or has a prequel or concurrent work you might want to add elements of that in - not all changes are good ones, but there is a place for making changes. But there is a difference between 'making changes' and 'writing an entirely different film and slapping the bare minimum of the original work onto it.'

Dylan O'Brien is not putting on his best performance in this film.

This is the latter. The book is about Thomas and his friends being forced out into the Scorch by WICKED, who tell them that they have all been infected with the Flare, a mysterious disease, and that they need to complete certain instructions in order to help develop a cure. The overriding theme of the book is that, having been rats in one maze, they've now just become rats in a bigger and more dangerous maze, and as the book goes on it becomes apparent that both Teresa and Brenda, a new character, have been manipulating Thomas on behalf of WICKED.

The film, meanwhile, sees Thomas and his friends escape from WICKED when they discover that they are conducting terrible experiments on children from other mazes. Heading out into the hostile Scorch, they head towards the mountains, planning to seek out the sanctuary of the rebel group Right Arm, where they'll be safe from WICKED, who is mercilessly pursuing them. Throwing in with a pair of bandits, Jorge and Brenda, the group evades the zombie-like cranks to find the sanctuary, only to be betrayed by Teresa and have it invaded by WICKED.

It's an impressively generic plot, and I'd warrant the massive plot changes are for exactly that reason: 'This is a plot that we know sells, because it's been in two dozen blockbuster films before, so we're going to completely overhaul the plot into that.' But the result is just boring: Somehow, as with The Maze Runner, the story is still difficult to keep up with, being strange and disjointed and hard to follow, but it's also just dull and predictable. It's a plotline that you've seen before, many, many times, and usually done better.

Brenda and Jorge show up about halfway through the film, and are more engaging
than most of the other characters.

Occasionally, usually in scenes with Teresa, the film manages to hint at a more interesting story, such as when Teresa describes how her mother became a crank (who will always see as just mindless zombies, and who are always treated exactly like zombies, infectious bites and all) and started screaming constantly, only to one day stop. She went down, entered her room, and found her sitting in a chair, perfectly calm and lucid, saying that she wouldn't have any visions now because she'd torn out her eyes.

See? That's interesting! That's scary! Zombies, meanwhile, aren't, and in a way, the interesting description of cranks contrasted with the boring as all get out zombies we're shown is like a metaphor for the entire film: There are hints of something interesting, the tiniest slivers of potential for something engaging, but ultimately what we've got is tired and generic.

Every so often, Aidan Gillen will try, badly, to put on an American accent.

Visually, the film sometimes manages to be impressive, and the actors occasionally manage to put in good performances, even though it seems like they all have about four or five lines each in the entire film, but those are really this film's only redeeming features. 

Just - I mean, wow. I had Fantastic Four chalked up as my worst film of the year, but it has competition now.

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