Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018)
★★★ / ★★★★
One of my main criticisms of “The Scorch Trials,” the direct predecessor of “The Death Cure,” the final chapter of “The Maze Runner” series, is the filmmakers’ inability to focus on which type of picture they wish to create. The middle chapter, while still entertaining as a whole, introduces questions regarding ethics and morality, particularly the subject of consent when it comes to a person partaking in scientific experiments, which impede the breathless momentum of action sequences.
The good news is that such limitation is no longer an issue in “The Death Cure,” based on the novel by James Dashner and adapted to the screen by T.S. Nowlin, because it has made a choice of becoming a full-on action picture, a finale that relies heavily on special and visual effects coupled with convincing sound effects that truly place us amidst the chaos. The bad news, however, is the material assumes that we already know all there is to know about its characters. There is significantly less intrigue here compared to its predecessors. An argument can be made it is all action, no substance.
But a film must be judged by what it aspires to be. As an action film, it moves well despite a hefty running time of almost one hundred forty-five minutes. It helps that the action sequences are grand, but never complicated, and it is a requirement that we understand what is at stake. Perhaps the best example is the excellent first scene where Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his friends (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito) set out to rescue Minho (Ki Hong Lee) from WCKED (Patricia Clarkson, Aidan Gillen, Kaya Scodelario). The train heist is exciting and beautifully executed from top to bottom. Creativity partnered with handful of close calls are employed just like in action movies that demand attention. Had the material managed to keep up such high level of craft, viewers might have forgotten entirely that the film is based on a young adult novel.
But there must be pauses between action where characters speak to one another and decide what to do next. While the dialogue is convincing and never syrupy, especially when it touches upon potential romantic connections, the exchanges fail to go beyond what is required. We do not learn extra, possibly extraneous, information about the central characters aimed to provide viewers another level of connection to the main players. In fact, at times I had the impression that the more silent moments are a chore to shoot. Certainly there is more passion and enthusiasm put into the action sequences compared to the more intimate moments—with the exception of one which reveals the fate of a particular beloved character.
Directed by Wes Ball, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” offers an occasionally eye-popping closing chapter to a solid series. Perhaps the best thing about it is the charisma of the cast because each face is memorable and every character has a distinct personality. Because there is room for improvement, I can envision the series being remade ten to twenty years from now. Hopefully without the identity crisis.