The Young Adult genre is one that has plagued our screens consistently since the booming success of The Hunger Games back in 2012, and almost every single dystopia-set franchise that tried to get off the ground either died immediately or perished through its seemingly endless sequels. But amongst all the crap this genre has pumped out over the last 6 years, Wes Ball‘s Maze Runner franchise has stood out amongst the rest and actually provided three films that range from being quite good to not half bad. I surprisingly enjoyed the first two films in the franchise and they’re two of the best YA dystopian future films out of the large bunch. Now, despite the fact that this conclusion to the franchise is the worst of the trilogy in my opinion it still offers enough to where it’s a mildly enjoyable movie despite its many flaws. This finale once again follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) as he leads a team to take the fight to WCKD and rescue his friends whilst the possibility of a cure to the deadly virus known as ‘The Flare’ becomes apparent.
This movie kicks off exceptionally well with a thrilling fast paced action sequence as the cold open which does a phenomenal job at really hooking you into the story right away. Beyond this point there are some entertaining and briefly intense action sequences scattered sporadically throughout the film that are quite enjoyable, but none of them are ever able to emulate the level of excitement in that opening sequence which is a real shame. When the action does arrive that’s when this movie is undoubtedly at its best because the story tying everything together from beginning to end just doesn’t work and isn’t as engaging as I’d hoped it’d be. The main catalyst for the issues with the story is the runtime which is just too damn long. So many sequences throughout the first and second acts drag on and on and it constantly beats you down to the brink of boredom. It’s an overly bloated story that keeps on chugging on and on and if it wasn’t for the action sequences to give me a kick of adrenaline this could have turned out much worse. One blinding issue has stuck around throughout all three of the Maze Runner films and that’s Wes Ball’s seeming inability to lead into the end of his films well.
The Scorch Trials suffered from looking like it was leading into an ending like 4 times in the final act and now in The Death Cure the movie feels like it is “ending” for the last 30 minutes or so but keeps on going. It messes with the pacing of the film as it’s ramping up to a big finale then it slows down, then it goes for a quiet exit fading to black and then nope, we’re back. I feel like with time if Wes takes on more directing roles he’ll improve in this but right now it’s been a constant issue in all three Maze Runner entries.
As far as the characters and the character relationships are concerned there are a couple connections that allow for some level of emotional engagement in their stories and overall the cast and characters are pretty decent. Dylan O’Brien really is great as the films protagonist and no matter how uninteresting the story is in some moments Dylan puts in a lot of dedication, determination, and hard work and it shows in elevating each scene. He brings a certain energy to the film that is definitely appreciated. Thomas Brodie-Sangster who plays Newt in the film is also quite strong in his scenes and that relationship between he and Thomas is the strongest of the film. Rosa Salazar and Giancarlo Esposito are both highlights and their characters do exhibit some fun chemistry together. Oh, Will Poulter returns in this film as Gally after going missing for the entirety of The Scorch Trials and he’s also pretty decent in here. Aidan Gillen who plays the big bad of the story is nothing more than a cliche evil guy but after years of playing Petyr Baelish on Game of Thrones he knows how to play this kind of character very serviceably. But the way the cast and characters are handled here isn’t all good.
As those of you who saw The Scorch Trials know, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) betrays Thomas and when we meet her in this film she’s very much working for WCKD. I really didn’t care much for her character here and she was frustrating to watch because I know she’s working for WCKD but there’s this back and forth / good and bad mindset she looks to be fighting that for some reason I didn’t buy. You’d be forgiven if you forgot Nathalie Emmanuel is in this movie because she’s in the background a few times and not utilised which begs the question why even put her in here. Also for some fucking reason Walton Goggins is wasted in this movie as some less than secondary character who serves jack shit of a purpose. If anything Goggins should be the main villain and not sidelines as bad as he is here because as is seen in Tomb Raider (2018) he plays a strong villain role quite well.
So, in the end The Death Cure does provide an ample amount of closure for fans of the series and after 3 or 4 attempts does end the franchise in a nice way. If you are wanting to check out what is one of the last YA dystopian future-set films we’ll hopefully see for a good while then just know there is some enjoyment to be had. The action is pretty enjoyable and the opening sequence especially is the best part of the movie by a country mile. The performances and returning characters are also good and bring and bring a certain level of energy to a lot of scenes. It’s just that the story is very bloated, not all that engaging, and drags between action sequences which holds back the film a tonne.