A curious thing has occurred in the “Maze Runner” movie series.
The original picture, released last year, devotes a great deal of its running time to developing its characters’ personalities and relationships. Director Wes Ball and screenwriter T.S. Nowlin, in adapting James Dashner’s 2009 young-adult sci-fi best-seller, stuck fairly close to their source material as they brought the characters to life.
The audience got to know the young people trapped in a mysterious glade surrounded by high walls with no exit save for the maze of the title, where deadly monsters preyed on anyone trying to escape.
For the sequel, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” Ball and Nowlin have diverged significantly from the novel that inspired the movie — No telepathy! — and tossed all that character development aside. This time around, the kids have been turned into wind-up figures whose only function — taking the title a tad too literally — is to RUN!
Anybody who hasn’t seen the first movie won’t have a clue as to what’s going on in the second as “Scorch Trials” picks up directly from the ending of “The Maze Runner.” The hero, a kid named Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), and his small band of fellow maze escapees are flown to a sinister military base where they quickly learn unwholesome things are being done to young folks like themselves. Things involving tubes and restraints and mad-scientist experimentation. And so they run. And run some more.
They run from masked soldiers. They run from ravening zombies. They run through desolate desert landscapes. They run through the rubble of ruined cityscapes. (Dystopia: It’s a mess.)
They run through endless corridors. So many different corridors in so many different scenes, which somehow all ultimately look the same.
And then the picture ends, in midstride, as it were — just as “The Maze Runner” does — setting the stage for yet another sequel, reportedly due out in 2017. That should be enough time to allow cast members to catch their breath before putting their running shoes back on.
MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS
1½ stars out of 5 stars
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Ki Hong Lee and Rosa Salazar.
Director: Wes Ball.
Running time: 2:11.
Rated: PG-13, for extended sequences of violence and action, some thematic elements, substance use and language.