The Maze Runner Trilogy

Like many of you, Sean and I are experiencing ‘weather’. We’re iced in rather than snowed in, which is just as annoying, and harder on hydro lines. When we do have power, we’re watching a trilogy we don’t give a damn about, which I think is a good strategy. As ice storms go, this one’s fairly benign. When I was in high school, we had a massive ice storm that meant weeks without classes, electricity, flushing toilets, or accessible roads. This one’s only distinguishing feature is that it’s arriving mid-April just to annoy the fuck out of us. Hope you’re all staying warm! What’s it like where you are?

The Maze Runner: Every week for the past 3 years, a teenage boy has been dropped in the middle of a very large, very deadly maze. Those who have ventured in have not returned. Those who remain do so by eking out survival in the middle, where it’s safe if not entirely comfortable. They hold on to hope by telling each other the maze must be solvable, but after 3 years, there have been no breakthroughs. Truthfully, it’s very Lord of the Flies. There are also no girls, which means either all the girls solve the maze easily and disappear, or they’re smart enough not to get sent in in the first place. Then one day, Thomas arrives in the maze, and his presence seems to wreak havoc. He engages with the maze in new and startling ways – ways that may lead to their ultimate escape but in the short term stirs up a lot of life-threatening stuff, of which not everyone is a fan. So of course the camp is splitting into two factions when something even worse shows up: a girl. So you know the maze is about to be solved, because finally there’s some female brain power involved. And it is….but it turns out the maze was only the beginning.

This movie is by-the-book YA programming. There’s very little to the characters since they’ve all had their memories wiped, but the actors are pretty decent. You’ll recognize a Thomas-gif-the-maze-runner-thomas-39099571-500-250few faces – Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf, American Assassin, Deepwater Horizon) in the lead role, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (the little guy from Love Actually, partially grown up!), and Will Poulter (with a face destined to play villain after villain, poor guy). The movie is dark, and keeps kids in mortal danger. The world is underexplained and the ending is underwhelming. There’s a strong, interesting premise with a pretty standard execution that adds up to me feeling like I’ve somehow seen it all before.

The Scorch Trials: The kids are helicoptered away from the maze and into a safe house run by Janson  (Aiden Gillen). Turns out, the kids were being experimented upon because they have survived the apocalyptic virus that kills nearly everyone else and possibly the cure is in their blood, but it can only be ‘harvested’, not taken. An organization called WCKD (previously run by Patricia Clarkson) was testing them in the maze and you can understand why the kids are feeling wary of them. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know who to trust out here (and these starry-eyed kids keep on trusting everyone despite constant reminders they shouldn’t). While the first Maze Runner had them running an actual maze, in this one they’re just basically imperiling themselves only to escape and eventually to be caught up in even more preposterous circumstances. They’re basically being chased through the desert by Murphy’s Law.

The Scorch Trials are not as interesting. Oh, it’s action-packed, but the sac is so packed with action that it’s sprung a leak where all the good stuff like plot and plausibility have spilled out.

The Death Cure: We know the kids are the key to the cure and that WCKD will do anything to keep them as research subjects – in fact, WCKD has recaptured some of the group, and now, instead of escaping the walls of a maze, they’ll have to penetrate the walls of the city where they’re holding their friends. It’s more dangerous! More action-packed! With higher stakes! I mean, not really. I don’t think any of this was half as interesting as the maze itself, although this movie does pose one interesting question: should we torture a few in order to extract a cure that would save many?

The Death Cure takes some pretty big logic leaps but it means business: zombies, explosions, action by air, land, and sea. Old friends, new friends. Tragic deaths and new beginnings. And maybe even hope for the future. It’s an adequate goodbye, and a more dignified end to the series than most others in the YA genre, but if you weren’t a maze fan before, this one isn’t going to convert you. It’s bloated and ridiculous, but what else did you expect?

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25 thoughts on “The Maze Runner Trilogy

  1. garethrhodes

    The Hunger Games kind of took the wind out of my sails for the YA stuff. Not that I didn’t like Hunger Games – I just assumed everything else was a kneejerk reaction to it, and thus the quality wouldn’t be there.

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  2. Liz A.

    I sat through the first two. On TV. (I didn’t venture to a theater to see these.) And yeah, they were about what you said. A big, fat meh. I won’t bother with the third.

    How’s my weather? Windy, actually. Otherwise, you really, really don’t want to know.

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      1. J.

        You bet! I found myself watching The Vow a while back during a ‘trapped event’ (for want of a better phrase). Oooft.

        By the way, have I missed the Pacific Rim review?

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  3. fragglerocking

    I did see the first one, it passed the time whilst I was ironing, but can’t really remember what it was about or how it ended. Didn’t realise there were sequels, but that’s fine, one was enough. Cheers Jay.

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  4. Widdershins

    Weather – cold and wet. 😦
    Trilogy – watched the first one a few months ago because of all the hype about the third … very meh … not going to waste my time with the other two. 🙂

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  5. StephLove

    It’s chilly and dreary today in Maryland but thankfully no ice. Noah read the Maze Runner (and maybe the rest of them) when he was younger, but didn’t see the movies as far as I know. I don’t know why I didn’t read it with him– we’ve shared a lot of those kinds of books over the years. Now we’ve moved away from YA and on to Stephen King- we’re on book 5 of the Dark Tower series.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I see he likes very dark books!
      I haven’t read any of these YA offerings but I am not a YA and don’t know any either – my oldest nephew is into captain underpants, and starting on harry potter.

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  6. thelonelyauthorblog

    I love sci-fi, but The Maze Runner kind of left me unsatisfied so I never ventured to see the other parts of the series.

    Also, I liked your assumption that the maze would finally be solved since I girl arrived. I have enough trouble untying my shoe lace, so I, like mot men, would be baffled by the maze, unless their was the reward of a sandwich at the very end.

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  7. Carrie Rubin

    I’m not really a fan of YA fiction, so I wrote these movies off as being not for me. The exception, of course, is The Hunger Games. I loved all the movies, and I finally just recently read the book because everyone told me I should. Wowsa. What a great book. Couldn’t put it down. Speaking of, thank you again so much for your nice tweet today. Made my day. 😊

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  8. D. Wallace Peach

    I sort of liked the first one, sort of didn’t finish the second one. My husband suggested watching the third and I said, “I have to see what AWM says first.” I guess he’ll have to watch it without me. 🙂

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    1. Jay Post author

      I think the first one is the best one, and as you say “sort of” liking it is as good as it gets. It was better than expected, but my expectations were pretty low.

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  9. Paul. Writer and Filmmaker

    Great reviews as usual. I really liked the first one as is held back the mystery and used the ‘Lord of the Flies’ as an excellent basis for the drama. Once we found out why it was all happening I lost interest to be honest. But it was pretty well done until the explosions took over.

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  10. Tom

    Every time i bring up the weather like a boring old fart in my monthly roundups, i always think of you all up in Canada. Dealing with much more snow than we got in northern New Jersey. But yeah, this winter has been REALLY annoying to say the least.

    Perfect time to get caught up on those Maze Runner movies! I quit after Scorch Trials. Not so much voluntarily but because i straight-up forgot about there being a third installment. Meh, I’m not exactly moved to complete the series tbh

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  11. Jason

    Good reviews. While i thought the Hunger Games movie were better (as a complete series in both books and movies), the Maze Runner films were good because they were more action oriented than YA fictional love drama.

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