Review: ‘Scorch Trials’ covers overly familiar ground

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Zombies? Seriously, zombies? Again?

“The Maze Runner” may not have been great cinema, and it may have differed in major ways from its source novel, but it did have a fairly interesting premise: A bunch of teens imprisoned in a glade surrounded on all sides by an ever-shifting maze crawling with monsters. How do they get out?

Get out they did, though, and since the movie made some $340 million worldwide, here comes “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” in which our young heroes return to your basic, standard-issue dystopian wrecked civilization.

At first they seem to be swept up by rebels who are taking them to some safe paradise, but things aren’t what they seem, so the kids break free and set off across crumbling city sets that look directly lifted from the “Divergent” movies, seeking some refuge. And what do they immediately run into? You got it — the walking dead. It’s like they staggered right out of your television set and into this movie.

So, there’s a lot of running around and screaming as our heroes try to avoid becoming zombies themselves. All very familiar territory. The film does have a moral quandary, though. Our two leads, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), are aware that they were being used as part of an experiment meant to provide a cure for mankind’s current state of zombieness. Are they being irresponsible by not cooperating with the experiment?

Which is a pretty good question. Too bad it’s housed in such an obviously derivative film.

Some good people pop up here and there in “Scorch Trials” — Patricia Clarkson, Lili Taylor, Barry Pepper, Giancarlo Esposito — echoing the current trend of mixing respected actors into young adult franchises (Naomi Watts and Kate Winslet in “Divergent”; Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman in “The Hunger Games”). But they can’t save the day. This story was better off back in the maze.

‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’


Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of violence and action, some thematic elements, substance use and language

Running time: 131 minutes