THE DEATH CURE
2018, PG-13, 145 mins.
Dylan O'Brien as Thomas / Thomas Brodie Sangster as Newt / Ki Hong Lee as Minho / Kaya Scodelario as Teresa Agnes / Rosa Salazar as Brenda / Giancarlo Esposito as Jorge / Will Poulter as Gally / Patricia Clarkson as Ava Paige / Aidan Gillen as Janson / Walton Goggins as Lawrence / Barry Pepper as Vince / Paul Lazenby as Guard
Directed by Wes Ball / Written by T.S. Nowlin, based on the book by James Dashner
As far as the very overcrowded and mostly mediocre young adult literary adaptation genre goes, I certainly thought that 2014's THE MAZE RUNNER - adapted from the dystopian sci-fi book series by James Dashner - was a most promising start to an intriguing new film franchise.
well oiled and consummately directed trilogy opener did a stellar job of
harnessing its LORD OF THE FLIES themed narrative about a group of lost
boys struggling to escape their mysterious imprisonment through a bafflingly complex
labyrinth filled with mechanical monsters.
The problem with its sequel, 2015's THE
SCORCH TRIALS, was that the world beyond the maze for these
characters wasn't as compellingly rendered as the one within it.
And at a sometimes watch checking 130 minutes, that second MAZE
RUNNER film did very little to propel the narrative forward with any
sizeable and intriguing momentum.
comes the long awaited and inevitable third film in the MAZE RUNNER
series, the somewhat blandly titled THE DEATH CURE, which, to its very
credit, wastes very little time with expositional particulars and thrusts
viewers into this climatic installment's story with a never-look-back
Improving on the overall pacing of its antecedent - but still
sharing its bloated and unnecessarily long running time - THE DEATH CURE
coasts by with a bit more urgency and dramatic interest this go around,
and fans of Dashner's literary universe will certainly appreciate this film
bringing everything to a relatively satisfying sense of
Now, it could be aptly said that the story behind the making of THE
DEATH CURE generated more headlines than the film itself; star Dylan
O'Brien was horrifically injured during filming a stunt gone terribly
wrong, which shut down the production and led to the film's delayed
release by nearly a year.
Even though that terrible event casts a large ominous shadow over this
sequel, THE DEATH CURE is nevertheless a solidly constructed and kind of
thanklessly acted final entry in this series.
Despite some rough edges, this film is a far cry better than
most YA fare that's out there battling for dominance at the cinemas.
while watching this outing's sensationally realized opening action
sequence it's awfully hard not to think about its lead star visibly
risking life and limb for the service of his craft.
In it we see Thomas (O'Brien) and fellow ex-Maze Runners turned
freedom fighters engage in a daring attack/rescue mission that pits them
against a fast moving locomotive, a stealthy futuristic plane armed to the
teeth, and ample numbers of armed WCKD goons that are trying to defend
their human cargo that are all immune to a humanity decimating
"Flare" virus that has turned most people into zombies called
"cranks" (yup - sigh - more movie zombies). The kids are used by the self serving needs of the WCKD corporation
to find a cure that could save the last vestiges of humanity.
Despite the fact that the film doesn't waste time by offering recaps
of previous MAZE
RUNNER outings, forgetful viewers may feel the need for a narrative roadmap
immediately heading into THE DEATH CURE. Still, director Wes Ball (returning
after helming the first two films) displays such headstrong confidence and
a strong sense of kinetic scale with this introductory scene (it's like MAD MAX and FAST AND FURIOUS light) that it's hard to nitpick.
those uninitiated that do require some semblance of a recap of the series, I'll briefly
endeavor to do just that.
The first film began with ominous mystery as it introduced us to a
semi-amnesiac Thomas that was placed within a gated community of other
adolescents by WCKD (BTW: gotta love the subtlety of that acronym), a black ops
scientific organization that was using Thomas and his fellow maze runners
as experimental guinea pigs to research why they've become immune to the
As Thomas and his clan survived the hardships of escaping the maze
and realized that the world beyond it was a post-apocalyptic hellscape
covered with infected cranks, they decided to go on the offensive to take
on one of the leaders of WCKD, Dr. Paige (Patricia Clarkson), head on,
which eventually culminated in the aforementioned rescue mission that
begins THE DEATH CURE.
Thomas wants to free all of the kids subjugated by the doctor's
experiments, but he really wants to save one of his BFFs in Minho (Ki Hong
Lee), whose been in their custody for some time.
Thomas soon realizes that Minho is actually cooped up at the
central WCKD headquarters in the last surviving city on Earth, which has
nearly impenetrable military defenses and is surrounded by an equally
impermeable wall that keeps out those human hungry cranks.
With failure not being an option, Thomas decides to launch a daring
and extremely risky infiltration mission into this lost city, which is
complicated by the meddling of Dr. Paige's goon enforcer, Jansen (Aidan
Gillen), and - dammit!! - Thomas' former maze runner lover, now traitor
Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) that's working in concert with the enemy.
one of THE MAZE RUNNER franchise's unsung heroes is Wes Ball himself, who
manages in all of its installments - even the somewhat lackluster THE
SCORCH TRIALS - to make these films look and feel far more epically
engineered than their otherwise low budgets would relay.
Even when plotting speed bumps hold these films back, Ball remains
steadfastly committed to generating ample tension and energy in his set
pieces, all shot and choreographed with commendable levels of precision
and, most importantly, clarity.
In a relative cinematic world of so many uninspired YA films that
all feel like they're cheaply regurgitating the blueprints of other better
films before them, Ball should be credited with giving THE DEATH CURE and
the previous MAZE RUNNER films a sense of aesthetic flare that keeps them moving.
At a scant $60 million budget (pretty much peanuts in this day and
age), THE DEATH CURE looks as consummately polished as films three times
could be argued that THE DEATH CURE and THE SCORCH TRIALS are perhaps too
action focused for their own good, especially considering the deeper
psychological underpinnings that intriguingly laid the groundwork in the
first MAZE RUNNER episode.
Still, THE DEATH CURE has fun with its multiple moments of foot and
car chases, fights, and gun battles, during which time things get blown up
in all matters Michael Bayian.
Ball shows unbridled creativity, though, in some cases, like a preposterously
silly, but preposterously thrilling moment featuring a crane and a bus filled with
screaming immune children that's one of the film's giddy highlights (and
ends with a well placed sight gag to ease tension). THE
DEATH CURE may not have the thematic complexity and character driven drama
of THE MAZE RUNNER, but as a jam packed action heavy sci-fi thriller...it
delivers on intended promises.
the performances here are intensely focused and more layered than typically
found in this well worn genre.
The 26-year-old O'Brien has matured as a young lead actor since the
first film's release, and here he shows a dedicated drive with Thomas that
helps make him such an easy protagonist of rooting interest.
I only wished that these films gave their villains more to do.
Patricia Clarkson has been regrettably saddled with a vaguely
defined baddie that seems both underwritten on the page and underutilized
in the film to make a sizable and lasting dent, not to mention that Aidan
Gillen's zealot-like tyrant is pretty one note and lacking in complexity.
Kaya Scodelario is a fetching actress and has palpable chemistry
with O'Brien, but Teresa's core relationship with Thomas goes down
painfully predictable arcs that are not nearly as emotionally potent and
this film thinks they are. That, and the is she bad or is
she good subplot plays out with numbing predictability.