I Wasn’t Expecting Much But The Death Cure Is A Solid Conclusion To The Maze Runner Franchise
Director: Wes Ball
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Hi Kong Lee, Rose Salazar, Dexter Darden, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson, Barry Pepper, Aiden Gillen and Walter Goggins
Running Time: 2 Hrs, 22 Mins
I have to admit, I almost forgot the final Maze Runner instalment was coming up. The first two failed to make any kind of serious impression on me and the delay between titles didn’t help (the release of The Death Cure-third and final film-was delayed while lead Dylan O’Brien recovered from an on set injury). It didn’t make my Top 10 list for winter movies this year (though in hindsight it probably should have) and I had nearly forgotten about this franchise altogether.
But 20th Century Fox and director Wes Ball saved the best for last and Death Cure turned out better than I expected.
After being betrayed by Theresa (Kaya Scodelario), Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Brenda (Rose Salazar) and Frypan (Dexter Darden) are desperately trying to rescue Minho (Hi Kong Lee) following his capture by the seemingly omnipotent Wickd. But their best attempts come up empty and Minho soon finds himself being tortured in a Wickd lab at the heart of the worlds last remaining city (a veritable fortress built to protect remaining social elite from the Flare virus that has pushed the human race to the brink of extinction).
Thomas and friends make one final attempt to rescue Minho while Wickd races to use him and the remaining immunes to find a cure before the Flare ends humanity. Thomas and company soon find themselves in bed with eyebrow raising allies, stumble across some of the darker chapters of their past and wrestle with secrets that strike at the very heart of the group.
Death Cure is not your typical YA movie (based on James Dashner’s bestselling books). It’s more of an action movie with a lot of young leads. Make no mistake, there is plenty of emotion mixed in with the high octane action, but it avoids the melodramatic tropes that haunt most YA stories (even the dystopian kind).
There’s plenty of solid action beats (and Cure starts with a bang) and if gun fights, explosions and mass destruction is your thing, you won’t be disappointed. Cure’s action sequences work far better as a result of relying more on stunt work and practical effects than CGI (hence O’Brien’s injury). It’s a satisfying recipe that’s three parts action and two parts science fiction with a dash of emotional weight thrown in for good measure.
Not only does Ball keep the film moving at a sprinter’s pace, but he also manages to coax some pretty decent performances from his young cast along the way. Dylan O’Brien is efficient as the rebel leader Thomas, who has matured from being the willful underdog we met in The Maze Runner to an occasionally impulsive, tactical badass who puts his friends before himself more times than not (O’Brien may be one of the next great action stars, someone who can convincingly sell action roles while providing some decent acting chops as well).
Thomas Brodie-Sangster does an admirable turn as Newt, Thomas’ right hand who finds himself confronting his own demons and racing his own clock to rescue Minho.
But perhaps the most nuanced performance belongs to Kaya Scoldelario as Theresa. You start the movie hating Theresa for betraying the group to the nefarious Wickd and can’t wait for her to get hers (hopefully at the hands of former love interest Thomas or Minho, who she uses as her personal lab rat). But over the course of the movie Theresa becomes sympathetic and Scolderario brings her emotional conflict to the fore, infusing more than enough humanity to elevate her above the typical action movie turncoat.
Despite moving at a brisk pace, Death Cure does feel bloated at times and characters are occasionally guilty of doing things for unclear or completely mysterious reasons. Dr. Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), the cold, heartless scientist at the centre of Wickd’s machinations, no longer feels like the emotionally sterile monster she did in the previous films. And Aiden Gillan isn’t quite the same agent of malevolence he was in The Scorch Trials as Jansen, Wickd’s head of security. Death Cure may have been better off if it could have kept those elements intact.
Perhaps Death Cure’s most impressive achievement was it’s ability to include social commentary as a subtle, nearly unstated layer of plot. Both YA and sci-fi dystopian films are often guilty of clumsily beating audiences over the head with political messaging while Cure manages to establish a delicate balance. While there’s definitely a message it is subtly woven into the story and never threatens to overrule anything else.
The social theme is a careful whisper instead of a shout.
Death Cure efficiently deals with sacrifice, friendship and the moral dilemma of measuring the ends of the few against the many. It isn’t going to win any Oscars, but it is the strongest entry in the trilogy and an excellent way to cap off the story. There were play of ways this movie could have gone off the tracks to wrap of the franchise, but fortunately Death Cure got most of it right and delivered a solid conclusion.