Friday, April 6, 2018

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Major Spoilers. I'm going Spoiler crazy with this one, since I was so late seeing it.

The last surviving YA dystopian film series makes its final stand.

Of the Big Three, this one was my favorite. Especially film-wise, as The Hunger Games destroyed itself my splitting its third installment, and then Divergent followed suit but only got halfway through before dying under the strain. Still The Maze Runner was fashionably late to the party to begin with and with a filming delay on this one, it seems like an after-thought; a second-place finisher only by default, stumbling across the finish line after the spectators have already moved on to the next event.

But I'm still here. I stuck around, partly because I enjoyed the books, partly because I still enjoy the first two films, and partly because the next event is the Superhero Crossover Relay, and of that, I am not a fan. And I'm impressed; I'm impressed that they stuck it out and got it done; I'm glad they didn't run themselves into the ground and that I got to see the end play out on film. Genuinely -- well done. I'm proud of you shanks. The only damper is, this last film is the worst of the series.


Honestly, I don't think it had the potential to be otherwise. Besides the death of fan-favorite, he-deserved-so-much-better, our beloved Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), The Death Cure is also the weakest book installment, without much to the plot that sticks in the memory, and after the serious tweaks made to The Scorch Trials, big changes were inevitable. Basically, all that remains is Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) at the lead, Newt dying, and the ending (more or less) -- oh and Gally (Will Poulter) being alive. Everything else was pulled to pieces and put back together again in a way that just barely manages to get to (more or less) the same result.

Since I keep having to say "more or less" (and when I say it I mean less) in reference to the ending, I'll start there. See, whoever wrote this movie probably looked at the book titled "The Death Cure" and noticed, like many of us, that it contained a lot of Death, but not so much Cure. In fact, no Cure at all. So this movie adds some Cure. As a result, Thomas's blood can cure the Flare. As a result, he could have saved Newt but for some poor timing. And as a result, his escape to the Safe Haven isn't so justified, and in fact the film leaves open the idea that he may return and Save The World after all.

I'm not opposed to changes on principle, but if the story was going to be bad anyway, I'd rather it be bad and more like the book.

So even though the location of the end is the same, the implication is the exact opposite the book meant it to be. The book's Death Cure was the immune. By living and escaping they saved the human race from death. And though they thought it was escape it was always WICKED (or WCKD, whatever.) that was behind it. The book said that sacrificing the lives of a few to save many is wrong, and makes the point clear. The movie gives Thomas a savior complex and cliched Chosen One characteristics in replacement of the stolen theme. Book three may have been the weakest, but its lack of Cure was certainly intentional.

Though it's a bit of a slippery slope situation that started with some seemingly innocent changes to The Scorch Trials, the filmmakers appear to have lost sight of both what the story was all about, and, more bewilderingly, what it is that fans loved about the film adaptations and the books alike. Strangely out-of-touch, they seemed to think it was a great idea to have smart-mouth Minho (Ki Hong Lee) say almost nothing the whole movie. They showed very little running; and there were no mazes or maze-like set pieces to navigate. And Thomas never ran, slid, jumped or otherwise barely squeezed through a closing door. If not that, then what in the world are we here for?

These three made the movie worthwhile alone. I wish it had focused solely on them.

Every action sequence was brutally mundane, with characters trading punches or gunfire, or being chased until our heroes are suddenly in a Hopeless Situation, where, after a beat of Suspense, they are rescued out of nowhere by Someone You Forgot About. Pauses in the action are taken for death scenes, and I'll admit: even with that catastrophe of a buildup, Newt's death and the aftermath was still good, and the highlight of the whole film. They even got a letter in there, and it all wound up being surprisingly effective. Good ol' Newt.

Teresa's (Kaya Scodelario) death was the lowlight. Again I say, the filmmakers were out-of-touch; they didn't realize that no one cares about Teresa, and we certainly didn't want half the plot to revolve around her, or her death scene to take as long as Newt's without any of the emotional weight or plot relevance. Teresa was a throwaway death so Thomas would be with Brenda (Rosa Salazar); nothing more. Here they try to convince us that she actually matters or something, and it only makes for way too many boring talking scenes while she hangs out with the bad guys. Then she only dies because Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) "can't get the Berg any closer" to the completely open roof they're standing on. I may or may not have laughed.

"And then I said, 'I can't get the Berg any closer!' and they believed me! Now you get Thomas all to yourself, Brenda!"

They even took out the part where they return to the Maze but then replace it with a nightmare about the Maze. They make sure Newt says his two most famous lines, ("Great we're all bloody inspired" and "Please Tommy please") though they're mildly shoehorned and don't carry the same weight that made them memorable in the first place. They do a couple more callbacks to previous films and the only one that feels genuinely valuable to the movie -- rather than lazy fan-service -- is carving the names in the stone at the end. It's like they knew they'd made the story into something totally different and were trying to appease anyone who'd care with trinkets.

I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, as Wes Ball did an excellent job crafting the first film into a taught and non-stop action-thriller, and the second was an incredibly decent zombie flick -- but I suppose at some point he just lost that solid grip on it. This one is a cliched action movie, using the same tired cop-outs and tropes over and over. It's starts slow and gets nowhere fast, but after Newt dies it finds its feet. Thomas turning himself in, and the ensuing drama and fight with Janson (Aiden Gillen) is tense and has real stakes behind it all. And after the hiccup of Teresa's hilariously contrived death, we get an anti-climax with some good emotional weight -- even with the theme being muddied.

Not a complete failure, and with a sub-genre full of complete failures, that's worthy of being called a success.

Having these characters who I've grown fond of be the center of the cliched plot and generic action did increase my enjoyment in a shallow yet solid way, and I can see giving it a second go in the future. It is, after all, the final part in my favorite young adult dystopian action adventure film series -- even if it is the worst installment. On the verge of being exciting, on the verge of being memorable, and on the verge of being meaningful, The Death Cure feels exhausted and worn down, but manages to finish running its race and brings its series to a rounded, if faltering, conclusion.


  1. I found this post through The Writer's Song and I clicked on it because I'm basically obsessed with all things Maze Runner. And...I'm gonna have to respectfully disagree with you on some points. (In no means do I want to offend or start an argument, I'm just jumping on the bandwagon of agreeing to disagree and sharing my opinion because sometimes differing opinions are cool to observe!)

    My first point is Teresa. Personally, I think she's a super fascinating, gray character which I love. She does what she believes to be right and even though it's actually wrong, her belief that it's right is what makes her such a perfect gray character because you don't want to root for her, but you also can relate to her. I actually cried at her death in the movie because to me, it was a sign that she really did do the right thing in the end and that she always loved Thomas.

    My second point is about the book-to-movie changes. I can completely definitely agree that those changes are entirely annoying sometimes, but they actually...make sense? I think the changes Wes and the crew decided to make were actually really well done because the book never provides any answers and the movie does and it also gives the reader some closure (which the books fail to do).

    Again, I in no way want to offend or seem like I'm attacking your viewpoint because that is 100% not my intention, but I did want to share my opinion because, well, I can? Idk, those are my thoughts and feel free to disagree as I'm a strong advocate of agreeing to disagree. ;)

    Love your blog! <3

    1. Well at least we can agree that The Maze Runner as a whole is a great thing! I don't think this movie was good but I did enjoy it as a fan. I'm glad you liked it so much, and of course I don't mind you having or voicing a different opinion! I'm glad you decided to leave a comment. :)

      Your reason for liking Teresa is very sensible. Idk why, but even in the books I didn't care for her. Her grey-ness is a good aspect of her though, I agree. So that's good that there are some fans out there that appreciated how much she was in the movie. Makes it all more worthwhile.

      I'd actually say the books gave more closure overall just because of the implication that Thomas might return and try to save humanity in the movie -- but I guess you mean more tying up other loose ends. In that case maybe they did, but I wouldn't consider that a worthwhile sacrifice to make. I'd prefer plot holes and loose ends with a faithful adaptation.

      I'm glad it worked for you though, and don't worry, you don't offend at all! I enjoyed hearing your thoughts, so thanks for sharing! :)

    2. I think the reason I didn't mind the changes was because I felt like they still captured the essence of the books: Brotherhood, camaraderie, and friends becoming your family. I got the same feeling watching the movies as I did reading the books and personally, I think that's the most important thing in a book-to-movie adaption.

      Yeah, I love grey characters so I loved Teresa. I didn't like her as much in the books because I didn't get as much closure that she'd come around like she did in the movies and that's something I appreciated.

      I understand your point about him possibly returning to save humanity, but I actually think that's a more accurate representation of Thomas' character. He's always tried to save everyone and implying that he might go back to save even more people...well, to me that seems like something he would do.

      I liked hearing your thoughts too. It's nice being able to have a civil conversation with differing opinions. ;)

    3. Right, it does make sense for Thomas' character to want to return and help more people. Character-wise it works, but only in the movie, because only in the movie does his blood work as a cure.

      Sadly, making his blood work as a cure so that he's the last hope for humanity broadens the scope so much that I didn't care as much as I wanted to. It's more about external theme than character -- in the book, I loved that saving him and his friends instead of killing them IS what saves humanity.

      Plus, characters we know and love get to be permanently safe and happy, and that's more emotionally rewarding imo than him suddenly becoming the Chosen One who's going to save some faceless fictional humanity. I love that Thomas wants to save the world, but I love it even more that he can't.

      That change makes it more like THG or Divergent, and selfishly, those thematic differences was why preferred TMR in the first place. At the same time, objectively, I agree with you, that keeping the overall essence is top priority, and they did manage that pretty well, even with so much change!

      That turned slightly into a tangent, so I apologize. ;) You're really inspiring me to think through all my opinions here!

    4. Oh haha, I'm glad I'm inspiring you! <3

      Yeah, I understand all of your points and they all make a lot of sense. ;) It was really cool hearing your thoughts on the last movie installment!