Friday 19 January 2018

Film Review: Maze Runner - The Death Cure

The Maze Runner series reaches the end in this third and final film, The Death Cure

After being betrayed by Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) and evil corporation WCKD at the end of The Scorch Trials, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his band of resistance fighters stage a desperate rescue mission in search of their friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and a cure for the deadly virus that has wiped out humanity.

After a death-defying train heist does going according to plan, The Death Cure moves swiftly to set up the final act of this passable YA trilogy. Battle lines are drawn, allegiances are made and everything comes to a close in bombastic fashion.

The Death Cure feels a helluva lot like a frenetic FPS video game; each set piece is staged in a different location (gunplay during a train heist, racing through a darkened tunnel, sneaking into a secret lab, evading capture when you're discovered), the characters are fairly one-dimensional, the dialogue only exists as exposition or cliche and the action, while exciting and polished, soon becomes exhausting and repetitive. Ticking all of those boxes along the way, The Death Cure does its utmost to remind that this is the end of the line, especially in the third act as it keeps rolling and rolling and rolling.

That length wouldn't be so bad if we cared about the world and its characters (a la Lord of the Rings), but we simply don't know enough about these people or their lives to really feel invested in how things pan out. There are a few stand-out performers – Thomas Brodie-Sangster is a cutie as Newt, Rosa Salazar is a compelling presence as Brenda and Walton Goggins pops up in a fun cameo – but the rest of the cast fail to register in any meaningful sense.

Like, who are our heroes again? Thomas and Teresa, billed as a doomed couple who are destined to reunite against all the olds, are dull. As talented as O'Brien and Scodelario are (and they are, there's no doubt there), their characters are about as riveting as watching grass grow.

The Death Cure has the opportunity, especially towards the end, to redeem itself; after all, in this day and age, who doesn't like finality? However, the ending is something a mixed bag; everything feels resolved, to a certain extent, but I still found myself wanting more questions answered. With so many intersecting characters and ill-explained motives, the last 15-20 minutes in particular are a baffling ball of who, what and why.

If this sounds like I'm being overly harsh on what is essentially a film for teenagers, I apologise. For the audience and purpose it serves, The Death Cure does an alright job. It's relatively fast-paced, the cast is attractive and the action is glossy and punchy.

I felt director Wes Ball did an especially good job of drawing parallels between the haves and have nots who live inside and outside the walls of The Last City and the poverty and despair we see in our own world. It might be YA fiction, but there is still a resonance to these images that hopefully will hit home with its audience in the same way The Hunger Games did. As an entertaining diversion with some underlying messaging to keep the older kids occupied over summer, you could do a lot worse.

The Verdict: 6/10

Fit for purpose but hardly going to set the word alight, The Death Cure brings the Maze Runner trilogy to a close in clumsy but competent fashion. It's fun matinee fare for those not looking for something challenging or depressing.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is in cinemas across Australia now.

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