The Hunger Games is coming to an end, opening a gap in the Young Adult film market. The second of three expected Maze Runner films, Scorch Trials is a definite step up from the first, and in many ways, surpasses elements of The Hunger Games franchise. The kids may have escaped the maze, but WCKD is still out to get them and the perils of the Scorch await them. 

Kicking off right from the end of the last outing, the kids from the Glade are taken to a secure compound, apparently safe from WCKD’s clutches. But things may not be as they seem and the perilous sands of the Scorch, populated by the zombie-esque Cranks, lies between the group and safety. Can Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) lead his group to salvation and finally escape WCKD?

Scorch Trials is a lot darker than its predecessor and this is perhaps what makes it more appealing to a young adult audience. Halfway through, Scorch Trails feels more like a zombie thriller than anything else, a far cry from the original Maze Runner movie. There is considerable departure from the source material, but this works in the film’s favour, with a more engaging and exciting plot, without losing the book’s essence. This being said, this film does feel much more like a standalone film than part of the franchise, the differences from the first outing being so drastic.

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WCKD come across as one of the most interesting antagonists in the YA film genre. Unlike the likes of President Snow, they are not actually evil or out to do no good. They may not have the teen heroes best interests at heart but their motives for being the bad guys are, rather worryingly, quite understandable. This allows the film to explore, ever so briefly, some deeper moral questions, making the audience think more than is normal for this genre.

Perhaps the biggest flaw with the film is the characterisation. With seven members of the key teen group and a number of allies/adversaries, the film sacrifices any sense of their true motives, reducing many of the characters to very two dimensional beings. Theresa (Kaya Scodelario) suffers particularly badly in this outing, with her role and importance to the plot becoming significantly smaller than in The Maze Runner. As the main love interest of the franchise, though a refreshing departure from the romance-overloaded YA genre, does mean that her relationship with Thomas seems incredibly tenuous. On top of this, just like the Maze before it, the urban/desert wasteland of the Scorch is visually spectacular but its full potential is rather under-used, replaced instead with plain desert landscapes.

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With the conclusion of Jennifer Laurence’s Hunger Games on the horizon, The Maze Runner franchise may be set to take over the reins as the genre leader. Thankfully, director Wes Ball has announced that, contrary to the rather annoying current trend, the final book, The Death Cure, will not be split into two films. So, though there will only be one more film in the franchise, it will hopefully not suffer the same bloating as other franchises.

Visually spectacular and with an action packed plot, Scorch Trials is much darker and scarier than its predecessor, and though it steals much from the horror genre, the mixing of YA and horror works well, the result being a satisfying and enjoyable addition to the franchise.

7/10

Henry Stanley

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