For those who don't know, The Maze Runner franchise is the latest entry into the YA genre. 2014's The Maze Runner was a decent kickstart for a franchise that presumably hoped to follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and most recently, Divergent. Whilst the film was a moderate success it didn't reach the dizzying heights of the former two examples, meaning its sequel really needed to deliver to be considered a success. For the majority of the time, it does.
Scorch Trials picks up almost instantaneously from its predecessor, continuing the story of Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and fellow Gladers rebelling about the powerful W.C.K.D organisation, intent to discover more of their origins, while fighting the perils of the Scorch, a landscape filled with diseases, at every twist and turn. The follow up - costarring Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee and Kaya Scodelario, as well as newcomers Aidan Gillen and Rosa Salazar - greatly benefits from an inflated budget (which may jeopardise character development) that helps build the intensity at every opportunity.
Action is available in abundance throughout the sequel - in fact, it is really quite relentless, barely pausing for breath. But it's the hints of horror thrown in to proceedings that helps the film stand away from other YA adaptations that it is so often compared with, bringing a whole new dimension to the forefront, ready for exploration. The solar flare and its consequence can be really quite terrifying, helped with some wonderful cinematography from director Wes Ball and CGI tricks. The desolate city, in particular, is done tremendously and helps demonstrate the scale of the story really well.
Another gem in the crown for The Maze Runner series is a talented cast. While it offers no massive names that other franchises would play off, a solid cast of returning and newcomers bring their A-Game - arguably more so than the first film, which felt very contained and underplayed in places. Opening the story a lot more allows the characters to experience more than sitting in a field with an occasional bit of running. In fact, they really twisted that around. I've said it before, but it really pauses for breath - especially in the first half. They could do with establishing more of a balance between story and thrills at least this way, the excitement is revved up even more. Dylan O'Brien does well in the lead role and Aidan Gillen and Rosa Salazar are standouts when it comes to the newcomers.
An issue I did have with the film, however, is with this increased budget and extensive amount of newcomers, the supporting cast take a bit of a backseat and often feel a little undeveloped and under appreciated. Thomas Brodie-Sangster, for example, is an incredible talented but used few and far between. When he is used, it seems he is there to bring a conflict of interest to Thomas' ideas - a massive shame as these two seem to have genuine chemistry on screen. Another slight fault in the film is that the massive 'twist' at the end is a little bit too predictable. It's handled very well overall, but could have been done even better if it was a little but more of a surprise. Credit to O'Brien and Salazar for what is truly a touching movement and lead in to the big (but could have been bigger) reveal as the film approached its climax finale.
Despite these few flaws and niggles, the sequel was very strong. Whilst it answered fewer questions that I would have liked and added some more in the process, it certainly has me hooked and eagerly awaiting the final instalment to the trilogy, expected in 2017. It out trumped its prequel in terms of excitement, thrill and intensity and has potential to become one of the standout YA film franchises, only behind Miss Everdeen, for me.
Summary: A step in the right direction, The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials could do with fully utilising its strong supporting cast, but acts as an improvement over the first instalment, building excitement, intensity and thrills as we head for the big finale.
Highlights: The desolate city is incredible and a particular scene involving cracking glass really had me on the edge of my seat!