By Alexander Balzano
The follow up to last year’s Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials is an explosive, suspenseful race
right up to the end. I found myself completely engaged in this exciting new young adult,
dystopian sci-fi thriller. Containing similarities to other popular series in the same genre such as
the Hunger Games and Divergent series but with fresh twists, in ways this felt like a Hunger
Games for guys. The first film had echoes to Lord of the Flies while The Scorch Trials feels like
a combination of classic dystopian works like 1984 while also feeling like a post-apocalyptic
western like Mad-Max. This film also held serious themes of potential catastrophes and how the
people in our world may react with the unexpected. This also deals with the limits and ethics of
modern-day science and had me asking: do the ends really justify the means?
WARNING: spoilers do await if you haven’t seen the first movie in this series or haven’t
read the book and intend to do so. You’ve been warned.
After Thomas and his friends rescue from the maze, they are brought to a remote base
located in a vast desert, called “The Scorch.” Initially seeming benevolent, the group that
rescued the kids are not who they claim to be. In the events that follow, Thomas and his friends
make an escape into the desert where harsh elements, creatures known as “Cranks” and
various roving groups await our characters, all the while being pursued by the well-meaning, yet
malignant group known as WCKD, who believes that the kids are the key to curing the virus
known as “The Flare.”
Multiple elements in the film really stood out including the acting, music and the setting.
Leading the cast is Dylan O’Brien in the role of Thomas. I was particularly excited to see O’Brien
in his first leading role since I am familiar with him as a regular on MTV’s Teen Wolf, one of my
favorite shows. Going from a mostly comic-relief character in Teen Wolf to a serious, tactful
leader-type character shows his range of acting. O’Brien is supported by Ki Hong Lee, Thomas
Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Giancarlo Esposito and Rosa Salazar who all provide a good
variety of character types and provide wonderful chemistry with each other. Aidan Gillen and
Patricia Clarkson respectively play it well as the film’s antagonists and characters who believe
completely that their horrible actions are justified by their intentions for the world.
The setting of the film was impressive and helped to add to an already suspenseful plot,
moving from the lush, forested environment of the maze, to the harsh desert and mountain
environment of ruined cities. The art direction of this film was well done in that the set scenery,
down to the smallest prop, gives the film that extra bit of vibrance and character that it needs.
You feel yourself with the characters as they traverse through the interiors of fallen skyscrapers,
tunnels and underground bases.
The music was one of the biggest things to stand out for me. Composer John Paesano,
who also produced the music for the Maze Runner, gives an exciting, pulse-pounding, colorful
score that helps you to feel the suspense in very scene of the film. Music is a big part of the film
and can help make it memorable; in this case Paesano’s work does the film justice.
Of the only critiques I could give this film is the under-performance of Kaya Scodelario’s
character Teresa, the leading female. Her character rarely speaks and doesn’t give much input
to the group or contribute to the plot much until an unexpected moment at the end that almost
makes up for this. What does in fact make up for her character is Brenda, played by Rosa
Salazar, who portrays a great female role in her own right. She is a leading force in ensuring the
group’s safety, and she makes her own decisions and holds her own during the multiple fight
scenes. The main villain, Ava, also plays a strong role as a person completely confident in their
decisions in life while still emitting a sort of nurturing presence.
All in all I feel that the Scorch Trials is a very enjoyable film and one of the hottest new
young-adult blockbusters and completely worth your viewing to the movies this weekend.