Burning Up for "The Scorch Trials"

Burning Up for "The Scorch Trials"

WEST LONG BRANCH–Thomas and the Gladers have escaped the maze. They have just discovered that the world has been destroyed by solar flares from the sun, burning up earth’s surface and creating a desert-like wasteland. “The Flare,” a deadly virus that takes control of the human brain, has been unleashed as a result of this new kind of natural disaster. To top it off, most of the protagonists’ memories are still a blur and they cannot recall anything from their past before they were placed in the maze. Is “WCKD,” the organization that has been studying their brain patterns and responses, really trustworthy, or have their suspicious practices gone too far? This is what the audience is left with at the conclusion of the film, The Maze Runner. In its new sequel, The Scorch Trials, Thomas and his friends must face an even bigger obstacle, where it seems nobody can be trusted: The Scorch.

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Directed by Wes Ball, The Scorch Trials is a vastly complex film where new information is thrown at the viewer with almost every passing scene. As a result, this movie requires extensive knowledge of the first film and requires the audience’s undivided attention as it plays out. As spoiling even the slightest detail would take away from the unsettling nature of the film, simply put The Scorch Trials features Thomas and the remaining Gladers from the first film as they wonder why WCKD is holding them captive in a so-called “haven” and seek to discover what lies beyond the walls. Once they realize just how out of control the world really is, they begin to seek any help they can get to break free from the overpowering control WCKD has over them.
Due to its extremely fast pace, The Scorch Trials was a solidly thrilling follow-up to what might be one of the most originally plotted and scripted dystopian trilogies of this generation. What makes the film so intriguing, well-written, and well-produced are the emotions that the audience feels not just for the characters, but with them as well. Some critics have blasted the film for not being clear enough and for bringing about too much confusion. However, in this case, the perplexing quality works in the film’s favor. Having lost almost all of their memories from their past lives and having hardly any idea who WCKD is, what the status of civilization is, or who can be trusted, the characters feel disoriented and completely lost. As a result, having the audience experience some of these feelings with the characters while viewing only increases its ability to stay ahead of the viewer at all times, just as WCKD seems to always stay ahead of the Gladers. Being an action-packed thriller mystery, the way the filmmakers were able to combine feelings of suspense, terror, anger, and even sadness make The Scorch Trials a bumpy physical and emotional ride.
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Wes Ball’s directed cinematography was impactful and enhanced the film, as it was able to match and capture the plot’s sinister tone. The action scenes in the movie–and there are quite a few–were masterfully done with a tasteful amount of violence and stunts to suck the audience in. Chasing sequences were done in a number of shots, including wide angles that allowed the audience to see Cranks (the name given to Flare-infected individuals) running after the characters and that became increasingly terrifying the longer the scene endured. The implementation of shaky camera techniques also heightened the intensity of each passing moment to create a dizzy and realistic experience.
The construction and creation of the Cranks onscreen was perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments from the film’s special effects crew. The extent of how disturbing, disgusting, and chilling these “human” creatures were surpassed the expectations of normal PG-13 rated films. Seeing horror elements such as these in a film thought to be geared toward teenagers was surprising and exciting, because it signified the film’s withdrawal from the typical elements of the genre and step toward the territory of adult-appropriate content.
The film also benefits from having such a stellar, carefully-selected cast. Having returned from the first film with even more confidence and determination, leading actor Dylan O’Brien maintains and even improves upon his characterization of protagonist Thomas. Other familiar faces such as Thomas-Brodie Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, and Kaya Scodelario give excellent performances that serve to increase the tension of the film as a whole. But the film got its hands on even more talent to flawlessly portray the characters, with actors Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April), and even Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) joining the film’s set.
Being based off of the New York Times Bestselling Series, some readers may have pre-existing expectations going into the film. Quite often a film is judged upon how well it stays true to the plotline of the book as opposed to how well it maintains the spirit of the novel. The Scorch Trials is not a film that is likely to please individuals who expect the former. Simply put, it is a film that uses its source material rather as a guide to present its themes and tone, and as a result becomes a stand-alone film. However, for both fans of the novel and film fanatics, it might be refreshing to see a film able to surprise readers and implement new ways of telling the story.
Its originality, daring quality, and riveting execution is what allows The Scorch Trials to succeed in engaging yet another group of moviegoers looking for that new film franchise to follow. Ending with just as many questions and cliffhangers as The Maze Runner, this film will certainly have fans lining up to see how it all ends in 2017 with its final installment, The Death Cure.

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