So, This is What the Maze Runner Series Has Been Racing Towards
Usually, the most exciting part of any race is the ending, when the winners triumphantly cross the finish line. However, Maze Runner: The Death Cure feels like the end of a marathon, where the audience has long since gotten bored and wandered away in search of a bathroom or alcohol. By this point in the series is hard to really remember why these kids have been running for so long or even what the point is of it all. The new Maze Runner vaguely clues us into the premise of the series, which only serves to remind us just how ridiculous the whole thing is. All in all, it feels like it must have been a more rewarding end for the runners than the ones watching it.
I’m slowly becoming a Dylan O’Brien, especially after last year’s American Assassin (though I know I’m one of the few fans of the movies). With Maze Runner: The Death Cure done, he can hopefully move away from your young adult genre for more adult-oriented films (action movies, you pervert!). Still, Maze Runner does make use of the new commanding presence that he has when it comes to action sequences and Dylan definitely sells the part. But then again, the rest of the cast does an excellent job when it comes to these action sequences as well. It’s the parts in between that struggle to get any traction. Luckily, this film doesn’t really dwell on those moments and instead focuses on throwing as many gunfights, explosions, and, of course, running as it can into this final chapter.
Unlike a lot of the young adult film franchises, Maze Runner has stuck with one director to see the entire film through, Wes Bell. The majority of Bells past film experience was in the art department, and in that regard, The Death Cure certainly is a movie with plenty of awe-inspiring visuals. I’ll certainly applaud Bell for his cohesive vision across the series. The problem is that he doesn’t take the time to smooth over the parts of the movie that are… Questionable. In typical fashion of the YA genre, teenagers are very much at the core of the story. However, they’re usually pointing wands or shooting arrows. Sure, there are plenty of them running. But they’re also somehow experts at espionage, weapons and tactics, and, perhaps most implausible, expert virologist on the edge of world-changing breakthroughs. I get that there’s an audience in mind when it comes to all this, but it’s these things that caused me to wrinkle my brown throughout the film. Especially when there are plenty of adults around who should very much be more experienced in all of these things, such as O’Brien’s nemesis in the series Aidan Gillen. Who seems much more like a bumbling idiot than a menacing force to be reckoned with.
The biggest problem with The Death Cure is that it feels like the film is just one long third act. Meaning that it causes your interest to fade in and out constantly. Perhaps if played as part of a marathon with the other Maze Runner films, it would feel more like a triumphant finish. On its own though, it struggles to stand on its own two feet. It’s like one of those runners who has collapsed before the finish line and now is just limping along bravely to finish the race. There is a very loose beginning, middle, and end to the film, but they are so loose that they lack any coherent structure. It’s missing those story beats that let the audience know how far in they’ve progressed. So it’s hard to tell at what point in the film you’re at, at any given time. I guess you could say it certainly lives up to the maze aspect of the title.
What I will say for The Death Cure is that it’s not afraid to throw out a few emotional gut checks. It is the epic finale and it is bigger and badder than the other entries before it. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better. Sometimes less is more, and instead of focusing on action sequences it should have taken a few moments to make sure that the characters weren’t complete idiots because that happens a lot in it. I won’t spoil the movie for you, but let’s just say it’s a lot easier for audiences to connect the dots than it is for the best and brightest this world has to offer.
Maze Runner is far from the most inspiring or enthralling young adult franchise, but The Death Cure will probably resonate with fans of the series as a cathartic ending for them. It certainly is a unique dystopian movie, but it’s not one that is awe-inspiring or will make you really ponder the future of society. If you’re new to the series or have been a bit apathetic in general towards it, your best bet is to let this one go for now. Die-hard fans? Well, you’re going to see it no matter what, and you’re probably going to enjoy it. Just try not to let your brain get in the way of the pretty cool action sequences The Death Cure offers as a tribute to those who managed to make it this far.