Spoilers are usually avoided, but considering this is the third film of a trilogy, it is actually impossible to discuss Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018) without spoiling elements of the first two films. In fact, the opening sequence of this film reveals the fate of a character from the second film. Thus, read this review with caution if you haven’t seen “The Maze Runner” or “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”, as those films may be spoiled. On the other hand, spoilers will be excluded for The Death Cure.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure plot details do spoil the end of Scorch Trials
Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) are in a jeep chasing down a WCKD train. They’re joined by Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and Vince (Barry Pepper) in a separate jeep from behind the train. This opening sequence is a moving train heist that’s exciting and intense, especially when it’s revealed what – well, really “who” – the prize is inside the speeding locomotive. Minho (Ki Hong Lee) was captured by WCKD after Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) betrayed the friends in The Scorch Trials, and Thomas is determined to get him back.
The sequence really works quite well, and Wes Ball, the director of all three films, uses crosscutting from outside the train and inside the train to really confuse the audience during the sequence to the plot twist that’s upcoming. As the scene plays out, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden) show up to help steal one of the train containers holding the immunes and Minho. Brenda and Jorge were chased off by a helicopter of sorts, but soon return now driving it. They take the container and fly away with WCKD. soldiers on the ground scratching their heads at how they were so thoroughly duped. Unfortunately, the container they snagged doesn’t have Minho, but does have Aris (Jacob Lofland), who is able to offer an idea of where WCKD was taking the immunes.
It’s revealed that the remaining resistance forces are planning on repairing an old cruise ship and leaving the area behind them. Thomas wants to go after Minho, and after showing a little bit of character growth admits to Vince that everyone needs to leave. However, his plan is to stay behind and rescue his friend. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Maze Runner movie if Newt and Frypan didn’t come along. The trio finds themselves surrounding by Cranks (this film’s version of zombies) pretty much immediately after leaving, and are saved via Deus ex Machina manifested in the form of Brenda and Jorge in their armored vehicle.
The characters are where this young adult adapted series really excels. Each character has something that makes you root for them, or in the case of Janson (Aidan Gillen) or Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), despise them. O’Brien has far more charisma in this series than he was able to display in American Assassin, and demonstrates in this film he has the ability to be a strong leading man. The complexities of the story are reflected in many of the characters – particularly Teresa.
Scodelario is given the largest character shift to play throughout the three films. While my memory of the first film has predominantly faded, her treacherous role late in The Scorch Trials hits many emotions in the audience. She had displayed signs of a doubt about what the group was doing when leaving WCKD, but it was still shocking to witness the extent that she betrayed Thomas and her other friends. However, her motivations seem to have been much purer than Janson or Ava’s. The big reveal of this film is the last city. Having not read the 2011 book, I don’t know if the city’s giant wall preventing the unwanted from entering was a movie concept. It feels very poignant to appear in a 2018 film where the rules of the world utilize a giant wall to keep out the people they deem undesirable. The existence of this class separation becomes more apparent as the film goes on, and really seems to be the largest difference between Teresa and her WCKD. colleagues.
While these films aren’t necessarily masterpieces, they are solid action-adventure films with compelling characters. Many of the elements can be identified from other franchises out there, but Ball makes enough creative changes to make it feel fresh. Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a good final entry in the trilogy and earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.