The Maze Runner: The Death Cure

maze-runner-rev Maze Runner: The Death Cure  (2018)    20th Century Fox/Sci-Fi-Action    RT: 142 minutes    Rated PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, some thematic elements)    Director: Wes Ball    Screenplay: T.S. Nowlin    Music: John Paesano    Cinematography: Gyula Pados    Release date: January 26, 2018 (US)    Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Rosa Salazar, Will Poulter, Ki Hong Lee, Aidan Gillen, Patricia Clarkson, Giancarlo Esposito, Barry Pepper, Walton Goggins,  Jacob Lofland, Nathalie Emmanuel.

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 With Maze Runner: The Death Cure, the third and final chapter in the Maze Runner series, it looks like the cycle of teen dystopian sci-fi movies adapted from popular YA novels has come to an end. The Hunger Games drew to a close more than two years ago. It looks like the final installment of the Divergent series isn’t going to happen. Then there are one-hit wonders like The Host, Ender’s Game and The 5th Wave, none of which are likely candidates for second installments. So that leaves us with this final Maze Runner movie. I won’t claim it’s the greatest movie ever made. It is pretty damn good though.

 maze runnerI freely admit to liking the Maze Runner flicks. The first one was a Kafka-esque nightmare. The second was a fun ride through a post-apocalyptic landscape (aka “The Scorch”). The Death Cure is pure action. It opens with a cool chase scene right out of a Mad Max movie. It involves a couple of makeshift cars, a train and armed guards escorting a group of teens to WCKD HQ in “Last City” for experimentation. It’s a rescue mission mounted by hero Thomas (O’Brien). He and his friends- Brenda (Salazar, CHiPs), Vince (Pepper, True Grit) and Jorge (Esposito, Do the Right Thing)- try and fail to rescue their pal Minho (Lee, Wish Upon). They decide to break into the heavily fortified city and infiltrate the WCKD facility to find Minho and bring him home. They’re joined by Newt (Sangster, Nowhere Boy) and Frypan (Darden, Joyful Noise).

 Meanwhile, scientists at WCKD led by the cold Ava Paige (Clarkson, Pieces of April) are still looking for a cure for “The Flare” which has now become airborne. They’re trying to develop a serum from the blood of those immune to the virus. They’re especially interested in Minho’s blood. Thomas’ former love interest Teresa (Scodelario, POTC: Dead Men Tell No Tales) is working with them. At the same time, kids are still being rounded up for the sinister organization’s nefarious purposes.

 If you like the other Maze Runner movies, there’s no reason you won’t like The Death Cure. It’s actually a solid wrap-up of the story. I have to give special props to Wes Ball, director of all three Maze Runner flicks, for not dividing the final movie into two parts. Unfortunately, this is the reason behind the movie’s biggest problem which is its length. At 142 minutes, it’s just too long. That’s not to say it drags; it doesn’t. It moves along at a nice clip but after a while, you start to wonder if it’s almost over. It is kind of dragged out. The movie’s other problem is Scodelario whose acting has not improved any since the first movie. She still utilizes the Kristen Stewart method of acting with her near-constant blank expression. She can’t deliver lines to save her life. When she addresses a group of important types about the work they’re doing at WCKD, she sounds just like one of the celebrities asking for donations on the commercials for St. Jude’s Hospital (“We’re so close to finding a cure.”).

 One of the things I always liked about the Maze Runner movies is the set design. The first one had the maze. The second one had the burnt-out landscape with the toppled buildings. The Death Cure has a futuristic city in the midst of a world at its end. I know it’s all CGI but it looks really cool. The latest movie also has some great action scenes including one involving a bus, a crane and a bunch of screaming teens. I’m not easily impressed but this scene had me saying “Whoa!”

 The acting in The Death Cure is about what you’d expect. O’Brien makes for a rather bland leading man but he seems to be coming into his own. He did a fine job in last fall’s American Assassin. The top performance in The Death Cure comes from Salazar. She’s one feisty gal. Like I said in my review of The Scorch Trials, she’s the love interest O’Brien needs. Aiden Gillen (Sing Street) is suitably hateful as WCKD’s psycho head of security. Screen vets like Clarkson, Pepper and Esposito deliver serviceable performances. Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight) goes underused as deformed rebellion leader Lawrence.

 In the end, The Death Cure is a decent action flick and a good way to end the series. The storyline is good. There is a surprise that you can figure out by looking at the cast list. A character presumed dead reappears. That’s all I’ll say about that. It’s a well-made movie and should please fans of the series. I’ll close with a plea to Hollywood studio execs; please lay off the YA dystopian sci-fi for a while. I think I speak for all moviegoers in saying we’ve had enough for now. 

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