12A – 142mins – 2018
SHANKS AND BIG WALLS
Back up and, err, running again (if you’ll pardon the wordplay) after a hefty-but-unavoidable production delay following lead actor Dylan O’Brien’s on-set accident, The Death Cure is a scintillating and welcome conclusion to returning director Wes Ball’s trilogy of dystopian sci-fi action-adventures based on author James Dashner’s hit series of Maze Runner novels.
Determined to leave no man behind, former “Glader” Thomas (O’Brien) and his rag-tag ensemble of resistance fighters must break into sinister organisation WCKD’s laboratory HQ in the centre of the labyrinthine Last City. Inside, group traitor Teresa (Kaya Pirates 5 Scodelario) is working hand-in-hand with WCKD’s leaders (Patricia Clarkson, Aidan King Arthur Gillen) to find a cure for the population-decimating “Flare” virus. Can Thomas rescue his immune friend Mikho (Ki Hong Lee) and a contingent of captives before WCKD sacrifice them in the name of science and turn them all into zombified “Cranks”?
A recent re-watch of 2014’s first film and 2015’s Scorch Trials (well it has been three years!) reconfirmed to me just how much I enjoy this intriguing series. Dark enough that it never panders to or patronises its target teen audience, the films also inject enough scares, swears and viciousness into the mix to really push at the boundaries of their 12A classifications. I lost count of the number of “shit”s that are slung around (no, not literally!).
As much as I didn’t hate The Hunger Games (as one popular example of many), even die-hard fans cannot deny that Catching Fire is little more than a contrived excuse to get Katniss back into the arena all over again. Conversely, what most impressed me about the Maze Runner series is that the sequels successfully expand and progress the dystopian nightmare without simply regurgitating what was successful in book/film one.
While you may blanche at The Death Cure‘s protracted runtime, this conclusion is never anything less than epic. From the opening train chase, it is action-packed (bus drop!), tense, horrific (Cranks! Lawrence’s face!), gritty, emotional (Newt’s secret) and with the stakes raised higher than ever before. Yes, there are a few too many characters so some make little more than glorified cameos, but one returning face in particular is a jaw-dropping, punch-the-air reveal (coughWillPoultercough). Come the explosive conclusion you realise just how deeply you care for these Gladers and the tear-enducing truth is that no-one is guaranteed a free pass to the end credits.
Sublime, powerful and so much better than a belated third entry in a young adult-adapted series has any right to be, I’m really pleased to see The Maze Runner return after all this time and receive a truly cinematic send-off. It could so easily have suffered the same fate as its library shelf-mate Divergent, which died a premature death at the box office before fans got a conclusion to the saga they had invested in.
CR@B’s Claw Score: