New year, new me, right? As such, it seemed prudent that one minor tweak to the old personality complex might allow for a more compassionate worldview towards movie sequels. You see, the old me, the less-better me, hated on sequels, usually because they were phoned in, or were chock-full of bad writing. “It’s time to give sequels a chance!” I proclaimed to no one in particular, though a nearby squirrel did eyeball me an uncomfortably long time. In the process, I concluded, I’ll become a better human being.
But then, this week, the third installment of The Maze Runner series dropped, and all my high and mighty morals and notions went out the window. Damn you, The Maze Runner: The Death Cure. It’s not possible to not hate on this sequel.
The Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Director: Wes Ball
Release Date: January 26, 2018
It began almost immediately, with a train running through a dystopian future wasteland, not in or and of itself a problem, but then the train blew its air horn, thus warning the movie’s protagonists of its forthcoming passage, and allowing them to set their plan in motion.
Perhaps you’ve missed the point. Civilization has collapsed. The world is a vast wasteland. There are creatures intent to inflict violence on those that they encounter. Yet, this train is blowing its horn: to warn traffic that might be crossing the line? (not likely), to warn pedestrians on the track? (no), to advertise to the wasteland’s zombies that a mobile buffet is headed their way? (you’d think not), to let the good-guys know the bad guys are coming so that they can then, in turn, stop them? Bingo!
Why would bad guys do this? Is it in their handbook? Austin Powers ridiculed the mentality of evil geniuses and their henchmen 21 years ago and yet directors and writers are still making their behavior this transparently illogical. If this were an isolated incident in this movie,we could let it slide, but it’s not. Everything that transpires is equally transparent, predictable, and derivative.
“Derivative”? you might question hopefully. “Well, I liked The Maze Runner, so more of the same sounds great to me!” Sorry to disappoint, but this third installment in the series bears little-to-no resemblance to the original. There’s a minor callback to the glory days of running mazes and parkouring puzzles to whet appetites, but nothing about this dystopia is film utopia. It embraces cliches and illogical plot progressions. It wholeheartedly endorses the notion that sequels must be bigger and better spectacles. The movie trades in spears for guns and narrative tension for explosions and numbingly hollow oration.
Why is there a pig-nosed, half-corpse rebel leader played by Walton Goggins? To add levels of plot complexity and allow for mind-blowing revelations? Not so much. Look for this throwaway callback to the leper-father from Braveheart to human cannonball himself into oblivion for no reason whatsoever. It did do one thing however, it made me laugh, though it’s unclear if it was supposed to.
Perhaps the biggest problem with this movie is my utter lack of surprise throughout. Everything you expect to happen does. Every character that you suspect will act a certain way fails to disappoint. Every cliche you can imagine comes true, ultimately resulting in dull, average, mediocrity.