Let me let y’all know right up front that this isn’t going to be a traditional review of the film Maze Runner: The Death Cure for several reasons, the most paramount being that it’s opening weekend has already passed and because I find the film far more interesting as a case of adaptation.
I read the Maze Runner trilogy many moons ago when I first heard they were being made and after finishing the series I was very interested in how they would be brought to screen. Like many books, there are things that could never be attempted on screen. James Dashner took a kitchen sink approach to those novels: telepathy, grievers, interdimensional travel, zombies, and more combined to create a wacky, and diminishing universe. There was no way that all of those elements would have survived intact and the folks at Fox wisely discarded some of them.
However, in doing so, they created a vacuum in the narrative that even a gifted director like Wes Ball couldn’t entirely fill. It came to a head in this film. I will say that despite it’s many many issues, Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a much better film than The Scorch Trials, a boring bland exercise that seemed to forget what made the story interesting to begin with.
The biggest issue in this film, and the books, is Teresa. She’s a wild card of a character and one that is difficult to root for, given that she betrays our heroes. This movie spends ample time on Kaya Scodelario‘s face, trying to maybe drum up sympathy but there’s nothing there for us to grasp on because in the translation to the screen she’s been stripped of her most interesting elements. Here she shares a connection with Thomas, but in the books they literally had telepathic conversations. We understood her motivations, were even more shocked at her choice to bretray Thomas, that’s missing here. The movies wisely avoided the TERRIBLE love triangle in the books (the final coda is free of the Rose Thomas stuff that made me want to jump off a building) and interdimensional travel of the final book, but it also couldn’t make Teresa’s death any more impactful, even with an unnecessary kiss. Watching a building hit another building, spending 3-5 seconds on Teresa’s face, then having her just fall with the building rather than jump to our heroes was just as stupid as how she died in the books. Don’t sit me there and watch a character not move when they should just to try and drum up some emotion, it doesn’t work. Now had she attempted to jump and missed their hands…that would have been something.
This ties in with another issue this movie has it that it has to manuever people around an epic world, but it does that at the detriment of emotion and logic. WCKD soldiers are trained soldiers who never hit a single person on the resistance despite having wide open shots! I know the kids are awesome, but to only have one get shot despite being in point blank range damn near the entire movie is utter mess. Wes is too gifted a director to mess up like this time and time again. There was never the feeling of real peril or stakes, with the exception of Newt and his turn towards Crank-dom. Speaking of, Newt’s death might be the stories greatest casualty in the adaptation. It’s a brilliant moment in the book, with Thomas having to/mercy killing Newt and then having to deal with Minho questioning whether or not they could have saved him and what really went down. It’s a shade of grey that this narrative ddesperately needs. The film doesn’t manage this moment as well as it should because it lowkey takes the decision out of Thomas’ hands, because we can’t have our hero actually decide to kill someone.
This issue in streamlining the narrative is that it flattens out. Dylan O’Brien, who is a great young actor, is left to play standard heroics and his performance is nothing to rave about. He is so good at creating specific, yet natural characters, and here the movie just needs him to move through the narrative, look cool, make questionable decisions, and then give us a tear or two. Try though he might, he couldn’t lift the movie on his very able shoulders, but it truly had more to do with the struggles the team had adapting a crazy narrative to the screen. The wild thing is I do believe this is the best adaptation we could have gotten.
P.S. Will Poulter’s eyebrows might be worth the price of admission.