“Maze Runner: The Death Cure”, the last chapter of the trilogy which began with “The Maze Runner” (2014), is a tedious mix of familiar things you can expect from a SF action film set in dystopian world. While “The Maze Runner” (2014) distinguished itself a bit through its curious setting based on its mysterious maze, the subsequent sequel “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” (2015) was a letdown in comparison as getting out of that maze and then throwing itself into its rote dystopian world, and “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” only continues that mediocrity without anything good enough to intrigue or engage us during its 142-minute running time.
Without much background explanation, the movie begins at the point not long after the finale of “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”, so I give you a brief summary of the previous two films just in case. After managing to escape from their maze in “The Maze Runner”, our young hero Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his colleagues came to discover that they were selected by a shady organization called World Catastrophe Killzone Department (WCKD, a.k.a WICKED), which has been trying to develop the cure for a deadly virus plague through a bunch of specifically selected boys and girls. While continuing to run away from WCKD in “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trial”, Thomas and his colleagues fortunately encountered several characters willing to help them, but then they were all ambushed by WCKD due to the betrayal of Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), who came to believe that WCKD is doing the right thing for the world.
Thomas and some of his colleagues managed to avoid being captured by WCKD, and the opening scene of the movie shows them attacking a train which are taking Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and other captured boys and girls to the headquarters of WCKD. While they succeed in rescuing many of these boys and girls despite considerable risk, some of them including Min-ho are still held as captives under WCKD, so Thomas decides to go to the WCKD headquarters for saving Min-ho. Although that may not be a very wise decision considering that, as pointed out by one supporting character in the film, those rescued boys and girls need to be transported to a safer place as soon as possible, he remains adamant nonetheless, and his two friends, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden), join him without hesitation.
Of course, they soon see how perilous their journey is. When they enter a dark tunnel leading to the WCKD headquarters, they instantly come across virus-infected people who are virtually a bunch of, yes, zombie extras. Those virus-infected people in the movie, called ‘Cranks’, surely run fast and scream loudly, but they only remind me that I have been rather tired of zombies during recent years. As a matter of fact, I was not particularly scared while watching the action sequence unfolded in the tunnel, and I merely noted that our heroes are good runners as shown from the previous movies.
After luckily rescued by Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar) in time, Thomas and his friends eventually arrive in the area surrounding the city where the WCKD headquarters is located. The city is surrounded by its huge wall blocking thousands of desperate people living outside the city, and we see how well it is being guarded when an angry mob approaches to the wall from the outside at one point.
There is a possible way for Thomas and his colleagues to sneak into the WCKD headquarters without getting caught, but it depends on how much they can persuade Teresa, who has worked with Dr. Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) since she chose to side with WCKD. She still believes that she and Dr. Paige are doing the right thing, but she has also felt guilty about what they have done in the name of greater good, and then there comes a moment when she must make another important choice.
During the second half, the movie shifts its gear into action mode as expected, and director Wes Ball, who directed two previous films of the series, provides a few solid action scenes including the one involved with a bus and a tower crane, but that does not hide its weak storytelling and its glaring lack of style and personality at all. The main characters in the film are mostly flat on the whole, and their drama is not particularly engaging as often being predictable and contrived. In case of their dystopian world, it feels quite bland and superficial in terms of mood and details, and I became depressed as observing that there is nothing much worthwhile to talk about in the film.
The performers in the movie diligently try to carry the film together, and some of them manage to acquit themselves rather well. While Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario often struggle with their colorless characters, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Rosa Salazar manage to leave some impression, and Giancarlo Esposito has some fun with his character as he did in the previous film. As the main bad guy of the film, Aidan Gillen looks as sneaky as required, and Patricia Clarkson is again under-utilized in her thankless role.
While I did not like “The Maze Runner” enough for recommendation, I enjoyed it to some degrees, and I hoped for better things to come next. Unfortunately, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trial” was several steps down from that, and “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” further squanders whatever is left in this diminishing series. It is not awful at least, but I had to suffer its boredom for more than 2 hours, and I was only consoled by the fact that I watched it for free. Every cloud has a silver lining, isn’t it?