Dylan O’Brien is a great runner; no, he’s a fantastic runner. He moves with reckless exuberance, straining with every fibre, to push himself across the ground as quickly as possible, constantly giving the impression he will tumble over through uncontrolled momentum. Given that the film is called Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, and as such involves a fair amount of running, you might think this is a just a happy coincidence. O’Brien, though, drives the story along, forcing all around him to match a break-neck pace, through energetic and unmistakable charisma. And because of this, he reminds you just a little bit of a young Tom Cruise.
As for the film itself, it is an impressive sequel to The Maze Runner, building on strong foundations and avoiding obvious pitfalls. Picking up where the last film ended, the maze survivors find themselves in a faintly sinister compound overseen by the blatantly sinister Janson (Gillen). When the truth behind their rescuers becomes apparent, they escape into The Scorch, a barren wasteland haunted by radiation infected humans known as Cranks. Teaming up with other survivors including Giancarlo Esposito’s mysterious Jorge, the group search for a safe haven.
The Scorch Trials successfully avoids one major issue, and that is not just being a by-the-numbers recreation of The Maze Runner. This is an entirely different film, but one that retains the frenetic pacing of the original (apart from one strangely tedious section in the middle) and then presses even harder on the accelerator. This is where O’Brien comes to the fore; more so than last time this is his film. The supporting cast are excellent, especially Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Kaya Scodelario, who impresses in a role that could have been unnecessarily clichéd, but O’Brien is clearly the lead. He is in virtually every scene, shows the audience how to feel through simple yet effective emotional beats, and emerges from what is a slightly overly dramatic finale as a fully formed film star.
There are some moments that will make you think “sorry, what now?” and “who’s that again?” and there are some deeply contrived plot coincidences, but these are quickly skipped over, as returning director Wes Ball keeps the fun-filled pace rushing along, leaving you almost as breathless as the cast.
As the young adult fan base slowly begins to recover from a post-Hunger Games hangover; as the Katniss-shaped void threatens to overwhelm, The Maze Runner series provides the perfect antidote, with characters you can truly root for and empathise with. The Scorch Trials is terrific fun and builds superbly on the success of its predecessor. Forget any unnecessary prejudice you might have and just allow yourself to enjoy Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. You won’t regret it. And there isn’t a love triangle in sight!
MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: WES BALL / SCREENPLAY: T.S. NOWLIN / STARRING: DYLAN O’BRIEN, KAYA SCODELARIO, THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER, AIDAN GILLEN, GIANCARLO ESPOSITO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW