While the first Maze Runner film delivered moderate thrills and sci-fi adventure, the sequel seems to be running in place. That’s partially due to the change of filming location from the humid wilds of Louisiana to the arid desolation of New Mexico, but mostly due to the film’s major plot shift. Where the first film had a great hook with kids trapped in a deadly labyrinth filled with gigantic puzzles and creatures, the new film ultimately plays like a lukewarm zombie apocalypse survival story.
Our crew of heroic college-aged stars called the Gladers are set loose in a vast wilderness called The Scorch where their sole motivation is movement from point A to point B while avoiding a sparse population of zombies. They theorize that the military stationed at point A that rescued them at the end of the last film are actually the bad guys, so with little more than the vague premonitions of their leader, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), the Gladers escape the military compound and set out across the desert in the hopes of finding a rebel base. While Mad Max Fury Road showed how to make a post-apocalyptic trip across the desert entertaining, Scorch Trials aims for the mundane and simply runs out the clock rather than developing any meaningful action.
With all of the mindless running across the desert, there’s not much room for character building, so we learn very little more about the core characters than their establishing arcs in the first film. In spite of the perilous situations, the cast of characters remains largely the same, with the notable exception of the chief military commander Janson (Aidan Gillen) and rebel sympathizer Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito). It’s a shame to see those two superb actors saddled with this middling material. Meanwhile, the returning young Gladers have little more to do than run and look alarmed at nonexistent green screen baddies, leaving the heavy lifting up to their muscles instead of their acting chops.
The film’s CG-heavy effects play well on Blu-ray, with image and sound quality as expected for the format. Where the disc excels is its bonus features, with a full two hours of extras which include all of the deleted and extended scenes from the DVD extras, along with extensive Blu-ray exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and detailed visual effects making-of features. The disc bonus features are rounded out by “Janson’s Report”, individual debriefing videos of the principal characters during their initial arrival at the military compound. The videos don’t add much to the story, but it’s still a fan treat to get a few extra minutes of footage of the stars. The package also includes an exclusive 24-page comic book from BOOM! Comics with two new prequel stories. Although the film really isn’t worth its above-average bonus features, their inclusion fully supports the subtitle of this release as the Ultimate Fan Edition.