In “The Scorch Trials”, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) emerges as the leader of the Glades’ escapees, who may have thought they have found a safe haven from the evil organization known as WCKD. Thomas never seems to cast away his doubt away. Together with the hoodie-clad Aris (Jacob Lofland) whom he just met, they learn that their escape from the mazes is only leading them into another nefarious WCKD medical facility. Of course, we now know that WICKED, in the name of saving the humanity from the rabies-like solar-enhanced virus, harvest the escapees for their immunity against the virus – or at least that is what Dr. Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) seems to justify on. Realizing the deception, Thomas leads his friends, including Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Frypan (Dexter Darden), Winston (Alexander Flores) and Aris, out of another evil WCKD scheme. But the outside world known as the Scorch, a ruined and decimated urban-maze desert that is inhabited by the Cranks (zombified-human as a result of the aforementioned virus), is just the beginning of another survival quest.
With the mystifying world-building, confined environment and socially-order survival game out of the way, it becomes intrinsically clear that this sequel will be more like a filler towards the grand finale of rebellion and zombie-killing in “The Death Cure” – as is also common for any middle chapter of any trilogy. So the first half of the movie turns out to be setting the franchise into a different direction than it was, with cliché scenario to speak for. Narratively speaking, “The Scorch Trial” has nothing much to say about its plot and character development; merely it continues to amplify the notion that WCKD is still (and really) wicked, and there is still hope somewhere out there.
The outcome is a more convoluted-yet-conveniently threaded plot that basically won’t answer much more questions than you might have kept since the first film. Convoluted as it is, but it never feels much of a burden to carry around, or at least not when you factor in the amount of supporting characters introduced with varying degree of relevance. Giancarlo Esposito’s role as the wasteland pirate Jorge reminiscent of his excellent antihero performances in “Breaking Bad” or “Revolution”. Rosa Salazar’s performance as Brenda is not entirely mesmerizing, but it gives a nicely touch on the much needed dose of love triangle in it, if it ever gets developed. The script by T.S. Nowlin still cares to inform you the motivation and to answer you several questions that may still linger, although the movie will relentlessly resort to the “run as fast as you can, duck, hide, talk and run again” cycles.
But Wes Ball is a competent director who knows how to handle his set-pieces quite well. The various treadmill action offered is by far the most acceptable guilty-pleasure of high-adrenaline excitement in the movie. Even with a high degree of camera shake and blurry dashing image against a backdrop constant narrow escape, the vivid sense of suspense and kinetic are quite real in here. Of course, “The Scorch Trial” is not exactly a game-changer we are hoping for or in any definition being “great”, but the good news is it has more redeeming points that makes it worthy to watch than, let’s say, the “Divergent” franchise – blissfully entertained! B