Mark Reviews Movies

The Death Cure


1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Wes Ball

Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Rosa Salazar, Kaya Scodelario, Giancarlo Esposito, Will Poulter, Aidan Gillen, Patricia Clarkson, Barry Pepper, Ki Hong Lee, Nathalie Emmanuel, Katherine McNamara, Jacob Lofland

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, and some thematic elements)

Running Time: 2:22

Release Date: 1/26/18

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Review by Mark Dujsik | January 25, 2018

The series that began with The Maze Runner and collapsed with The Scorch Trials comes to an end with The Death Cure. Like its predecessor, the third movie further dismisses everything that made the first film worthwhile. That one was a tight, self-contained, and clever mystery about a group of teenagers trapped in a maze, trying to find their way to the exit and to discover the meaning behind their imprisonment. As it turns out, the less we know about this world, the better this story plays. We know everything about the futuristic world of the series by the end of this movie, and it falls apart upon even the slightest scrutiny.

It doesn't seem that important at the start, which opens in the Scorch of the previous movie's primary setting. In the movie's opening minutes, there's an impressive action setpiece involving the hijacking of a train run by WCKD, the organization that serves as the series' central antagonist (In case we don't know they're bad guys, everyone calls the organization "Wicked"). It's impressive because we learn about the details as we go and also because it features some worthwhile stunt and effects work (Director Wes Ball, returning for his third go with the series, effectively blurs the lines between practical stunts and digital effects here).

This isn't the type of storytelling that the first film established. After spending an entire second entry realizing that narrative was a one-time thing, though, it's a bit easier to accept the shift to a generic dystopian setting this time.

The story picks up where the previous movie left it. Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) is with most of the surviving maze-dwellers, as well as a group rebelling against WCKD. Thomas' goal with the train heist is to save Minho (Ki Hong Lee), one of his maze buddies, but that part of the mission is a failure.

Minho is being held in WCKD's stronghold in the last, remaining city in this world ravaged by a zombie-making plague called the Flare. There, Ava (Patricia Clarkson), WCKD's head, and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the one-time maze pal who was a double agent, are torturing Thomas' friend in order to find a cure for the plague.

Thomas—with the aid of the good-hearted Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Brenda (Rosa Salazar), and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito)—decides to infiltrate the city. The group is aided by the believed-dead Gally (Will Poulter), who has been working with a group trying to take down WCKD, too.

In other words, there isn't much of an actual plot here. The movie finally does something with this futuristic world, though, by creating something of a class divide between those who have been infected by the Flare and those living in the city. Outside the great wall of the metropolis, infected people are kept as docile as possible by a serum that prevents the disease from transforming them into mindless monsters. The resistance's leader Lawrence (Walton Goggins), whose face has been devastated by the plague, thinks Thomas and his friends are the best way to take down WCKD.

Why does anyone really want to take them down, though? The movie finally has to confront the fact that WCKD's goals are not only admirable but also a necessity for the survival of humanity. The screenplay by T.S. Nowlin (based on James Dashner's book) never comes up with a firm argument against WCKD, except to point out that the organization's methods are cruel and often resort to force.

This makes no logical sense, and it hasn't since the whole story was revealed at the end of the first film. WCKD's methods seem to exist in order for there to be villains in these stories. A smarter, more humane tactic would be for them to appeal to the basic humanity of those who are immune. The immune people could save the human species, simply by agreeing to offer a sample of their blood for scientists to develop a cure (Whatever rationale there might be behind torturing test subjects is negated by the end of the movie). In theory, the real villains are Thomas and his pals, who revolt at the idea of having their blood drawn in order to save humanity from its fate.

Basically, The Death Cure reveals that the entire narrative of this series is founded on an illogical premise. We might have been distracted from this irrational setup if the movie cared about its characters or its world enough to develop either of them. Instead, it all comes down to a series of action scenes and standoffs—each of them resolved by a convenient deus ex machina. It's all finished now, and we know one thing for sure: This series shouldn't have found its way out of the maze.

Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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