You have to give a little credit to those responsible for bringing us the final chapter in the Maze Runner series. They went for broke. Maze Runner: The Death Cure pours kerosene all over the franchise before all is said and done and by the time the match is struck, the entire series is purged with fire and brimstone and emerges with a biblical type of conclusion that leaves us feeling a wee bit of faith for the human race.
Dylan O’Brien (last seen in American Assassin) returns as Thomas. The messiah-ish figure — who first came up a hole in The Maze Runner as a “greenie” with no clue his name, where he was or possessing any remote clue as to the dystopian (YA themed-heavy) adventure he was about to embark — becomes even more Christ-like by the time the credits roll.
By film three, the evils of the WCYD are all too known and Thomas is poised and primed for a seismic showdown with their leader, Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), her muscle Janson (Aidan Gillen) and their entire militaristic security force. There is a virus rapidly wiping out humanity. WCYD feels it is the last hope for society, desperately trying anything to come up with a cure, even enslaving young people who are immune to the deadly plague.
Thomas, our heavenly figure, is not alone. He has a gang of apostles ready to do as he commands, even if it means paying the ultimate price. The evil must end and by the finale of The Death Cure, one side will be waving a proverbial flag. The key to keeping our attention for the 121 minutes, for director Wes Ball, is to lay out a landmine-populated story that grips around every turn and also pauses for emotional interludes that keep the action pumping with heart.
For the 66-percent of the film, Ball — who has lead the cast and crew into cinematic battle for all three films — does do that with his final foray into the world that first charmed audiences in James Dashner’s ten book series. Yeah, you read that right… ten books!
Heading into planning the third flick, all were informed that their next effort would be the last. Because of that piece of news, it must have been a challenge to craft a storyline that would tie up all loose ends, give the adoring fans (and there are legions) a fulfilling conclusion that somehow manages to pick themes and plot elements from the seven following novels. Well, when you put it that way, it is practically a fool’s errand, a losing proposition.
Sadly, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, loses its steam as the second act morphs into the third and then it suffers under the weight of all that YA literary prose and collapses like that building at the end of Fight Club. (That is no flippant reference, believe it or not, there are aspects of The Death Cure’s conclusion that feel very Fight Club.)
Outside of O’Brien, the cast is solid. Each clearly has mastered their characters by delving deep into the source material. We still have a soft spot for Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s Newt. Since the first film, there is something about how Dashner crafted that character that allows Brodie-Sangster to go crazy with his unique charisma. Ki Jong Lee has much placed on his shoulders with this last Maze Runner go-around and wields his artistic weapons brilliantly. The two main female characters are portrayed with grace and gumption that finds each characteristic utilized efficiently and entertainingly when required. Kaya Scodelario has to walk a tightrope with her Teresa (for obvious reasons for anyone who has been following this series). Meanwhile, Rosa Salazar’s Brenda is a rock, but is allowed to showcase her emotional toolbox and brings it.
Then, there are the veterans. Any chance to witness Giancarlo Esposito is a glorious experience and he doesn’t disappoint with his final laps as Jorge. Clarkson, sadly, was given a pretty well-defined character in the first several films. Somehow, her long chronicled strengths fade to the wayside as she her character has become more of a cut-out, paint-by-the-numbers stereotypically conflicted antagonist.
O’Brien is a star. That is already widely known. After stealing scenes throughout Teen Wolf, he charmed audiences with the first film and has not looked back since. The lack of success of American Assassin is disappointing. That is another multi-book series that could have been the young star’s next franchise. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that enough people bought tickets. Do not worry millions and millions of O’Brien fans, he will continue to succeed.
Ball was issued an enormous challenge when tackling this film. Unfortunately, as the final half of the third act truly gets going, the film labors towards its end. On one hand he is able to further make The Maze Runner savior sentiment more solid than ever and will have audiences leaving the theater feeling that the only thing missing from O’Brien was a Jesus Christ pose at some point there at the end! But… it takes what feels like a long time to get there.
The Death Cure just does not know how to take its bow.
There is a myriad of moments that feel as if credits will come soon… but alas, it does not happen. As we have previously said on numerous occasions, movie length is not an issue if used well. Films that clock in at almost two-and-a-half hours and seem to whiz by are among our faves. Let’s just say that the two hours and twenty-three minutes of the Maze Runner: The Death Cure feels like a viewer has to go through their own never-ending maze just to get to the finale.