Sunday, October 4, 2015
Most dystopian novels for young adults inject enough social commentary to make them plausible high school reading material. Students can write essays that analyze how privileged ruling classes divide and subjugate the less powerful. The Maze Runner series has few such pretensions.
It wasn't until the first Maze Runner (2014) ended that we learned the hidden agenda of the tongue-in-cheek-named WCKD. As The Scorch Trials begin, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) isn't quite buying the story being told by the rebels who snatched him and his few surviving friends from WCKD's clutches. The world has fallen apart, and in their bloodstreams lies the answer to a disease called the Flare. The rescuers want to run some benign experiments on them in search of a cure to save what's left of humanity after a global ecological collapse and plague. Not much politics there ... but enjoyable action as Thomas and his pals head for high ground.
Their flight to find a rumored rebel band that might shelter them takes them through a brutal desert called The Scorch, a murky mall populated by Cranks (zombie-like victims of the Flare), and a wasted city where they get sucked in by a partying group of drugged up hedonists.
This may sound a tad extreme for juvenile fare, and too episodic to constitute a real plot. But as I said, you're not watching The Scorch Trials expecting thoughtful societal commentary. You're watching for a few well choreographed flight scenes, a freaky zombie chase, some perhaps too-easy-to-spot betrayals, and the occasional snary-fun comment from one of Thomas's cohort.
Like The Maze Runner, it ends exactly at the place where we will expect the next installment to pick up. It's exciting enough that I'll plan to see it.