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Review – Maze Runner: The Death Cure – “A worthy conclusion to the Maze Runner series”

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L-r, Dylan O’Brien, Giancarlo Esposito, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Rosa Salazar and Dexter Darden (truckbed) in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Maze Runner: The Death Cure.”

It’s unlikely you’ll rush to the cinema to see The Death Cure if you haven’t watched the first two entries in the Maze Runner series or don’t even know what The Maze Runner is. The final chapter in the dystopian saga based on James Dashner’s best-selling novels is clearly a fan-only love affair, yet if the genre tickles your palate you can still catch up with the previous films – in that case, you’d better stop reading now to avoid inevitable spoilers.

Despite not revolutionizing the approach to cinematic adaptations of popular YA book series, director Wes Ball had thoroughly impressed with the first two films in the franchise. He had managed to pull off some rather solid action set pieces, making The Maze Runner and its sequel The Scorch Trials look like big bucks in spite of a relatively lower budget for such studio fanfare. Now, to wrap things up, he proves once again to posses an innate sense of cinematic flare as he delivers a relentlessly paced and emotionally thrilling conclusion.

After surviving the maze in the first film, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his group of friends had found out they had been tested by the dark forces of WCKD in order to find a cure to the solar flare that had turned most of humanity into flesh-hungry, fast-running zombies and the earth into a scorch. The second film was about Thomas and the survivors – Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden) – starting to uncover the truth and locate resistance group Red Harm to finally neutralize their common enemy.

Along the way they had found new friends and allies in Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) but they also had to deal with the unbearable betrayal of one of their own, Theresa (Kaya Scodelario), who revealed their location to WCKD as she believed that the organization’s purpose was still the greater good of saving humanity.

The Death Cure picks up a few months later as the Red Harm have pulled themselves together after the blow and have orchestrated a plan to rescue Minho. A spectacular opening sequence with a dangerous train chase results indeed into saving some of the kids but Minho is not in that bunch. Vince (Barry Pepper), the rebellion’s leader, is focused on planning the escape to the “safe heaven”, a remote place where they can finally start over but Thomas won’t give up on his friend who is now being taken to the “Last City” where WCKD have their headquarters.

Thomas and the gang set off on a suicide mission to get into the Last City and rescue Minho but of course things are more complicated than that. Our protagonist has to deal with his unresolved feelings for Theresa and the kids have to uncover the real truth behind what Dr. Paige (Patricia Clarkson) and Janson (Aidan Gillen) have been up to. As the world around them is crumbling fast, the kids will make new and unexpected allies in this final showdown, including the surprising return of a long gone familiar face. Will they manage to save Minho? Will they all make it out alive? And is there an actual cure to be found?

There’s no denying that all of the above is as contrived as it sounds and despite veering away from the source material’s most convoluted plot points, The Maze Runner series doesn’t offer exactly a particularly fresh or sophisticated narrative. It is mostly a plot-driven affair with little room left for character development, yet director Wes Ball makes the most out of it and is able to craft an exciting adventure. He succeeds at entertaining the audience well enough to make them forgive and forget the weaknesses of plot holes and multiple climactic moments that almost result in an anticlimactic finale.

Albeit not a hard-core glader myself but having covered the series so far and being a fan of all the major talent involved, I was shocked to hear the news that lead star Dylan O’Brien had been severely injured during a stunt, when the film was merely a few days into shooting, almost two years ago. Once reassured that the promising young star was going to be ok, fans started to speculate about the fate of the final entry in the franchise, as filming was put on indefinite hiatus. Although reluctantly and understandably so, O’ Brien has recently opened up about the scary accident and the post-traumatic stress disorder that made him question not just if he felt like finishing the film but most importantly whether or not he wanted to return to the industry at all.

That’s why in spite of its flaws, The Death Cure is a worthy conclusion to the Maze Runner series. As you watch it unfold on screen, kicking off exactly with the incriminated sequence that could’ve cost his lead star his life, you can’t help but feel a lot of respect for the young actor’s courage to face his demons. Director Wes Ball and the entire cast are also commendable for reprising their job seamlessly, as if nothing ever happened. The film stands as a testament to a talented bunch of artists who have developed a genuine friendship and camaraderie over the years and it shows on screen from start to finish.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is released in cinemas on 26th January.

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