MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster. Directed by Wes Ball. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.
The opening action sequence of The Death Cure, the third and final movie in the Maze Runner series, is a tense train hijacking worthy of a Fast and Furious movie, as the main characters (rebels in a post-apocalyptic future, led by Dylan O’Brien’s Thomas) attempt to rescue one of their comrades from the clutches of WCKD, the sinister organization that kidnaps young people and makes them run mazes. Unfortunately, it’s easily the highlight of this drawn-out, nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie, adapted very loosely from James Dashner’s YA novel series.
The maze from the first movie only makes a cameo in a dream sequence; otherwise Cure, like the series’ second installment (2015’s The Scorch Trials), is a collection of generic dystopian elements, including the plague (known as the Flare) that has wiped out most of humanity, the dirty Mad Max-style refugees (featuring an underused Walton Goggins as a physically deformed resistance leader) and the gleaming bastion of privilege known as the Last City, where the remaining elite live in isolated, precarious safety. Practically two-thirds of the movie involves the mission to rescue Minho (Ki Hong Lee), a tertiary supporting character whose fate doesn’t have the impact necessary to sustain a trilogy-ending epic.
O’Brien has developed as an action star, but his sullen petulance makes Thomas a pretty one-note protagonist, and onetime love interest Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) has become a sort of reluctant adversary following her betrayal of her fellow rebels in the previous movie. What’s left are a lot of scenes of characters running from one place to another, things exploding for no reason, and empty dialogue exchanges about saving and/or destroying the world. Patricia Clarkson and Aidan Gillen still look mildly embarrassed as the villains, and the story takes far too long to build to its meaningless anti-climax. It’s enough to make you miss the maze.