MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE Review: 6 out of 10 (No Cure for Contrivance)
The MAZE RUNNER films have been one of the more surprising in the YA dystopian film series of the last decade. Whereas THE HUNGER GAMES series sort of fizzled out near the end and the DIVERGENT series couldn't even be completed, this series has done fairly well, despite a one year delay to the release of this film due to an on-set accident and injury with its leading man Dylan O'Brien. The first film THE MAZE RUNNER was one of my favorite films of that year, and although the second film THE SCORCH TRIALS fizzled a bit, there still seemed to be hope for the franchise. Now DEATH CURE arrives with the same cast of characters--including Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Nathalie Emmanuel, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Walton Goggins, Ki Hong Lee, Jacob Lofland, Barry Pepper, Will Poulter, Rosa Salazar, and Patricia Clarkson.
Thomas (O'Brien) and the rest of the Gladers are now involved in a full-on resistance movement for those who would use their immunity to a mysterious virus for their own gain. This virus has turned most adults into zombie-like creatures--though there are some who have found ways (?) to resist the virus. Meanwhile, their fellow Glader friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee) has been captured and taken to the "Last City" where WCKD experiments on him to extract a cure for the zombie virus. Thomas and his friends commit to a last-ditch rescue to save their friend and to face Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) a fellow glader who betrayed her friends and joined WCKD and their medical trial team. All of that sounds fine, but in practice, this film suffers the same fate that nearly all of these YA adaptations do: bad writing.
It isn't that all these young actors aren't doing well. O'Brien continues to show himself as a viable young talent who has a great future ahead of him, along with Will Poulter and Rosa Salazar. The problem is they are forced to deliver hackneyed lines of dialogue that are so laughably bad one must wonder how many takes were required on set to keep a straight face. The plot of these films really begins to lose its strength and once the answers to the entire series bubble up to the surface in this final chapter, there are painfully eye-rolling bits of obvious logic gaps that nearly crashes the entire film series retroactively. The movie is also terribly long clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, with a good chunk in the middle that is slow and unnecessary. But unfortunately, that isn't the worst thing going on here. By the end of the film, there are *at least* five different "Deus Ex Machina" moments in the film. Moments where the characters have lost all hope, find themselves trapped, are facing imminent death...and then ... BANG something, someone, or an act of god steps in to save them. It is a familiar trope that is grossly overused here. The number of contrivances stacks up so quickly that FATE itself seems to become another character in the film. The film's last few moments of dénouement are so laughably awful one has to wonder if another ending was filmed and they edited in the *wrong* one.
So why does it get a mild recommendation from me? One word: Spectacle. The film does have quite a bit of nice action set pieces to enjoy, particularly in the film's climax. The film has a great sense of scale and does deliver some thrilling moments. Second to that, there are good young actors trying there damnedest here to perform, after all. Though this film gets a similar score from me as the 2nd film does, this is likely the stronger chapter of the two, suffering mostly from an overly long middle section and far too many predictable contrived plot devices. For newcomers to the series, this is a hard pass as the film doesn't even offer a montage to catch up a first time viewer. But for fans of this film series, DEATH CURE is a decent final chapter in a film series that had promise.