The “Maze Runner” trilogy has turned out to be a pleasant surprise among adaptations of post-apocalyptic book series aimed at young adults (of which there are astonishingly many) (books, I mean, not young adults). As I was forcing myself to finish reading James Dashner’s amateurishly written first novel, I kept thinking: This is bad, but I bet the story will make a good movie.
As usual, I was right. (I didn’t review the first movie, and only sort of reviewed the second one, but I did see them.) Directed by newcomer Wes Ball, this trilogy, which ends with “The Death Cure,” has provided solid youth-oriented entertainment that benefits from not being weighed down by romantic conflicts (though I suspect the lack of swooning is why it hasn’t caught fire at the box office like, say, “The Hunger Games” did). Some of the characters blend together in one’s memory, and the story relies on certain over-familiar formulas … yet here’s the final chapter running well over two hours without getting stale. That’s a feat unto itself.
“The Death Cure” begins without a second of recap, so be prepared. Teen rebels Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Frypan (Dexter Darden), and probably a few others, aided by adults in the resistance movement like Giancarlo Esposito and Barry Pepper, thrillingly commandeer a train to rescue a boxcar full of chained-up kids, but are disheartened to discover that their friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee) is not among them. Minho is being held by WCKD, the institution that started out trying to find a cure for the zombie-making disease but has evolved into a corrupt entity seeking only to save itself. Represented by mostly nice Ava (Patricia Clarkson) and completely untrustworthy Janson (Aidan Gillen), WCKD thinks Minho’s immunity to the disease means he can be distilled into a cure. The other kids are immune, too, hence WCKD’s vigorous pursuit of them.
Thomas and friends are trying to get into WCKD headquarters in the Last City, a heavily fortified playground for the world’s remaining elites that shuts out the have-nots the way post-apocalyptic (and a few pre-apocalyptic) societies tend to do. Meanwhile, Janson and his WCKD armies are hunting the resistance, and Thomas’ former friend Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) — who betrayed them by allying with WCKD — comes to realize from the inside that WCKD might be, you know, wicked.
Also featured: a decaying rebel leader (played by Walton Goggins) who no longer has a nose.
While no one will mistake these films for masterpieces or “The Death Cure” for anything more than the third chapter in a trilogy, it’s sturdy fare with a grand, satisfying finale. Obviously, you have no interest in seeing it (nor should you) unless you’ve seen the other two. But if you have, the conclusion won’t disappoint you (as long as don’t expect character development all of a sudden).
B- (2 hrs., 22 min.; )