Maze Runner: The Death Cure review: Dylan O’Brien and friends return to the scorched wasteland for the third and final instalment of The Maze Runner trilogy. Can it buck the dreary third film trend?

Maze Runner: The Death Cure review, Kat Hughes. 

The Maze Runner: The Death Cure Review

The Maze Runner arrived in cinemas in 2014; it’s release came during the height of The Hunger Games fever and offered an alternative Young Adult adaptation for audiences to consume. It was a film that was unlike many other YA features on the market, for one it had a male protagonist, and secondly, it ventured heavily into the horror and science fiction genre. The following year, it’s sequel The Scorch Trials arrived and the potential franchise took somewhat of a nose dive. The follow-up was muddled, messy, and massively miss-told. After the excitement the first generated, it was a disappointment to many. It did however, get the green-light to tell the final story, The Death Cure, which arrives in cinemas on 26th January 2018.

Originally the third and final film was due to release in early 2017, but after an on-set accident led to serious injuries for leading man Dylan O’Brien, the project went on hiatus and it’s taken an extra year to get onto screens. The film landscape isn’t quite what it was at the start of last year, YA adaptations haven’t done too well in the last couple of years, but could The Death Cure be the one to buck the trend? It certainly deserves to. Typically a film series based off of a YA trilogy of books splits its last story into two films – a sly way for studios to make more money – but here we simply get the third book told out across one film. It’s a welcome move, and one that skirts causing another Divergent series situation (the film series was cancelled after film three, meaning we’ll likely never get a conclusion to that story). Granted the resulting 142 minute run-time might feel a little bloated in places, but I’ll take a little extra padding over a ‘second half of the story film’ any day of the week.

The Maze Runner: The Death Cure Review

The movie starts with a mighty bang as Thomas (O’Brien), now a fully-fledged member of the resistance, embarks on an ambitious rescue mission. The sequence plays out as part Mad Max: Fury Road car chase, part Fast and the Furious heist; it gets the blood pumping from the outset, and sets up the tone for this final instalment. The first film might have taken reference from the likes of Cube and The Lord of the Flies, this one is all about the action and war genre. There is so much action and running (obviously) packed onto the screen that you almost expect Tom Cruise to turn up.

After this explosive start, we settle in as Thomas, along with Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden), venture to the Last City (aka WCKD headquarters) to track down their missing friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee). The journey takes them into the line of fire more than once, and sees them side with an old adversary to achieve their goal. Thomas too must confront Teresa’s (Kaya Scodelario) betrayal as she is now planted firmly on the side of WCKD as she feverishly works to create a cure. Do Thomas and his friends have what it takes to take down WCKD forever?

As The Hunger Games films were Jennifer Lawrence’s films, these to belong to Dylan O’Brien. He doesn’t quite get the same screen time to fully drill down into his character of Thomas, but he certainly proves that he’s got a career in action ahead of him. He once more makes for a charismatic lead, and you can fully believe why his fellow Gladers and resistance fighters are more than willing to rally around him. The same can’t quite be said about your Bella Swan’s and Katniss Everdeen’s. Other characters don’t get much in the way of screen-time, but it’s the adult characters that suffer the worst; Barry Pepper is sidelined to book-ending the story, and Giancarlo Esposito is purely on designated driver duties.

The Maze Runner: The Death Cure Review

A Young Adult series that has never shied away from the taboo of killing children, The Death Cure continues that tradition. It’s the final act after-all, anyone and everyone is fair game, no one is safe, and there will definitely be tears before the end credits. Similarly, The Death Cure appears to push the censor boundaries to the very limits of the 12A certificate. The flare afflicted zombie-like Cranks are back and are as aggressive, violent and unpleasant to look at as before, they also offer as least one unexpected scare. Then there’s the dark subject matter – draining children immune to the disease of blood to cure others – and a whole final act that is set during a civil war-zone. Explosions and gun-fire litter the frame, it’s intense and confronting and completely unexpected from a film aimed at the young teen market. Unlike some of its peers, The Death Cure doesn’t try to sugarcoat or hide its nasty side, choosing instead to embrace it.

Trilogies usually suffer from a weak final third film, but this is not the case at all for The Death Cure. Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a much better put together film than The Scorch Trials, it can’t quite match the first, but that extra time away has certainly helped director Wes Ball find his voice again. An action-packed and epic conclusion to The Maze Runner trilogy, The Death Cure takes you on an emotional and explosive thrill-ride.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure review, by Kat Hughes, January 2018.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is released in UK cinemas on 26th January 2018.