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Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (3D) (AF)

8/10

Stars: Dylan O’Brien, Patricia Clarkson, Giancarlo Esposito, Kaya Scodelario, Aidan Gillen, Ki Hong Lee, Rosa Salazar, Lili Taylor, Barry Pepper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Alexander Flores, Jacob Lofland

Director: Wes Ball

Give director Wes Ball his due.

Even thought I cannot honestly pretend to remember much of the storyline of 2014’s The Maze Runner, Ball’s first blockbuster based on James Dashner’s 2009 best-selling post-apocalyptic thriller.

Happily, it doesn’t really matter that much here, even without the Critic’s Crib Notes. Ball kicks off fast with a brief montage-style sequence that recapitulates the basic narrative drive of the 2014 movie before delivering this stirring action and suspense-heavy sequel.

At the start, Dylan O’Brien and his fellow teenage Gladers are where they ended up at the climax of the prequel, freed from the confines of the Maze. Ejected from the helicopter that rescued them they’re rounded up by soldiers and taken into an underground bunker where Aiden Gillen (excellent as someone even less trustworthy than a film trailer) tells them “Your new lives are about to begin”.

But what lives? As O’Brien undergoes medical resting, he begins to be suspicious and, slowly realising a fellow inmate’s comment “I don’t think anybody really leaves this place” might well be true, decides to escape the creepier and creepier surrounding which, when the teenagers start to explore and hunt for for a way out of the bunker, contains hanging drugged humans who resemble nightmare embryos.

They finally escape, only to end up in a ruined metropolis, encounter weird people and weirder apparent-mutant-style scavengers before escaping yet again into the burned-out desert land that is ‘The Scorch’ – with more action, terror and storyline to come…

The fact is, the evil WCKD organisation is back and nastier than ever.

Screenwriter T.S. Nowlin’s adaptation of the second novel in the series is packed to the gills and rather far beyond with plot since he appears to be filling lacunae from the first film with enough action and narrative to pack in more than enough story and backstory and action, action and more action to fill the more than two hours.

Fortunately, literally following the story is not a necessity. Ball sees to it that various tension-raising narrative sequences that make up the entire movie tend to resemble self-contained episodes from a not-to-be-missed Saturday Serial knitted together to make a must-see movie.

Key performance are just fine, with Patricia Clarkson’s seemingly saintly Doctor Paige coming across creepily enough to scare the bolts out of the neck of Frankenstein’s Creature. O’Brien and his fellow young actors are perfectly fit for purpose, the special effects that create a devastated skyscraper-packed city and grisly landscapes are first rate but, happily, never allowed to overshadow the actors, and John Paesano’s driving score adds impact.

And Gyula Pados' 3D cinematography is an asset, too

You might well not remember the plot-packed story for too long but, while you’re watching, ‘The Scorch Trials’ you should be well entertained without suffering any major intellectual challenges.

It’s a sequel that satisfies on its own audience-friendly adrenaline-raising terms.

In a (current?) word, it's 'WCKD'!

And, unsurprisingly, the threequel is signalled.

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour.
131 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 08 Sep 2015