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‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ Doesn’t Pull Any Punches

maze-runner-the-death-cure

Despite the production-threatening injuries that loomed over the set of Maze Runner: The Death Cure, fans of the Maze Runner franchise are finally able to find out what happens to Thomas and the rest of Gladers in the last instalment of the film series. And though The Death Cure follows a much different trajectory than the one author James Dashner laid out in his original 2011 novel, Maze Runner die-hards will likely be satisfied by the film’s outcome nonetheless.

In The Death Cure, Dylan O’Brien returns as WCKD employee-turned-Glader Thomas, who makes it his mission to rescue brother-in-arms Minho (Ki Hong Lee) from the clutches of WCKD baddies Ava (Patricia Clarkson) and Janson (Game of Throne’s Aidan Gillen). He also not-so-secretly hopes to reunite with Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), another ex-Glader who unexpectedly joined WCKD at the end of 2015’s The Scorch Trials.

Finding Minho and Teresa won’t be easy, as WCKD headquarters are located smack-dab in the middle of the “Last City”, a sprawling Tokyo-New York-Toronto hybrid that’s completely surrounded by walls (the Gladers all point out the irony of trying to break into walls rather than escape them). But with the help of Brenda (Rosa Salazar), Jorge (Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) and a couple of other unlikely allies, the Gladers are able to infiltrate the Last City and carry out their mission.

Both the Gladers and the film encounter a few roadblocks on the way, however. Dashner had all the time in the world to lay out The Maze Runner’s sometimes complicated mythos in his novels, but Death Cure screenwriter T.S. Nowlin unfortunately didn’t have that same luxury. As a result, a couple of the film’s more minor plot points get swept under the rug.

For instance, rebel leader Lawrence, played by Sons of Anarchy’s Walton Goggins, is supposedly a powerful figure in the fight against WCKD but only appears in two or three relatively brief scenes. Conversely, Death Cure perhaps has one too many scenes in which an ally or sudden occurrence saves Thomas and the gang at the last minute. These types of scenes are action-movie staples, certainly, but cutting two or three of them could have made the film (which clocks in at a whopping 142 minutes) feel a little less ponderous.

With that being said, Salazar’s Brenda shines as the Gladers’ self-assured voice of reason, and Death Cure director Wes Ball smartly allows her to go off on her own impressive rescuing spree while Thomas and the others go head-to-head with Janson. Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s Newt is also brilliant as Thomas’ frustrated right-hand-man, and his performance makes the realization that Newt is susceptible to the Flare (The Maze Runner’s fictional virus) all the more heartbreaking. O’Brien and Scodelario are convincing as two children forced to grow up much sooner than they should have, though the two of them don’t have enough chemistry to convince audiences to root for their union.

The film also looks stunning—the days of using a handful of fairly closed-in sets are long gone, as Death Cure has the Gladers make their way from a dry desert landscape to a dark deserted cave to the expansive, bright lit Last City. The Gladers’ world opens up more and more as the Gladers themselves mature, and Ball illustrates that without being heavy-handed.

Plus, Gillen is unsurprisingly convincing as the sociopathic Janson. The scene in which Janson and Teresa stand in an elevator with a disguised Thomas and Newt is appropriately tense, and Janson’s clash with Ava demonstrates that some (but not all) WCKD employees really do have good intentions. Janson’s supposed motive for going after Thomas isn’t entirely believable, but that’s more of a script-based issue than a performance-based one.

Death Cure finds a way to end the franchise on a truly satisfying, hopeful note—not easy for a franchise as beloved and bleak as this one. All three Maze Runner films, at their core, question the morality of putting the good of a group over the good of an individual. And while saving the lives of certain individuals puts the lives of other individuals at risk, the film proves that doing so is ultimately worth it if it leads to a conclusion as rewarding as this one.

Check out Maze Runner: The Death Cure in theatres starting today.

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