The Death Cure – the final chapter in the Maze Runner trilogy – finally limps into cinemas after a protracted three-year wait (brought on by an on-set accident involving leading man Dylan O’Brien). In that time, the Young Adult landscape has become a barren desert, with dozens of potential franchises withering under the long shadows cast by Harry Potter, Bella Swan and Katniss Everdeen. The fact that this trilogy has managed to finish at all is impressive in and of itself.
The plot is the usual YA guff, at once overbaked and underdone. We’ve seen the broad strokes a million times before: a gleaming dystopia run by mean old grownups; a ragtag team of rebels fresh out of puberty; a special snowflake of a leader who proves to be the Only One Who Can Save Us All. There are interesting ethical dilemmas at play here – whether the needs of the many really do outweigh the needs of the few – but they’re frustratingly never explored. It isn’t helped by actors who can’t hide their boredom at having to turn up for one last contractually-obligated appearance.
Still, it must be said that director Wes Ball (who made his feature debut with The Maze Runner) has matured behind the camera even as his cast has grown up in front of it. While the overarching narrative fails to impress, he keeps things at a brisk pace and manages to craft some impressive set pieces – particularly the thrilling train heist that opens the movie.
The Death Cure feels less like an epic conclusion and more like the death rattle of an already bygone age of franchise films. The competent action scenes are entertaining enough in the moment, but it’s hard to imagine this, or the Maze Runner trilogy as a whole, being remembered as some sort of classic a few years down the line.
CAST: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Rosa Salazaar, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Aiden Gillen
DIRECTOR: Wes Ball
WRITERS: T.S. Nowlin (screenplay), James Dashner (novel)
SYNOPSIS: Young hero Thomas embarks on a mission to find a cure for a deadly disease known as the “Flare”.