Film review: Mazerunner: The Scorch Trials confuses with characters that seem to have little motivation

The claustrophobic tension of part one is lost in the vast wilderness of the sequel.

Jenny Gabrielle, Dylan O’Brien and Rosa Salazar in a scene from Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. Courtesy Empire International Gulf
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Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Director: Wes Ball

Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario

Two stars

The current glut of Young Adult (YA) fiction being turned into movies is something I’m perhaps mildly conflicted about.

I'm optimistic about the fact that teenagers are reading – that can only be a good thing. When a series of novels sells as well as James Dashner's Maze Runner series, it's inevitable a film will be made and then, as in this case, a sequel.

But I'm confused about why the genre, at least judging by the movie adaptations – The Hunger Games and Divergent – is so singularly focused on dystopian future societies that can only be saved by a bunch of barely pubescent, reluctant warriors who, to shamelessly steal from Shakespeare, have greatness thrust upon them.

Whatever happened to teen movies about high school cliques and embarrassing unrequited crushes? I’ve nothing against dystopian future society movies, though I tend to find them more pleasing when they’re directed by, say, Ridley Scott, star Harrison Ford and aimed squarely at adult audiences. I don’t even object to the occasional teen movie delving into a dystopian future, but does it have to be every single one?

The first Mazerunner movie at least had a USP. Our heroes were trapped in a maze. Unfortunately for the sequel, they escaped at the end, so what we're left with is a somewhat disjointed affair where the fearsome gang are fighting something, but we're not sure what, in the apocolytic-scorched Earth beyond the maze. The claustrophobic tension of part one is lost in the vast wilderness of the sequel, and the director's best response seems to be to add zombies, which, like dystopian teen fiction, are very on-trend currently. The characters seem to have little motivation in the absence of a maze to escape, while you have to wonder about any movie where the elusive baddies are the preposterously monikered World Catastrophe Killzone Department – seriously.

The Scorch Trials isn't a bad film, as such. Seen in its own right, it's a perfectly passable wasteland, zombie-escape, teen horror, but as part of a whole that is presumably supposed to add up to an all-conquering teen phenomenon to rival the soon-to-draw-to-a-close Hunger Games, its hard to see where this episode fits in.

None of this will stop the film being a hit with its target demographic which, let’s face it, isn’t middle-aged film critics. The kids will love it, as the movie’s 3million-plus Facebook likes testifies, and while it may not be quite my cup of tea, I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t sit atop the box Office charts around the world after this weekend’s release.