Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) remembers being a child and taken away from his mother amongst a crowd of people while soldiers in protective gear looked on and oversaw what was occurring. But what was going on? He also recalls seeing a red-haired woman in white (Patricia Clarkson) on a transport vehicle, but cannot grasp the significance - and then he is awake, being grabbed and jostled and taken into an aircraft as bullets fly around him and explosions are set off. He is in a state of total confusion, and hopes for answers when he is reunited with his friends from the maze he had been stuck in for as long as he could recall, but he appears to be in some form of underground base run by an organisation named WCKD.
And that's about as much exposition as you get for a long while in this, the sequel to the moderate success The Maze Runner, one of those Young Adult novel adaptations that unlike so many others managed to make it past its initial instalment and onto part two. However, it looked as if the story would end here and we would not get part three, The Death Cure, when star O'Brien was seriously injured while filming it, so through no fault of the film's popularity the tale might have been brought to a premature halt for reasons other than financial ones. On the other hand, judging by the reaction of the fans of the book to The Scorch Trials, that might not have been such a bad thing.
It was bad for O'Brien, of course, nobody deserves that sort of accident to befall them in the workplace, but those aficionados of James Dashner's source material were highly indignant that so much of it had been changed or plain left out of the movie, not least because by altering the plot they made the events of the first film utterly nonsensical seeing as how there had now been no good reason for keeping the kids at the centre of the maze in the first place. For the most part, this instalment opted to skate over the surface of such major narrative issues by apparently reasoning that as long as it kept Thomas on the move, running around and dodging stuff that was thrown at him, we would keep watching.
Heaven forfend any of this might make sense, what did you want from your franchises anyway? This wasn't The Hunger Games you know. Except that it plainly wanted to be, or at least take a generous slice of the potential profits stemming from the same target audience, and the fact remained this just didn't have that better series' intelligence and philosophical musings that set it some degree apart from its contemporaries. Still, if all you wanted was that running, jumping and occasionally standing still then you were supplied that in generous dollops as this added that popular favourite of the day, the zombie apocalypse, to the mix. To that end this crowbarred in scenes of the younger cast members hightailing it around some admittedly impressive sets and CGI rubble-strewn wastelands.
You couldn't fault the production design, as evident care had gone into sustaining a slick, at times striking landscape of what would have happened to the world after a global disaster to make it appear like it does here. The cast were rather less well served, with not only Thomas's pals a bunch of samey stock characters, but Thomas himself even failed to stand out from them with any appreciable personality. The sole female in the gang, Teresa (Katy Scodelario) did have a character trait that threatened to make her more interesting, but this too was underdeveloped till the last ten minutes and by then it was too little too late. The older actors hoping for that Donald Sutherland late career sunshine made more of an impression, but overall were playing second fiddle to the bland youngsters. As action and more action was the order of the day, The Scorch Trials was an easy enough watch, but it had about as much depth as your average daytime soap opera. Perhaps that was a fitting sequel to what had gone before. Music by Joe Paesano.