Aside from “The Godfather,” the second film in a franchise is usually the least liked . “The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials” is no different.
After escaping the maze in the first installment of “Runner”, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and company end up at an apparent safe zone led by a man named Mr. Janson (Aiden Gillen). The Gladers trade in their dirty earth-toned clothes for clean earth-toned clothes and meet other survivors from other mazes.
This is the first point when the film stops making sense. For me, finding out there are multiple survivors from multiple mazes is like discovering that there are multiple Dorothys on various yellow-brick roads, or that Nemo is not the only Nemo who needs to be found.
This change in plot indicates that there are even more survivors and mazes, and that they too got past “Phase One” of the evil corporation/government’s experiment, whose objective is not at all clear.
At this point the film finds a way to rid itself of even more clarity when it is revealed that the safe zone and Mr. Janson are all a big ruse and that they have been working with WCKD (the evil corporation/government) all along.
After escaping the safe zone, Thomas leads the remaining Gladers through an arid wasteland populated by zombies and Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) from “Breaking Bad,” while being pursued by Mr. Janson, who is played by Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen) from “Game of Thones.” (Note: I would rather see that movie than this.)
I have a theory that any actor can be good depending on the screenplay. The recent influx in young adult films strengthens this theory.
“Scorch Trials” strengthens it further when you consider the cast. Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Barry Pepper. All three of these fine actors have proved in other movies that they have an above-average understanding of their craft.
Ki Hong Li, who plays Minho in both films, has shown his ability in various shorts by Wong Fu Productions and in the Netflix series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” In this film, however, all four actors falter to mediocre status.
My advice? Go: because O’Brien and Hong Lee are good eye-candy. Leave: because all of these actors can be seen in better projects on Netflix.
The movie is playing at Century Laguna 16, Century Downtown Plaza 7 and United Artist Arden Fair 6.