“Maze Runner: The Death Cure” is the third and final installment in this now trilogy that’s based off of the Maze Runner novels. Our returning crew from the first two movies, lead by Thomas, is preparing for one final stand against the evil organization WCKD and the main goal at hand is to break into their stronghold and rescue their friends after they were captured at the end of the second film, while also trying to find a cure to the virus that infected the planet’s population back in the first movie.
With the first movie in this series, I thought it was a perfectly watchable and mostly enjoyable Young Adult adaptation. It had some decent action, the acting was all good, and despite a weak ending, it had a level of intrigue in terms of what happened in this world and where it was leading to. Then came the sequel, “The Scorch Trials” and that was just plain bad. It failed at world-building, the plot was a generic YA mess, and worst of all, it was forgettable. I can’t remember 90% of what happened in that movie and that’s a major detriment to watching this movie. But regardless, I went into this movie simply wanting to see the end of a trilogy that I’m barely invested in and what I got was more or less what I expected.
This movie immediately starts out with an action sequence involving a train and while it’s entertaining at first, it goes on far too long and it quickly becomes full of conveniences, including total incompetence from the bad guys and perfect timing and placement from the good guys. Right away we get a semi-enjoyable action scene and that’s how I would describe most of the action in this movie. Every action set piece starts out as perfectly fine, but it goes on for too long and it ultimately ends in the most convenient way possible. There’s little tension to be found and it made me miss the first movie’s simple concept of trying to survive a deadly maze.
In terms of this movie’s story, there’s an attempt at telling one regarding sacrifice and doing what’s right for all despite the moral implications of it. It had kind of a “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” vibe to it, but the overall execution is weak. At a point in the film, it looks like it might actually make a nuanced point, showing that the supposed “bad guys” aren’t really bad guys, they’re just regular people doing the best with what they got in trying to save the world. But near the end of the movie, all of that subtlety is thrown out the window and we’re left with a typical mustache-twirling villain scheme, thus ruining any interest that the story had to offer.
The one thing in this trilogy that I’ve found to to consistently enjoyable to watch is the friendship between Thomas and Newt. Their relationship has been handled with care and it’s the one emotional anchor in this movie that I found to be genuinely moving. It definitely helps that the actors, Dylan O’Brien and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, are both very good in their roles and they’re able to share believable chemistry, but it also shows the unfortunate truth that they’re both above this type of movie.
For me personally, I tend to judge finales partly on whether or not I can feel a sense of finality in the plot. I do that with any conclusion to any series and there are some good examples. With something like “The Dark Knight Rises”, you really feel that Batman and crew are making one final stand to save Gotham City, or in “War for the Planet of the Apes” when you sense that the war between humans and apes has finally built up to Caesar’s greatest trial in his life. I didn’t get that feeling with “The Death Cure”. I honestly just felt like I was watching another generic YA plot with Thomas and friends running around and trying to escape WCKD once more. There’s no sense of finality to it and when it all comes to an end, I just had this empty feeling of “meh”.
All of that being said, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” isn’t as bad as the second film, but not as enjoyable as the first one. It falls in the middle of the spectrum, showcasing some OK action and likable performances from the entire cast, but at it’s core, it’s just another dystopian YA adaptation and that should be enough of a description for any moviegoer.