Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Updated: Feb 5
Maze Runner: The Death Cure is the third and final film in the Maze Runner series, based on the 2009-2011 Young Adult dystopian science-fiction book series by James Dashner. It takes place in a world where most of the population has been killed by a plague which, it is thought, can only be cured using antibodies harvested from immune teenagers.
The first film, 2014’s The Maze Runner, was about a group of teenagers trying to escape from a deadly maze. The second film, 2015’s The Scorch Trials, explored more of the world, and what the kids are up against, as they continued to try to escape from WCKD, the organization that was trying to control them. The Death Cure sees the final battle between the rebels and their oppressors and ties up all of the loose ends left in the series.
As the film begins, protagonist Thomas (Dylan O’Brien from MTV’s Teen Wolf, he also starred in the action movie American Assassin) and his friends Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Frypan (Dexter Darden), Brenda (Rosa Salazar, the star of this July’s Alita: Battle Angel) and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito from Breaking Bad and its spinoff, Better Call Saul) are trying to rescue Minho (Ki Hong Lee) who was captured by WCKD’s evil enforcer, Janson (Aidan Gillen, Littlefinger from HBO’s Game of Thrones), at the end of the last film. Their rescue attempt does not turn out as successfully as they had hoped, leading them on a mission to infiltrate the city and, potentially, a confrontation with their former ally Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) and the head of WCKD, the possibly well-intentioned Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson).
The overall story of the series is okay. It has an intriguing setup, but by the end of the first film, it became derivative of other YA series. Additionally, it does not always make the most sense and includes several plot holes. But the films have still been able to succeed because they have been very impressively made.
The production design, including some of the bigger sets (specifically, the maze in the first one and the city in this one), is pretty great, as are the visual effects. And the action is really well staged. The entire Maze Runner series is one of the better examples in recent memory of films that were completely carried by their production. If these stories were not adapted with this much care and expertise, there is no way they would have been nearly as good. This series made with a smaller budget would likely have been a chore to sit through.
Though The Death Cure clocks in at 137 minutes (not including the end credits) and its story is not always the most enthralling, director Wes Ball (the director of all three Maze Runner films) keeps things exciting enough with the action. In this instance, he opens with a rescue attempt on a train that both fittingly follows up the ending of the last movie and perfectly sets up the tone and story for this installment. It is fast paced, easy to follow, does an excellent job reintroducing the characters and puts the final plot in motion. It really is very well executed. Viewers may have seen sequences like this before, but when it is done this well, that does not matter.
Really, the whole movie (and most of the series) is like that. These are the only feature films Ball has made so far, but they will work as a great calling card for what he can do. He has now proven he can do action, he knows how to pace a story and he either has a great eye for design or is good working with those who do.
The Death Cure is a good capper to the Maze Runner franchise. It pays off the majority of the threads setup throughout the first two films, features a couple of surprises and a reasonably satisfying conclusion. I have not read the books, but this story does not seem like it would have survived subpar filmmaking. Thankfully for fans of the books and the movies, it did not have to.
3½ out of 5
Dylan O’Brien as Thomas
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt
Kaya Scodelario as Teresa
Aidan Gillen as Janson
Patricia Clarkson as Ava Paige
Ki Hong Lee as Minho
Rosa Salazar as Brenda
Giancarlo Esposito as Jorge
Dexter Darden as Frypan
Barry Pepper as Vince
Walton Goggins as Lawrence
Directed by Wes Ball
Screenplay by T.S. Nowlin