Like most YA properties, the conclusion to the Maze Runner series has traveled far from simple origins that teased mystery and mythology, expanding upon them in the wake of publishing, then cinematic, success. In the case of The Death Cure, this film see the series move from a basic proposition – arriving in a grassy glade, and trying to escape through a maze – to a mid-desert train heist cold open that plays like a less over-the-top Fast Five. Along the way, the second instalment sketched out a post-apocalyptic world, its survivors descending into Mad Max-level existences, while well-resourced, morally misguided, organisation WCKD still seeks a cure for (or maybe just control over) what remains of humanity.
I’ll stop listing what’s been lifted from elsewhere here (no, I won’t actually – the ending steals from both Aliens and The Amazing Spider-Man 2), and instead compliment director Wes Ball on two separate points. First, he’s likely in a class of one, having just three feature films to his name – which happen to be the entirety of the Maze Runner series. Sir, until you make another film, you are the answer to a movie trivia question (hat tip to Liam Maguren for this).
More relevant to events on screen, was a peek at the content of the book Ball’s final chapter is based on. In a welcome development he has jettisoned unwieldy elements like telepathy and body-control chips in favour of a rather simple infiltration and extraction plot.
Dylan O’Brien’s Thomas leads his fellow teen action heroes into the last safe city in North America, where WCKD continue their human experimentation. While he, and other survivors, could have run away to safety early in the film, that would also have meant no stand-off with bad bosses Patricia Clarkson and Aiden Gilllan (who still can’t maintain a consistent accent throughout a film, scene, or sometimes a sentence). Plus, there’s also one time love interest-turned-betrayer Kaya Scodelario to factor into proceedings. These relationships are tied up in functional fashion that should satisfy franchise fans, if not doing much more, while the urban combat that erupts in the third act has some grittiness to it, showing how far things have come from the start of the series.