Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018)

Say what you will about the Maze Runner franchise, but the people behind it at least cared enough to see it through to the end. The current young adult dystopia bubble burst—at least a little—when The Hunger Games movies came to an end, which caused the Divergent franchise to end one film early after its studio split the final book into two movies—and then it underperformed and was killed. The Maze Runner people had that obstacle, and their lead actor (Dylan O’Brien) was severely injured midway through filming, which could have been the death of this movie, too. But they kept it going, even thought its franchise momentum is all but dead at this point, and they didn’t even split the final book in two. If nothing else, I appreciate them taking the time and effort to conclude what they easily could have concluded early.

(Of course, the Maze Runner franchise has been more profitable than Divergent and the budgets were kept down, so it’s not like it was a terribly difficult decision. Still, credit where credit is due.)

In case you’ve forgotten, the Maze Runner movies are set in a post-apocalyptic future in which there’s a virus that infected and wiped out a lot of humanity. Teenagers are put in mazes to try to find a cure—the immune will survive and then their blood will be used, or something—but our heroes figured out that the corporation behind the experiments is evil and they fled. One of them turned evil, another was captured, and now we’re at The Death Cure, in which the remaining cast tries to turn and/or free the other kids we’ve grown to know, and then end this thing once and for all with a plan you won’t care about.

It’s all … a lot of nonsense, really. There’s some talking and some shooting and some running and some zombie-like creatures and some evil corporate people and character turns and more character turns and old characters brought back from the dead—but it all feels increasingly meaningless. These young adult movies are usually about something or in service of a thinly veiled metaphor about struggles in teenagehood and these last two Maze Runner movies haven’t really been about anything, except this generic “teens vs. evil corporation” story, but this time they get to explore a bit of the post-apocalyptic landscape.

The only positive thing I have to say about Maze Runner: The Death Cure is that it’s over, and we got to see it end.

They’re not even terribly made movies. They’re just dull, don’t do anything fresh, and lack a purpose. It’s hard to watch them and gain anything of value—and that includes entertainment. This one doesn’t even get going until about an hour in, at which point it lost me. All the climactic explosions in the world don’t matter if we don’t care or are bored by the time they show up.

It doesn’t help that the film is almost two and a half hours long. Now, don’t get me wrong here: that’s better than splitting it into two 90-minute movies, the second of which isn’t even guaranteed (thanks, Divergent). But as a movie, it feels bloated. There’s not a ton of plot, we’re not emotionally invested so what is there doesn’t matter, and all the character reveals or turns in the world struggle to leave an impact—especially when it comes in the form of a character we haven’t seen for two movies and about whom we’d already forgotten.

The action isn’t that good when we do get it, the acting ranges from mediocre to uninterested, the special effects are fine, and it’s neat that the entire trilogy was directed by Wes Ball, which at least gives us a sense of stylistic continuity—even if that style isn’t very distinct, interesting, or memorable.

The only positive thing I have to say about Maze Runner: The Death Cure is that it’s over, and we got to see it end. That might not sound like much, but I’d rather have a bland, uninvolving conclusion than none at all. The Death Cure might not be anything of consequence—existing just to end it and offer little more to anyone over the age of 12—but at least we got a conclusion. Maze Runner isn’t a series that anyone is going to miss, I don’t think, and I’m glad that this is the promised ending. They’re too bland to hate or love.

Conclusion: Maze Runner: The Death Cure ends the franchise on a whimper—but at least it got to go out under its own power.

Recommendation: If you’ve seen the previous two, you might as well complete the franchise. If you haven’t, don’t bother.

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