There’s just something enjoyably reductive about YA movies.
Consider the Maze Runner movies, the cinematic adaptations of the novels by James Dashner, and how they parlay and extract and modernize the “Theseus in the labyrinth” theme into something millennials can digest and delight in. Something as complex as being a rat in a cage, the evolutionary drive to solve the said maze, and the unforeseen consequences of being able to finally transcend the elaborate trap you’re in are all encapsulated in the collective hero’s journey of teens and twentysomethings pressganged into reluctant cooperation and eventual friendship.
In lieu of examining the, finally, stacked layers of this final movie in the Maze Runner trilogy, we’ve listed the ways and lenses with which you can view this movie. Go to the theater, score some popcorn, and put your feet up for the final ride of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his barkada.
Misfits vs Empire
In “Death Cure” the gang of ex-Gladers are finally at the end of all mazes, at the doorstep of Dr. Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), the puppet master with the plan of the Minotaur, here played by the cruel and cunning head of security Janson (Game of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen).
With their plans to infiltrate the new labyrinthine Last City and rescue fellow ex-Glader Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Thomas and his crew of poorly armed, inexperienced, and untrained misfits must rely on guerilla tactics to circumvent and defeat the juicily and aptly named military organization WCKD (World Catastrophe: Killzone Department) with mostly their wits, some best laid plans, and a few choice allies.
Straight-Up Action Thriller
“Long way from the glade, aren’t we?” exclaimed Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) after the exciting opening sequence of the movie, where they execute their audacious plan to steal an entire moving train car in their attempt to save Minho, who was captured in The Scorch Trials.
Now, roughly six months after the previous movie ended, given time and some better equipment (albeit still light years from the hi-tech gear of the enemy), Thomas’s group is on the offensive as a credible resistance effort and able to give the soldiers and bosses of WCKD a real challenge.
Which begets some real action-hero type scenes including nail-biting moments trying to avoid authorities in the Last City, close-quarters battles with infected known as Cranks, and the final and explosive confrontation between the citizens of the Last City and everybody else who lives outside the walls.
In the world of Maze Runner, most of the world’s population has gone to the trashcan because of the Flare virus, a man-made disease that was, initially, designed to painlessly decimate a large portion of the world’s remaining people and greatly increase the chances of the survivors.
The infected came to be known as Cranks, zombie-like creatures with vine-like growths protruding from their bodies and faces, looking like a rip-off of the Cordyceps-infected from The Last of Us, behaving like those enraged runners in 28 Days Later.
As Thomas and the rest of the gang try to reach the Last City, they encounter various levels of the infected, from those who can still speak and are noticeably still human, to those absolutely in the depths of the disease who are fast, furious, and bent on cannibalizing anything not infected within their eye line.
Dystopic Sci-fi Survivalism
The conflict of the world of Maze Runner stems from the fact that, in this post-apocalyptic dystopia, huge solar flares (hence, The Flare event) ravaged the planet about 15 years ago and screwed up the climate, the tropics, and the weather, turning most of the civilized world into desert wastelands. There were volcanic eruptions, radioactive events, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and rising sea levels turning everything into the envy of Mad Max’s producers.
As the scientific geniuses behind the Flare virus ravaged the people, those who were immune were corralled by the powers that be (mostly WCKD), and put into the titular Mazes. Trapped and surrounded by 200 foot walls and an ever-changing maze, the immune inhabitants were eventually revealed to be harvested as literal blood bags used to produce medical formulas to delay and treat those still infected with the virus.
As the latest movie title suggests though, the scientists led by Dr. Paige will eventually find a cure, or THE cure, but it can only come by sacrificing the few young people left in the world who are immune.
Youth vs Age
Since the first movie, where Thomas became a member of a community of young people that included Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Gally (Will Poulter), and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the framing of the conflict has always been framed as the exuberance and idealism of youth versus the cynicism and stoic control of the elders who work for or control WCKD.
Banning a few older allies like the former drifter leader Jorge (Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) and the military minded Vince (Barry Pepper), the generation gap can easily indicate who’s the good or the bad guy as Ava Paige and Jansen try to capture and harvest the precious cure from the bodies of the young.
Bad (Blood) Romance
The twist that we left off with in the Scorch Trials was the betrayal of Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), leading Minho to be captured. This is much to the chagrin of Thomas, who had already formed a bond with the waifish brunette with the sad eyes, or thought he had.
Now, six months after those events, at the final stronghold of WCKD, the gang must break into the super-secure WKCD headquarters and try to bring down the organization from the inside using Teresa as their way into the complex. How this confrontation between Teresa and Thomas will go down is anybody’s guess.
It’s always a case of hair’s breadth escapes and how good your cardio is since we went on this adventure with the ex-Gladers inside the 200-foot walls of the Maze. Bad only turns to worse when the group finally escape the maze only to discover they are in the middle of a desolate wasteland: The Scorch. Now, in the final chapter, death looms large and real as they finally meet the resistance force known as The Right Arm, led by the heavily infected Lawrence (Walton Goggins), and they are gifted with weapons to penetrate and bring down the walls of the final labyrinth: the Last City (Cape Town standing in for a lot of the cityscapes). Always, though, we’ve seen how the story can keep this familia of youths intact and see them through the sharpest of dangers.
As bonds are strengthened and new ones formed, who must make the highest sacrifice among the ex-Gladers to rescue Minho and crash the dystopic elite from their “business as usual” Grand Guignol industry of harvesting the immune for their survival?
At its heart, the Maze Runner is all about Thomas and IS Thomas. Dylan O’ Brien imbues his character with as much gravitas and leadership confidence as he can when it’s called for, and vacillates into vulnerable, doubting territory when faced with Teresa. It’s a small but definite treat to see how Thomas has grown from nervous Glader to the mien of a courageous alpha male within the series. His reactions and decisions don’t always make sense at first, but his intuitive leaps almost always bear minding and pan out into the greater good later on.
MAZE RUNNER: DEATH CURE OPENS JANUARY 24 IN METRO MANILA THEATERS
ALL PHOTOS FROM 20TH CENTURY FOX