Sequels can be hard to do, you’ve got to build upon the first film in new and interesting ways, you have to develop the story and characters, and you have to top what came before. This can be even harder to do when making a planned series. Not only do you need to make a sequel, but it needs to feel like a part of what came before.
Certain series that are adapted from books do this quite well, The Hunger Games gave us a sequel that followed a very close formula to the first film, but with more gloss and higher production values, bigger stakes, and better characters. It felt like the natural progression of the story. The Scorch Trials, however, doesn’t feel like the natural next step from The Maze Runner, and because of that it’s so much better than its predecessor.
The first film centered on interpersonal drama, mystery, and an almost unseen threat, The Scorch Trials takes a step towards something grander, with the stakes being the survival of the planet, the threats being multiple, and the set pieces dwarfing what was done in the first film.
The maze is gone, replaced with a barren, desert landscape, filled with the ruined and decayed cities of the civilisations that came before. It’s post apocalypse time, and the series definitely benefits from it. As does it from a more obvious enemy for the Gladers to contend with.
This film sees our young heroes having to not only contend with Cranks, humans that have been mutated by the Flare Virus into zombie creatures with plant like vines growing out of them, but they’re also being hunted by WCKD (pronounced Wicked), an evil corporation with their own military.
The constant threat, from both humans and the infected, means that The Scorch Trials doesn’t get to slow down the same way that The Maze Runner did, though this doesn’t mean that the film misses out on character development. The new challenges facing the Gladers means that they’re tested in ways that they weren’t before, and the characters have to adapt and grow, creating some interesting new dynamics between the group, particularly with Teressa (Kaya Scodelario).
The Scorch Trials larger scope means that it’s also able to introduce more characters into the world, expanding not just the roster of heroes, but providing some much-needed back story and history to the films universe. These new additions work well in the film, particularly Rosa Salazar as Brenda, who feels a lot more natural as a love interest for Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) than Teresa did.
The only misstep in the new additions to the cast is Aidan Gillen as Janson, the representative of WCKD who tries to convince the heroes that they’re the good guys. Perhaps it’s just me, and this is largely down to something that has nothing to do with The Scorch Trials, but if you want to make me think that WCKD is on the up and up, don’t have their front man be played by Lord Baylish from Game of Thrones. No one is ever trusting that guy.
The Scorch Trials is a very different film to what came before it, yet feels like a natural progression to a story that is still something of a mystery. How this series will play out in its final part, whether it will continue on as in this film, or if it will make another big leap; and if we will be provided with all of the answers to the mysteries, remains to be seen, however, whatever is to come in The Death Cure is sure to be interesting.