The Maze Runner film series is one that primarily features dystopian action and nonstop thrills. The final film of the series, The Death Cure, certainly functions by that mantra, and so does its musical score. Composed by John Paesano, who has composed scores for the entire series, this particular score lives and dies by the intense emotions portrayed on the silver screen.
The Death Cure begins by establishing the sheer barren landscape that our story is set in. This is something it carries along well from the setting of the previous films. We see a single, dilapidated vehicle speeding across this landscape towards an electrifying rescue of some of WCKD’s test subjects from a train. This opening sequence sets in motion a visually and internally electrifying narrative that does not let up until the film’s climax and the series’ ultimate resolution. In other words, the tone of the film is set perfectly. This tone would not exist without Paesano’s musical pairing. “Rescue” is cued as the film begins. It is initially very quiet, but broods and builds into a heavily rhythmic force comprised of strings, brass, and percussion, all scored on very percussive rhythms.
Rather than caving to the stereotypes of most other blockbuster scores, Paesano composed a fantastic mix of driving, thickly orchestrated cues and poignant thematically based cues.
Many action cues such as “Rescue”, “Closing In”, “Let’s Go”, and “The Lion’s Den” meld with the action on screen perfectly through their exciting rhythms and tense orchestrations. All of these cues utilise accented, rhythmic strings, extended percussion techniques on piano and drums, and swelling brass. The fast-paced, electrifying story goes hand in hand with these cues. The action music of this score never lets up, just like the action on the screen.
On the other hand, as this film is the climax of a series, heart-rending, human moments occur often for the characters. In these moments, Paesano’s score demonstrates a fine contrast from the aforementioned wild action music. Cues for these moments, such as “The Virus”, “Visions of Thomas”, and “Please Tommy, Please”, prominently utilise the strings and piano in a slow and delicate manner. They rise and expand out of the difficult decisions and tight-knit friendships that are on display as the narrative moves along. The careful melodies chosen for these instruments in these cues enhance the feelings of the characters in the hearts of the audience immensely.
The musical themes that I found most present in this score were those associated with the virus and with Thomas’ character. The virus theme is introduced first in the “The Virus” cue on ethereal piano and strings. Gripping chromaticism personifies the corrupted nature of the human body when affected by the virus, and sliding strings demonstrate the pain of those affected by and those forced to witness the virus.
Thomas’ theme is introduced almost immediately in the film through the “Rescue” cue. It is very appropriately found in heroic brass above adventurous strings. Thought it is mostly heard over action cues, it is also heard in emotional cues accompanying moments of friendship such as “Please Tommy, Please”.
The overall level of nuance in this score is outstanding. A score that is well-written is enhanced ten fold when it is cued well by the producers and directors, and Paesano’s score benefits on both counts. The way the action music is composed and the moments it is cued in suit The Death Cure so well. The moving, emotional music is composed and cued very sharply. These elements of the combination of this score and the film make this conclusion to the Maze Runner film series hugely effective in the sentiments of excitement and empathy it seeks to convey. Paesano has produced top notch work that aids this film franchise in being successful in every way.