It’s not always a bad thing to be the poor man’s version of something. The poor man’s Picasso, for example, may well be a mind-blowing painter in his own right. When you’re the poor man’s version of the Divergent film series, though, you’re in trouble, since Divergent itself is the poor man’s version of the Hunger Games.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure is the final instalment in this young-adult trilogy based on the novels of James Dashner, with all three movies being directed by Wes Ball. There are a few faces who will be familiar to wider audiences in The Death Cure, such as Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April) and Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan). The biggest name on the bill, however, may be one who came up through the Maze Runner films: Dylan O’Brien. O’Brien has played the Maze Runner’s lead character, Thomas, throughout the series, but recently broke big by starring opposite Michael Keaton in American Assassin.
The problem with Maze Runner: The Death Cure isn’t that it’s derivative. The problem is that it’s a complete rip-off of a dozen or so other films that came before it. Which is another way of saying there’s nary a new idea present in the movie, which is itself an alternate way of stating the simple but crucial fact that The Death Cure is boring.
Anyone who has watched cable TV for a week sometime in the last ten years will immediately recognize the origins of The Death Cure’s secondhand ideas. The opening action sequence is the bastard love child of The Fast and the Furious and Mad Max: Fury Road, with a little Con Air running around for good measure. Pieces of Zombieland are scattered about, and there’s even a scene at the midway mark that feels directly lifted from Blade Runner 2049 -- complete with eerie, rumbling synth soundtrack -- which is especially disconcerting given the fact that the new Blade Runner was just released a few months ago. Perhaps the filmmakers deserve some credit for ripping off a new movie so quickly, although The Death Cure’s target demographic might be more likely to see this as evidence of a mixtape culture -- they're not "ripping off," they're "sampling."
Maze Runner: The Death Cure features stodgy, workmanlike acting; cheap, lifeless CGI; and been-there-done-that teen-dystopian storytelling -- and does it all with a remarkable lack of style. The film isn’t exactly a farce or a disaster, but it’s something the world doesn’t need. We can all watch the Hunger Games when we want angsty teen sci-fi, or Divergent when we want to slum in that landscape and we’re feeling cheap. Whatever strange itch these franchises scratch, there are better choices out there than the Maze Runner series.
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