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'Maze Runner: The Death Cure' puts a bow on the fading teen dystopian genre

(L-R) Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Cranks leader Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito), Frypan (Dexter Darden) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar). (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)

Maze Runner: The Death Cure
3 out of 5 Stars
Director:
Wes Ball
Writer: T.S. Nowlin (screenplay), James Dashner (novel)
Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, and some thematic elements

Synopsis: A deadly sickness called “Flare” is slowly transforming the masses into flesh-hungry zombies. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and a small group of loyal friends team up with an underground organization trying to infiltrate a walled-off fortress of a city where scientists continue to use the uninfected youth in deadly medical experiments in hopes of discovering the reason why some are immune to the fast-spreading disease.

Review: I liked “The Maze Runner,” it felt different enough from all the other dystopian stories that were being peddled to teens, told an interesting story and didn’t ever go off the rails. Well, not until the end of the second film. “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” was disappointing in that it left a great amount of the franchise's uniqueness in the maze as our heroes found themselves out in the familiar ruins of the world. I didn't dislike “The Scorch Trials,” but its mediocrity mixed with an ending that felt like it was pulled out of a hat left me feeling like they should have stopped after the first film.

Luckily, “The Death Cure” is far more enjoyable than “The Scorch Trials.” It still isn’t on par with the first film, but offers a fine conclusion for those who were still clamoring for the long-delayed final chapter. Its ideas aren’t particularly original and the narrative is overly packed with happy coincidences that diminishes the film’s ability to sustain any sense of tension. It’s a fun ride, but it rarely feels dangerous. It wants to be menacing, but is all bark and no bite. Even when they go full tilt towards the end, the film lacks the emotional weight to stick the landing. I cared about these characters once, but they’ve simply become cogs in the narrative wheel at this point.

If you’re looking for a film that isn’t entirely mindless, but doesn’t require its audience to do much more than simply kick back and watch, then “The Death Cure” will prove to be a decent distraction. However, if you are looking for something different, you’re going to find that anything that initially set the franchise apart was left behind in the first film. If you’re looking for a film that isn’t entirely mindless, but doesn’t require its audience to do much more than simply kick back and watch, then “The Death Cure” will prove to be a decent distraction. However, if you are looking for something different, you’re going to find that anything that initially set the franchise apart was left behind in the first film.

Considering the diminishing returns on teenage dystopian fiction, "The Death Cure" might signal the end of films inspired by the success of The Hunger Games franchise. Considering how few of those movies were inventive, that might not be a bad thing.

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