304. Maze Runner: The Death Cure

★★★

Plagued with serious pacing issues and a relentlessly boring first act, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” still manages to leap, even when it stumbles. This is a movie acutely aware of exactly what it is and who it is for, a “Die Hard” meets “Resident Evil” mashup with a Young Adult twist. The dialogue, plot points and characters are soft enough for a 14-year-old to understand but sturdy enough to withstand an actual adult’s scrutiny. And as much as we want to call this nothing more than a second rate movie leeching off the “Hunger Games” success, we’re pleasantly surprised when we find out there’s actually some life in life in “Maze Runner: The Death Cure.”

Dylan O’Brien returns as Thomas, a beleaguered but steadfast young man who leads a group of rebels in a dystopian world where people are dying in mass from a widespread virus known as the “flare” To cure the “flare,” a malevolent organization known as WCKD has been experimenting on individuals who might hold the cure, many of whom are Thomas’ friends. So, Thomas and his followers task themselves with freeing the friends who are still being subject to WCKD’s inhumane methods of saving humanity.

Everything we watch in the first half of this movie is a complete snoozefest. Not for lack of action, but because of director Wes Ball’s inability to make that action seem worthwhile in any way. Short distances seem too long, long distances too short, with no sense of time or place. It’s no coincidence that the story picks up again when Thomas and his rebels finally make it beyond a city wall, a giant metaphor for the characters crossing a boring plot hurdle.

Then things get really fun. Guns go a-blazing, explosions happen everywhere, and Ball shows off his true skill of being able to create a sense of wonderful mayhem in a controlled environment. The special effects are on par with anything that you’ll see in a regular adult action flick, and the supporting crew show off their physical and dramatic chops. Kaya Scodelario channels remorse and regret as Teresa, Will Poulter commands hatred and hubris as Gally, Thomas Brodie-Sangster breathes earnestness and humility as Newt, and Rosa Salazar carries ample amount of strength and serenity as Brenda. Patricia Clarkson, Giancarlo Esposito and Aidan Gillen are also great in their roles, with Esposito as a father figure and hero the team, Gillen as their mastermind villain, and Clarkson ungracefully waddling between the lines of both.

Their characters are well-developed enough to feel like true human beings you would want to have a conversation with, but not overly complex that you wouldn’t care what they had to say. Some of the dialogue may be laughable, some of it is literally and unintentionally taken word-for-word from other action movies. One moviegoers push past that tedious first leg, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” then becomes a surprisingly entertaining and rewarding film, a worthy close on a franchise I now want to reopen.

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