The Scorch Trials (Blu-Ray Review)

Scorch TrialsFollowing the footsteps of The Hunger Games and DivergentThe Maze Runner joins the ranks of the dystopian YA mega-franchise schlock with it’s second film, The Scorch Trials. As is the standard for such franchises, The Scorch Trials promises to be bigger and better, yet it fails on almost all fronts in such spectacular fashion. Wrought with incredibly bland, cliche, and uninteresting characters the movie struggles to dredge up any sympathy from the audience during its most tense moments. Even with the welcome addition of fresh faces the film never really seems to challenge any of its protagonists in any developing or meaningful way. Devolving into a mediocre and derivative blend of zombie action, rebel rousing, and teenage angst the movie fails to fully commit to any of these ideas. As if a strangely self referential metaphor for its own lack of coherence, most of the screen time is committed to the characters running frantically, looking for purpose and direction in a bleak and uninspired wasteland. 

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Immediately following the events of the previous installment, the movie airlifts our heroes out of the maze and over a desert to a mysterious military compound. Landing outside, we find the compound under the siege of zombie-esque assailants, which pour out of the desert in dizzying numbers. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his friends are quickly rushed inside with the door locked behind them. Enter Janson (Aiden Gillen), the enigmatic benefactor who runs the installation.  With the urgency quickly resolved and our heroes able to rest their heads, we settle in and watch as the heroes are given medical evaluations and fresh food. Theresa (Kaya Scodelario) is almost immediately sequestered from the rest of the group. Thanks to Thomas’ deep distrust of authority figures we quickly discover the true nature of the facility. Following the revelation, Thomas convinces his fellowship to free Theresa and escape. Moving with a veracious pace, the audience is ejected from the facility and out into the titular and ominous ” Scorch” within the first 30 minutes.

There’s a whole lot to digest in the first act of the film, and it can be particularly unforgiving if you don’t fully recall the ending of the last film. If your memory is a little fuzzy, here is a brief summary: The world fell victim to a catastrophic series of solar flares which destroyed most of society. To exacerbate the situation, a strange new disease called the Flare virus has emerged. The Flare results in people becoming insane, delirious, and incredibly violent. To combat this new threat the WCKD (pronounced Wicked), or World Containment Killzone Department, is established. The head of WCKD is Doctor Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson), a key figure throughout both films. Dr. Paige reveals that the entire purpose of the maze was to find a cure to the Flare virus. If memory serves correctly, this is exactly how modern society eliminated polio. The Flare virus gives the heroes incredible medical value as they(along with other teenagers) are supposedly immune to it. How or why such a convoluted, not to mention incredibly expensive, experiment is necessary to research the Flare is never explained with any coherent satisfaction. Given how necessary the resolution of first film is to the plot of The Scorch Trials it seemed a disservice not to give the audience a refresher on the world we’re about to enter voluntarily for a second time.

The characters flail and run spasmodically throughout most of the second act and their interactions never really reinforce their shared plight or kinship. Moments that should have offered more characterization fall flat and add nothing to the audiences relationship to the heroes. This could not be more evident then when confronted with a cliche decision of how to handle a recently infected member of the group. Succumbing to his wounds, Winston (Alexander Flores) decides he should be left behind with a pistol allowing him to end his life on his terms. The situation evokes so little in the characters that the audience is left with no reason to care either. One top of that Theresa doesn’t have a meaningful line for an entire 40 minutes. So drab and underdeveloped are the characters of Thomas and Theresa that their time on screen feels completely unwarranted. The more colorful and interesting characters of Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Minho (Ki Hong Lee) take a backseat, which is a real shame as their characters feel far more fleshed out and realized. For all the high stakes the movie sets out to make without the vitality of interesting characters the audience is never given any particularly strong reason to sympathize (a problem I found with The Maze Runner, as well).

Thomas’ confounding hyper-competence, unwavering confidence, and physical prowess continues to aid him outside of the maze and into the scorch. The number of times Thomas is complimented, fawned over, and praised are flabbergasting. Thomas’ character is so utterly dissatisfying to watch. He is never seen struggling with the decisions he makes (mostly because every single decision he makes turns out to be the right one). In the first film we were at least exposed to skepticism of Thomas’ abilities in the form of Gally (Will Poulter). The Scorch Trials not only has Thomas acting with unobstructed self-righteous vigor, we have an entire choir of characters singing his praise as if he’s the second coming made flesh. Even the villains desperately urge Thomas to join their cause during the climax towards the end of the film. The fact that the audience is never given an opportunity to see Thomas in a place of emotional vulnerability the end result is complete indifference towards his character.

The true focus of the film seems to be introducing the audience to the world of The Scorch Trials. The uninspired landscape is home to hostile zombie like derivations known colloquially as “cranks”. Victims of the Flare virus, Cranks are incredibly contagious and dangerous entity that attack any none infected individual on site. The cranks are so blatantly underdeveloped that the film can’t even seem to commit wholly to their design and aesthetic. In the beginning they’re portrayed as madmen similar to 28 Days Later. Later in the film, Brenda and Thomas stumble on a kind of advanced crank nest, the denizens of which bear odd plant like protuberances and look strikingly like the infected from The Last of Us.

By the end of The Scorch Trials it’s difficult not to feel completely disinterested in The Maze Runner universe, at least from a film perspective. Nothing ever seems to fully resolve and the entire film loses it’s footing fairly early on by dumping almost all of it’s key plot points and exposition within the first 20 minutes. While the new faces were welcome additions, none of them add to the story or the existing characters in any memorable way. Slow and arduous, The Scorch Trials feels like an utterly unnecessary chapter in an already mediocre franchise. Here’s to hoping the aptly named next installment The Death Cure coming in 2017 can salvage what’s left of this story.

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Encoding: AVC @ 23 MBPS

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 (Widescreen)

Clarity/Detail: Clean and polished throughout. Lighting is handled particularly well and adds character to a lot of the locales. The later CG monster scenes suffer in the more well lit areas though.

Depth: Interior scenes are purposely claustrophobic, where grandiose and epic outdoor scenes are empty and isolating.

Black Levels: The movie is mostly well lit, with a few purposeful exceptions. The darker scenes work well and keep the action within view of the audience.

Color Reproduction: The colors in this movie are actually one of it’s greatest strengths. Utilizing rich blues and oranges and reds in certain scenes to help add to the ambiance and feel of the environment. Unfortunately this quality only really comes into effect with the interior spaces. The exterior spaces, particularly the city, are less saturated.

Flesh Tones: Skin looks like skin.

Noise/Artifacts: None that were noticeable. For all intents and purposes this movie is done with the same polish and finish of other YA franchises.

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Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Spanish, French

Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

Dynamics: Use of dynamic sound works particularly well in the more action oriented scenes.

Low Frequency Extension: You definitely know when there’s action on the screen, particularly when the bad guys show up towards the end.

Surround Sound Presentation: Similar to LFE. Most of the ambient sound comes during the action, but when it’s happening it certainly has impressive audio presence.

Dialogue Reproduction: All the dialogue is captured very well and easily understood. You’ll hear in glorious clarity every strained syllable of Aiden Gillen’s lines.

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Includes a DVD and Ultraviolet Digital copy of the film.

  • Janson’s Report – CLASSIFIED Debriefing Videos (4:57) – Short episode featuring Aiden Gillen’s strained american accent and interviews with each of the characters shortly after their rescue.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary (17:58) – Several scenes that didn’t make the final cut, including a food fight.
  • Secrets of the Scorch: 6-part Documentary (52:15) – A documentary revolving around the making of The Scorch Trials. Features commentary from the author which may spark interest for any fans of the book series.
  • Gag Reel (15:02) – Cast and crew goofing around.
  • Visual Effects Reel (29:55) – Shot by shot display of how the visual effects were overlayed throughout the film.
  • Concept Art and Storyboards (images) – Drawings and digital paintings of the various environments and creatures. The laborious menu makes it difficult to get through the entire gallery without monumental effort and will.
  • Exclusive Comic Book – Features two mini-stories, The Zealot and A Father of Three. The Zealot actually adds some much needed character to Theresa and honestly should have been incorporated into the film. A Father of Three is a fairly unexceptional tragedy focused on one of the cranks, with no real bearing on the plot of the film.

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Unless if you’re a die-hard fan of the books, The Scorch Trials will be sure to leave you unimpressed. With it’s inconsistent pacing, hole-ridden plot, clunky exposition, and uninteresting characters, this viewer found it unremarkable and often boring. The overall score would have been a 2.5, but the included comic book earned this package a 3.0.


Understanding that all great people are their own masters, Jerad left his family at a young age and grew up naked in the woods. He was discovered in 2010 by authorities while rummaging through the trash of a local Outback Steakhouse. He has since been rehabilitated and now lives a life of normalcy with his wife and two cats.

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