After escaping the Maze and learning that the world has fallen prey to an apocalyptic virus known as ‘the Flare’, Thomas and his fellow ‘immunes’ are taken to an apparent safe house. However, all is not what it seems as they all learn how precious they are to the plight of the human race, and how far some will go to ensure survival.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015) – Director: Wes Ball

is maze runner scorch trails suitable for children movie poster

Rating: 12

Running Length: 131 mins

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Aiden Gillan

Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Horror

REVIEW

The first instalment of the Maze Runner series (released last year; read our review here), managed to blend teen dystopian fiction with a compelling ‘Lord of the Flies’ style society. Unfortunately, ‘The Scorch Trials’ throws out much of what made the opening to this series so successful, in favour of an endless assault of action sequences. Thankfully, there is still little in the way of forced melodrama or overly drawn out emotional conflict between the characters (unlike some of the movie’s peers, which revel in it) but, that said, there is also little in the way of camaraderie either.

By focusing on ever more elaborate chase sequences and all-out action, all characterisation gets ditched in favour of the next big sequence, leaving little time for anyone other than Thomas (O’Brien) to have space for their character to develop. As a result, the second Act of the movie limps along by force of will alone. However, like most young adult dystopian fiction, ‘The Scorch Trials’ is adept at revealing just enough mystery from the plot to keep you hooked in order to find out what happens next. And with a shift in tone towards a distinctly horror direction, there are many sections that will only be suitable for those with a strong disposition!

Whilst it is disappointing that the direction of the series has veered away from the subtle nuances it first showcased, there is no denying that the action sequences are visually stunning. Be it a panicked escape from a dark mall, infested by ‘Cranks’ ( zombie-like creatures) or climbing with desperation up a crumbling building, ‘The Scorch Trials’ has many sequences to keep you on the edge of your seat. And whilst there is little in the way of character arcs, what little adding of depth there is takes place in a satisfying third Act which will ensure that audiences will keep coming back for more.

IS ‘MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

During the opening scenes, the characters land in a helicopter and are attacked from all sides by running ‘Cranks’. Cranks are people who have been infected by a plague called ‘the Flare’ which renders them zombie-like; violent, infectious, and rotted. Soldiers open fire on them and there are shots of Cranks jerking as they get hit. Like zombies, Cranks do not respond to pain, and this scene is shot in the dark so little detail is seen, but the movie starts with this potentially scary moment.

When Thomas and Aris manage to sneak into a secret part of the facility they discover human experimentation. Several characters we haven’t been introduced to appear to be in a comatose state and are being held up by their heads whilst some sort of liquid is drained out of them. This is referred to later as ‘harvesting’. One character makes it clear that this process is intended to be inflicted on Thomas and his friends.

Thomas and the ‘Gladers’ (escapees from the previous Maze) take shelter in a disused shopping mall. A dead person is seen slumped on a chair with a plastic bag wrapped around his face. A lolling and rotten face is clearly visible. The mall is very spooky with tense music and dark lighting. The group are suddenly attacked by Cranks and have to run. The Cranks are highly aggressive; make screeching, snarling and wailing noises; and have diseased and pealing flesh. One character gets pinned down by a Crank who screams in the character’s face. The chase sequence is desperate and panicked and is sustained for around 10 minutes with many close-ups and jump shots. There will be other scenes like this later in the film (particularly big jump scares) and so if your child is unable to get through this sequence then we would not recommend the rest of the film as suitable.

Teresa has to change a top at one point and is seen in the background doing so. One character is looking before another moves his head away. No nudity is seen for Teresa, she is just changing her sweater.

One character decides to take a life and the other characters allow it to happen by passing them a gun. Each character is sad about this but the sadness is not sustained and there is little mourning. The scene itself is upsetting – although as there was little attention given to the character in question up to this point then any upset should be mild.

The Gladers come across a settlement of criminals who are intent on selling them. Cranks are used as ‘guard dogs’. Later, gunshots occur and one incidental character is shot in the back of the head whilst facing camera. There is no blood and the character was about to be violent themselves, so this is treated as a good thing.

Thomas and new character, Brenda, move through some underground tunnels, where Brenda refers to Cranks, stating, ‘Down here, they’ll be full term’. Cranks later attack and they are covered in vines and are even more rotten than previous Cranks. One grabs a rat and bites off its head – we see this in silhouette but blood does spurt. There is a prolonged and desperate chase sequence in which Thomas and Brenda fear for their lives. This sequence is extremely tense and very scary.

Thomas and Brenda have to enter a party in order to find someone. They are forced to drink what appears to be alcohol, but the drink is likely to also be drugged. As Thomas walked around the party he becomes very disoriented and worried. There are many scantily clad young women and he rejects their advances. He soon begins to hallucinate Cranks in the crowd and collapses.

Brenda tells Thomas a sad story about her young brother and he is very affected by this, as is she. In a later scene, Teresa tells Thomas about her mother who went insane, saying that she ‘took her eyes out’.

The climax of the movie has a lot of guns and explosions. For the most part, ‘good’ characters are tranquilised with a gun that sends electrocuting barbs out (this gun has featured throughout) whilst the ‘bad’ characters are killed, although the latter usually have their faces covered by masks so no suffering is seen. However, one sympathetic character is shot from behind and we see blood spreading rapidly, soaking into the character’s sweater. Another character is distraught and screams in anguish.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

There is no denying that ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials’ is a thrilling ride of exciting sequences which should appeal to teenagers. That said, unlike its predecessor, ‘The Scorch Trials’ has many scenes that are likely to be very scary for younger children, whilst also throwing in a much increased amount of bad language as well. In fact, it’s hard to reconcile that both movies are rated the same! Due to a deliberate refocus on horror elements, and the constant bad language throughout, we would not recommend this movie as suitable for any children under 12.

  • Violence: 3/5 (for the most part there is no blood, but there are instances of blood and people getting shot.)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (the stories told by Brenda and Teresa are upsetting)
  • Fear Factor: 5/5 (the Cranks are very scary and are given a lot of screen time)
  • Sexual Content: 1/5       
  • Bad Language: 5/5 (swearing is near constant in the movie with a moderate swear word used frequently. Otherwise, there is mild blasphemous cursing, one strong usage, and one character holds up their middle finger at another character)
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (Teresa’s story about her mother is quite disturbing, one character is punching another for information and states ‘I take it back, I DO enjoy hurting you’)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of manipulation, distrust, the fall of society, difficult medical choices, sacrifice, and ethics

Words by Mike Record

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