The Maze Runner ends with a cliffhanger, but at least the kids have escaped from the maze, thinking they’ve been rescued by commando-like rebels in a world where the sun has scorched the earth, killing most of mankind. Its sequel, The Scorch Trials, takes place immediately after the first film. The Gladers are now in a militarized safe house, but something doesn’t seem right. They learn there were many mazes and many kids, all of whom live in this militarized barracks. And each night, a group is taken away never to be seen again. This set up is certainly suspenseful through the first 15 minutes, but in the next scene, the whole thing flies off the rails.
The problem is in the movie’s premise: an organization called W.C.K.D., or “Wicked,” has gathered up all of these kids whose blood makes them immune to the plague and might help Wicked find a cure. But rather than just putting them into a coma right away and getting on with the harvesting, Wicked first decides to put these immune-types into a deadly man-made maze where many of them will be killed by robot scorpions. There’s no suggestion that dead kids are good for harvesting, so it makes no sense that Wicked would waste their precious blood in what amounts to a pointless game – albeit one that was the subject of the entire first film! We spent an entire movie wondering what the maze was, only to learn in the sequel that there was no point to it whatsoever.
What happens next in the film is that Thomas and his friends escape, like any sane people would who didn’t want to end up like pod people. The rest of the movie is a suspenseful and scary chase through a ruined world in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. But there is no more game or maze to be solved, only a mad dash to outrun the zombies and the forces of Wicked. Sort of like Zombieland, but without the humor.
Significantly, it appears the blood harvesting plotline is nowhere to be found. As a result, both the maze trial and this new trial make some sense. There is something about the survival of the fittest nature of these game-like tests that is relevant to the experiment. And it’s far more complicated than just putting these kids in a coma and harvesting their blood. More importantly, it has to be. Otherwise Wicked would just skip these silly games and get straight down to harvesting.
I cannot imagine why the filmmakers chose to make such an enormous break from the books. I hate when that happens, and it usually never ends well. Once the “Scorch Trials” are no longer a trial or a game, any logical tie between the two movies is broken. All we’re left with is a plot hole so big it swallows The Maze Runner. And that’s a shame. Standing alone, the second film is both scary and suspenseful, and the post-apocalyptic scenery, at times, is spectacular. But it was supposed to be a movie about maze runners, and it turns out there was never any logical purpose in the movies for that mysterious maze.
But these are just my thoughts, and maybe I’m missing something. So if you have a theory on how the maze still matters in the movies, as opposed to the books, I’m dying to know.