Franchise Fix: The Maze Runner & Maze Runner: Scorch Trials


Director: Wes Ball

Writers: Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, T. S. Nowlin (screenplay), James Dashner (novel)

Stars: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter

3/5

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Release date: September 19th, 2014

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Country: USA

Running time: 113 minutes


The Maze Runner is yet another entry in the long, unending line of young adult franchise adaptations. Adapting dense, overwhelming content from stage to screen, cinematic YA series’ have to appease the desires of fans, studio executives, and authors. They go one of two ways: critically and commercially successful (The Hunger Games) or flat on their faces (Divergent).

The Maze Runner was seen as one of 2014’s biggest surprises. Overcoming the YA too-many-at-once stigma, this action flick surpassed the majority of YA fluff to deliver on its promises. The plot kicks off in the thick of the action, with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) waking up in a steel cage being transported to the maze. After meeting key players, including antagonist Gally (Will Poulter), second in command Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and Runner Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Thomas pieces together the system of operations (the ‘Glade’) along with his shattered consciousness.

As the contemporary version of Lord of the Flies, The Maze Runner is one of few YA flicks to connect with a wider audience. Along with our leads, the audience is trapped in the labyrinthine maze setting throughout the 113-min run-time. Like many YA adaptation, the plot relies on world building and exposition to break down its central premise. Giving every aspect a peculiar title (Glade, Grievers etc.), the film never strays too far away from YA convention.

The film is hindered by its third act, explaining the significance of the maze and its place in the dystopian world. However, it benefits from its action-thriller aura. From first-time feature director Wes Ball, the action sequences illustrate the scope and sense of danger the maze offers. As the ultimate obstacle course, the maze sequences add some much needed thrills and chills. Its cast of bright, young actors make the most the somewhat laughable material.

The Maze Runner, the opening chapter of a promising trilogy, is a fun YA adaptation perfect for a Saturday afternoon.

Verdict: A surprisingly enjoyable YA adaptation. 


Director: Wes Ball

Writers: T. S. Nowlin (screenplay), James Dashner (novel)

Stars: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Ki Hong Lee

3/5

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Release date: September 18th, 2015

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Country: USA

Running time: 131 minutes


Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the second instalment of author James Dashner’s franchise, was released at the tail end of 2015’s blockbuster season. Coming off a surprisingly fun first entry, the sequel could have gone either way. Thankfully, the sequel successfully continues this still-promising series.

The Scorch Trials picks up immediately after the events of the 2014 original. Rescued by an unnamed squadron, led by Janson (Aidan Gillen), Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Frypan (Dexter Darden), and Winston (Alexander Flores) finally feel safe. However, Thomas discovers that their new home is owned by powerful organisation WCKD (led by Paige (Patricia Clarkson)), tasked with testing children to find a cure for a deadly worldwide disease. Escaping from the facility, our leads must face the dystopian wasteland to find the resistance (called Right Arm).

The sequel doubles down on everything, delivering an increased amount of exposition, plot twists, flashbacks, and action sequences. The plot, in true blockbuster sequel fashion, lurches from one major set-piece to the next. This middle chapter merely delivers more of the same; carrying the difficult task of continuing the events of the original whilst building towards the third chapter (The Death cure, due for release in 2017). As an extension, this instalment aptly, but unremarkably, sets up the MacGuffins and conflicts for the future.

On its own, this instalment serves to depict the scope and increasing danger of the series’ dystopian setting. The film becomes an extended obstacle course – jumping between chases, gunfights, and fist-fights against WCKD personnel and zombie populations in the Scorch. Dylan O’Brien and Ki Hong Lee pull off the standard action movie running style. Our characters grow ever so slightly in between moments of awe and spectacle. However, with character actors including Giancarlo Esposito, Lili Taylor, and Barry Pepper joining the cast, screen time becomes scarce.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is a successful but ultimately underwhelming follow-up to the pacy original.

Verdict: A fun follow-up. 

Podcast: Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2


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Podcast 2:

Podcast: Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 1


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Podcast:

Franchise Fix – The Dark Knight Trilogy


Well, as far as superhero-action movies go, we have come to this point in our epic saga. Unquestionably, this genre has reached its proverbial peak. Certain entries, defying extreme expectations, have taken it upon themselves to stand out. How are they different exactly? They, above all else, have soared, dipped, punched, and stretched to elevate themselves above the meandering competition. So, what separates a Captain America from a Ghost Rider? It all starts with the seed of an idea, before growing it into an all-encompassing entity.

Nowadays, forced to pay ridiculous ticket prices, the average film-goer determines each superhero flick’s chances of success. To succeed, you need to deliver an action flick people will go see more than once. However, the other side of the coin is one of torrential, Twitter-fuelled critical comments and poor box-office performances. Of course, top spot on the superhero franchise podium belongs to the Dark Knight trilogy. Despite varying in quality between efforts, Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s trilogy series has sparked a wave of darker, meatier blockbusters. With that said, each instalment delivers significant highs and debilitating lows. Like the caped crusader, however, they all manage to pick themselves up.

3. The Dark Knight Rises

As the highly anticipated franchise capper, The Dark Knight Rises had a helluva lot to live up to. Resting on Nolan and co.’s previous successes, the final product had the potential to be the best of the series. However, with rumours, videos, and images threatening to spoil the movie’s intricate plot, it seemed destined to continue the trend of underwhelming third instalments in superhero franchises. Fittingly, after its mega-successful release, this instalment was met with polarising reactions from critics, fans, and common film-goers.

Some people, looking past minor quarrels, saw fit to compliment Nolan for completing his game-changing franchise. Sadly, however, many people felt the opposite. Criticising villain Bane’s vocal patterns, the leaps in logic, and egregious run-time, this instalment’s detractors nearly threw it into the Spider-Man 3/X-Men: The Last Stand/Blade: Trinity pit of doom. Thanks to Nolan’s seminal final Batman flick’s mixed response, The Dark Knight Rises comes off as the trilogy’s third best instalment.

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Bane vs. Batman vs. Gotham’s soul.

With that said, I said “third best” and not “worst” for a reason. With minor plot-holes and character faults getting in many people’s way, the movie delivers more-than-enough positives. Nolan, at the very least, should be admired for pulling off such a gargantuan trilogy capper. In fact, the movie, thanks to its emotional heft and stunning performances, is more dystopian drama than superhero extravaganza. With Bane’s spectacular introduction pitting man against machine, this instalment seemed destined to follow charismatic characters through a dire journey. Of course, despite Bane’s raw power and regal presence, you can’t go past Christian Bale’s scintillating turn as a dilapidated Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Providing his best Caped Crusader performance, Bale’s energy and purposeful mannerisms propel his extraordinary character arc here. With an 8-year hiatus, Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Alfred’s betrayal, and Bane’s might to deal with, Wayne’s raw determination pushes him ahead of this instalment’s other well-drawn heroes and villains.

2. Batman Begins

Before the era of reboots, reboots, and more reboots, one origin tale took it upon itself to change the system. Batman Begins, introducing the average cinema-goer to a sickeningly dark version of the Caped Crusader, did its job in delivering something fresh and original for its time. In an age of sugar-coated blockbusters, this reboot opened the doors to several superhero origin movies willing to embrace their characters’ first ventures into crime fighting and personal discoveries.

The narrative, as usual for superhero reboots, kicks off with a younger version of the titular figure. Refreshingly so, his friendship with family friend Rachel Dawes kicks off this transcendent and touching superhero-action flick. With a child’s innocence smashing into said child’s greatest fears, the opening delivers an appropriate leap off the blocks. From there, Batman Begins falls into a pit of despair and anger. With a thirty-something Wayne (Christian Bale) meeting wise nobleman Ras Al Ghul (Liam Neeson), the lead’s journey transforms him from a rebellious fighter into an intriguing symbol of hope.

Batman Begins – the Caped Crusader’s true origin story.

Tackling several  weighty issues, Batman Begins looks into its own soul and examines Batman’s undying aura. With an arresting story wrestling with a claustrophobic atmosphere, this uncompromising thriller aims higher than whiz-bang effects and generic genre twists. From the first Batman sequence onwards, Christopher Nolan presents this fan favourite DC character as a philosophically bruised anti-hero willing to destroy anyone in his way. Like its sepia-esque colour palette, the tone pushes us into each gloriously dour setting. Fusing his Memento/Insomnia darkness with the comic series’ free-flowing nature, Batman Begins threw Nolan into another realm of fame and possibility.

Despite all this, it’s the cast members involved which divert Batman Begins from the Summer tent-pole blur.  Rounded out by Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy, the movie’s talented ensemble brought Oscar-calibre vibes to this intensifying superhero adventure. With movies like Man of Steel and The Incredible Hulk borrowing ideas and sequences from Nolan’s first Bat-flick, Batman Begins, 9 years on, still stands up to intense scrutiny.

1. The Dark Knight

I know, it’s a complete cliché to place The Dark Knight on top of any kind of ‘Best of…’ list. I’ll admit, my extreme infatuation with this feature might be clouding my judgement. However, I think I speak for a helluva lot of people when I proclaim this action-drama to be the best action movie of the past 10 years. Up there with the likes of There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men, this superhero flick is an instant classic that future generations will discover and fall in love with the way we all did. The Dark Knight, Nolan’s magnum opus, is a triumph on every level.

Thanks to scintillating action sequences and pitch-perfect performances, this sequel proves itself worthy of repeat viewings and intense analysis. From the opening back heist sequence onwards, this superhero flick establishes itself as an unbeatable and transcendent. Despite soaring above and beyond the competition, the movie intrinsically examines the evils of good and the strengths of evil. As our characters stand on a knife’s edge, Gotham City’s newest resident seeks to turn everything inside out. Painting each character in shades of grey, The Dark Knight matches crime-thrillers like The Departed and Heat point for point.

Heath Ledger’s momentous portrayal of the Joker.

Of course, credit belongs to Nolan for elevating the genre from its cartoonish roots to a more mature and meaningful place. taking a real-world approach to the Cape Crusader, The Dark Knight  amicably discusses the consequences of vigilantism. Is Batman doing right by the citizens or his own sense of valour? The movie’s greatest moments belong to Batman’s fight against the Joker (Heath Ledger) and Harvey Dent/Two Face (Aaron Eckhart). With Gotham’s tug of war becoming increasingly violent, The Dark Knight lets loose on our society’s fragile world view. Wayne’s ego, now interlocking with his motivations, seeks to push him towards hanging up the cape and cowl. Establishing connections between Wayne, Alfred (Caine), and Lucius Fox (Freeman), the quieter moments cement this movie’s place in the annals of blockbuster cinema.

Despite delivering thorough questions and answers, The Dark Knight dons a core entertainment value at opportune moments. Blissfully so, the action sequences reach sky-high levels of fun. The Bat-pod chase through Gotham ends with pure gusto and awe-inspiring technical savvy. The truck flip alone is cause for celebration. By breaking up the light and dark moments, The Dark Knight proves its own worth as a momentous turning point for blockbuster filmmaking.

Ps. check out this video, it sums up everything awesome and immaculate about this series! Enjoy!