Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials film review - lightweight thrills for tweens with Hunger pangs

Undemanding but tense and visually rich, this adaptation of a teen fiction series rolls on without requiring much investment - but gives little in return.

Jacob Lofland, Alexander Flores and Dylan O'Brien in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. (20th Century Fox)

Jacob Lofland, Alexander Flores and Dylan O'Brien in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. (20th Century Fox)

The second in the series of film adaptations of the young adult fiction books by James Dashner is an easy-going, relatively light and mentally undemanding action flick, although a watch of the first film, or a read of the books, is required to make any sense of what’s happening on screen and why.

Set on a post-apocalyptic Earth in the aftermath of a huge solar flare and a deadly pandemic which has reduced humanity to scrambling, screeching mutants - nothing new if you’ve ever been Christmas shopping.

The series follows a group of young people as they attempt to escape WCKD, a shadowy organisation apparently intent on experimenting on the young to discover the secret behind their immunity to the virus, by venturing across scorched deserts and ruined cities to find a resistance group called the Right Hand.

Leading the group is Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), and the cast of young’uns includes Skins veteran Kaya Scodelario and Thomas Brodie-Sangster. Aidan Gillen - best known for his role as Littlefinger in Game of Thrones - turns up as Janson, the WCKD chief intent on harvesting each and every teenager left on the planet and Giancarlo Esposito - Breaking Bad’s Gus Fring - appears as Jorge, the leader of a band of outsiders living in the desert.

The first Maze Runner, true to its title, took place within a single maze created by WCKD, so it’s nice to see the cast get to stretch their legs a little and explore a vast desert landscape populated with nasties and nasty weather alike.

The scrapings of story offered by the first film are expanded upon a little, giving the events of both films a little more context, but by and large the film is undemanding on the brain, tense enough to stretch your nerves, and visually interesting enough to keep your eyes open.

However, in being undemanding, the film’s characters are given precious little time to develop and as such, The Maze Runner series pales in comparison with its closest running mate, The Hunger Games, in which as much time is given to investing emotional context in its characters as there is given to the action on screen.

The camaraderie between Thomas and his chums isn’t really all there until the terse conclusion, at which point things come together just in time to set things up for the third and final film, The Death Cure.

2/5