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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the second movie in the Maze Runner trilogy. Based on James Dashner's best-selling dystopian young adult novel, the film should attract teens (and adults) who are familiar with book series, as well as fans of star Dylan O'Brien (MTV's Teen Wolf). As in the first film, violence is the main issue, with characters being chased, shot at, bitten by gruesome zombie-like creatures, and more. There's a high body count as the result of shoot-outs, explosions, and even a self-inflicted wound (the suicide happens off screen, but the shot is heard). This installment has more strong language (less "shank" and more "s--t," "son of a bitch," "dumbass," etc.) than the previous movie, and there's also slightly more romance -- two characters even kiss (they're slightly drunk at the time) -- though it's not as prominent here as in the Divergent or The Hunger Games movies. Like the first movie, themes here include friendship, courage, and teamwork.
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What's the story?
MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS picks up shortly after the end of its predecessor, The Maze Runner: Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), Theresa (Kaya Scodelario), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), and the other surviving members of the Glade end up under the protection of Jansen (Aidan Gillen), who promises them they're safe from WCKD -- the organization that held them captive in the Maze. The kids meet teens from other Mazes; with the help of a new friend, Arris (Jacob Lofland), they discover things aren't what they seem, so they escape from Janson's control. Back on the run, they team up with rogue community leader Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) and his courageous teen charge Brenda (Rosa Salazar) to find the mysterious "Right Arm," an underground resistance group that allegedly saves immune kids and deposits them in a safe zone.
Is it any good?
As Thomas, O'Brien is once again charming and determined in this faithful, action-packed sequel to The Maze Runner. The plot and character development aren't quite as compelling as they were in the first movie (the set up of waking up and having no idea why you're stuck somewhere is usually inherently fascinating), but that's to be expected of a story where the main characters are mostly on the run. There isn't much time in between fighting off men with guns and zombie-like Cranks to explore the inner workings of how these characters are feeling. But there are a couple of sweet contemplative conversations between Thomas and his crew, as well as between Thomas and his new friend, Brenda, ably played by Salazar as a brave girl who's a good shot but is also vulnerable.
Unfortunately, with the introduction of new characters like Rosa and Jorge, there isn't as much focus on fan favorites Newt and Minho, and poor Theresa is reduced to a stereotype of the sad girl with secrets. Although the pulse-quickening action sequences are still well executed (and, in a couple of cases, downright anxiety-provoking), it's really the characters that made the first movie so enjoyable, and while this interim installment provides just enough intrigue and twists to make fans happy, it also starts to seem a bit too much like every other teen dystopian movie. Even the tension between Thomas and the ruthless WCKD chancellor, played with icy gusto by Patricia Clarkson, feels straight out of the Katniss-vs.-President Snow or Tris-vs.-Jeanine Matthews playbook.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of violent dystopian stories aimed at teenagers. What impact does the violence have in the story? Is it different to see violence rather than to read about it? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
This story doesn't have too many girls and women in it. How do you think the various female characters are portrayed? Would you consider them role models?
Fans of the book: Was the movie a faithful adaptation? What differences did you like, and which scenes from the book did you miss?
- In theaters: September 18, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: December 15, 2015
- Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Dylan O'Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
- Director: Wes Ball
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 131 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: extended sequences of violence and action, some thematic elements, substance use and language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.