Sunday 20 September 2015

Review: Maze Runner - The Scorch Trials (second-pass)

World of Blackout Film Review

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Poster

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (4DX / second-pass / SPOILERS)
Cert: 12A / 131 mins / Dir. Wes Ball / Trailer
WoB Rating: 6/7

As I've already seen this movie recently, and as I thoroughly enjoyed it once again but find myself with little add to my previous words, I'm going to use this review to ask flippant-sounding but genuine plot-based questions (the answers to which could well be in the film, but that I've therefore missed twice), and to talk about the film's 4DX enhancement. Spoilers follow, obviously…

• Right, how come if the base the which escaped Gladers are taken to also holds the inhabitants of other mazes, none of these mazes are visible from the WCKD headquarters at the end of the first film when they view their own from the helicopter? Surely it would be more practical to have them all arranged in a circle with the controlling HQ in the centre?

• If, out of all the young inhabitants, Aris is said to have been there the longest (which is about a week), why would all the experiments end at the same time? The events of The Maze Runner couldn't have occurred in the other mazes by virtue of the fact that Thomas wasn't a regular participant in The Glade. If Aris has indeed only been there a week, how come when he later meets his former maze-mates, they've been able to not only escape the base, but find and join resistance group The Right Arm, and become fully trustworthy, gun-carrying members? And since his former associates are female, was Aris's maze mixed-sex, or was he a rogue-male dropped in at the end of the program?
(Although again, 'rogue-female' Teresa wasn't a regular subject for The Glade, so we shouldn't assume that's a standard part of the experiment. Leaving a bunch of mixed-sex teenagers to their own devices in an otherwise secluded woodland area doesn't sound like the most productive way to cure a virus, but hey - I'm not a scientist)

• How come when The Gladers finally escape, no-one in Janson's group thinks of checking the spacious, abandoned shopping-mall which is literally within-sight of the base? Sure, it's full of zombies, but that's when Janson and his chums could just wait for the kids to be flushed out, surely?

• And most importantly, how come Janson selects each day's lucky volunteers by reading just their first-names from a list? On the first day he calls "Peter" and one kid stands up. The next day he calls "David" and one stands up. There are two Daves in my office alone, and only nine people work in there...

Never mind, I'm sure all those questions (and more) will be answered with the next movie, right? Oh. Anyway, the real talking point of the day was the enhancement of the film's presentation, in the only 4DX screen in the UK (the only one in Western Europe, in fact). 4DX is an in-theatre entertainment system incorporating individual seats (in banks of four) which sway, vibrate and have individually selectable 'pressure' pads, all of which features are activated by the film's corresponding action-track in the control booth to simulate the sensation of fight-scenes, car rides, helicopter rotors etc. Additionally, air-jets by the viewer's head and legs simulate gunfire and close motion movements, a fine water-spray can be used during rain/storms, odour emitters can be activated to accompany scenes where smells would be prevalent (eg coffee, rain, gardens etc), smoke-machines at the front of the cinema enhance scenes of dust or fog, and single-flash strobe-lights in the ceiling are activated during the moments of lightning or explosions.

Sounds distracting? It is. Sorry, guys. The jury's still out on the long-term potential verdict, but the friends I was with each had their own gripes and grumbles (many of which overlapped) and while I'm open to it in principle, I don't actually think it's quite right for the Maze Runner sequel. Similar to the D-Box system (which is seat-movements only), the extra-sensory enhancements are programmed by the 4DX company in Korea rather than the film studios themselves, and while they're meticulously matched to the action on-screen, the system is only ever going to be a bolt-on extra to the film you're watching.

At no point will a film director give the instruction "Okay, when the scene begins, I want you to come into shot slowly from behind those barrels, crouching and with your gun held out at full-stretch. But remember, the audience won't be able to see you for a couple of seconds because of the smoke pouring out of from underneath the screen", or "Don't worry about balancing the lighting during the storm scene Terry; every time there's a strike, the lights will flash up in the cinema making anything that's on-screen far too pale for about half a second while the audience's eyes adjust…".

In ascending order of annoyance:
Water-Spray: Not used in this film (additionally, this is the one feature you can turn off at your seat).
Smell-o-vision: Barely noticed it (although others I was with said they did, infrequently).
Shaking/swaying/'punching' seats: I quite liked this (as I did for Ant-Man), but it takes some adjusting to, particularly when the film opens in full-throttle as it does with The Scorch Trials.
Wind-machine/jets The soft-breeze effect was nice in the windy-scenes, the leg-jets were faintly distracting, but the head-height jets which accompanied the shootouts make a "pffff!" sound each time which, in such proximity to your ears, is pretty much as loud as the gunfire on-screen, and gives you the impression that the characters are firing Nerf-guns at each other.
Smoke-machine: Irritating and distracting. Not only does the audience hear the "hssss!" of the vents, the smoke in the air then catches the light from the projector, creating a lightly glowing cloud around the bottom of the screen. I hate to think how this looks from the front couple of rows.
Lightning-flashes: As implied in the previous paragraph, this is inexcusable. Not only does the light make the screen so pale as to be momentarily un-viewable, but there's an object on the left-hand side between the bulb and the screen so that it casts a massive shadow every time if flashes. I don't want to see the inside of the auditorium while the film is playing. At all. That's why you lower the lights in the first place.

In short: Anything which distracts the audience from the film they've paid money to watch is a bad thing; much like 3D in general, 4DX will never improve a bad movie, but it could well spoil a good one (luckily it didn't this time, but that's largely because I've already seen it). If I want all those bells and whistles in the future, I'll go on one of those simulators you get in theme-parks, thanks.

The film's bloody good, though...

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
If you've seen the first movie (and recently), yes.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
A rental if you're not already eager, a buy-er if you're a fan anticipating a full-on marathon.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Young Dylan's great but I think his best is yet to come, and not necessarily within this franchise.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Expands the story of The Maze Runner without retreading a single step? Yes.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
The Scorch Trials stars Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who also featured in 2005's Nanny McPhee, as did Celia 'Bravo-Five' Imrie.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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