Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is directed by Wes Ball who was also behind the cameras for the first installment of the franchise which is based on novels written by James Dashner. The movie stars Dylan O'Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Alexander Flores, Jacob Lofland, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson, Aiden Gillen, Lili Taylor, Barry Pepper, and Alan Tudyk.
Leading straight in from the previous film, the survivors of the Glade maze are taken into a shelter by a man named Janson (Gillen) who claims to be fighting against the powerful organization known as WCKD or "wicked". Thomas (O'Brien), Teresa (Scodelario), and the other survivors quickly discover their new safe haven may not be exactly what Janson has been leading them to believe and, with the help of some new allies, they escape from the facility and set out to find a rebel faction known as the "Right Hand" who have been rumored to be freeing young captives like themselves. Once they are out and free from their would be captors, they discover the outside to be barely inhabitable and filled with new dangers at every turn.
After watching the first film just once and shortly after it had come out, I remember it being pretty good but nothing real memorable or outstanding so I went back and read my review. The final thing I wrote in that review was "Here's to hoping they can take things up a few notches in the next installment" and, after watching the sequel, I would have to say they creators achieved that goal. Everything in this film is bigger and the stakes are raised even higher as we learn more and more about what the heck is going on. There are still a lot of mystery and intrigue which means more explaining and talking about what has already happened (see: exposition) although Wes Ball really does a good job of running through some pretty solid action sequences to balance it all out.
This film will still remind you a lot of The Hunger Games, but the story is really starting to gain some traction even as it treads a lot of familiar territory. Now that we've had a chance to get to know the characters, there is more of an investment in each of them individually which makes things really interesting during some moments where you're not quite sure who may be playing both sides to their advantage. Out of anyone in the cast, I feel like Dylan O'Brien has really stepped up his game and is becoming a bonafide star and potential leading man in much the same way Jennifer Lawrence has done the same thing with her turn as Katniss Everdeen. It's also nice to see new faces like Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, and Aiden Gillen thrown in as each of them brings some very entertaining moments and will certainly be very important t the story as it moves towards what will hopefully be an exciting conclusion.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is a surprisingly good film that take everything from the first installment in the franchise and improves on it by leaps and bounds. I have not read the books and really know nothing about them so I hope people more familiar with the story are as happy with the end result as I am. For a science fiction movie that tries to be a big action spectacle, it's actually the weight of the story that carries the movie and makes for a satisfying transition from the first film to whatever the next installment will have in store.