Death Cure
"The Death Cure" has been highly anticipated since the first movie of the series premiered in 2014 (Image via 20th Century Fox)

‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ Marks the End of Dystopian YA Films

The ‘Maze Runner’ franchise comes to an end with the final installment, ‘The Death Cure,’ inspired by the novel written by James Daschner.
January 31, 2018
8 mins read

The massive box-office success of “The Hunger Games” in 2012 spawned a trend of films deriving from dystopian young adult novels, including the “Divergent” and “Maze Runner” series. Unlike “The Hunger Games,” however, the “Divergent” films failed to maintain an audience to the end of the series, resulting in its final movie never seeing production.

The “Maze Runner” films, on the other hand, did extremely well, despite having a smaller budget than the other movies like it. Its third and final installment in the series, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” hit theaters this past weekend, which finally prompted the young adult movie trend to reach a conclusion.

Originally slated for a 2017 release, “The Death Cure” halted production after star Dylan O’Brien suffered an on-set injury. According to the Hollywood Reporter, after being strapped on top of a moving vehicle, O’Brien suddenly came loose and hit another vehicle, resulting in injuries that included a “concussion, facial fracture and lacerations.” After watching the film’s opening scene, one can only imagine that it may have been the location of the accident.

Dylan O’Brien’s injuries caused the prolonged release date of the film (Image via SlashFilm)

The film begins with the protagonist, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), and his friends Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Frypan (Dexter Darden), Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito), Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and Vince (Barry Pepper) in a heist scene similar to that of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The gang attempts to retrieve Minho, a friend of Thomas, from the Glade, along with the other young kids taken by the WKCD organization for their immunity to the flare disease.

Once they successfully retrieve a cargo cart presumably containing Minho from the train, Thomas and his friends meet with alliances they made in the previous film titled “The Scorch Trials.” After realizing Minho wasn’t inside, Thomas is met with disappointment.

Of course, because it has been years since the premieres of the first and second films, it’s hard to keep up with every character on the screen. The audience spends the first half of the film trying to piece together plot details and the character significance from the previous installments.

Even the big reveal of a character presumed dead has little impact on viewers because they simply can’t remember him. So unless audience members watched “The Maze Runner” and “The Scorch Trials” right before watching “The Death Cure,” references could easily fly by the average movie goer’s head.

The fans of the series may recognize the parallels to the first film. “The Maze Runner” focused on a group of young kids breaking out of a maze created by WCKD, and the final film involves those same kids breaking into the WCKD facility responsible for putting them into that maze.

Thomas and his friends encounter some dangerous situations on their way to the Last City, home to WCKD, including a pack of zombies they call “Cranks.” Fortunately for them, Brenda and Jorge come to their rescue every time. While Brenda and Jorge continuously risk their lives for Thomas, he seems to give them little attention, focusing only on rescuing Minho.

Brenda especially gets little recognition for her efforts. Besides saving Thomas from WCKD and the Cranks, she also rescues a bus full of immune children while being involved in a high-speed chase and runs to Thomas’ and Newt’s rescue at the height of the fight between WCKD and the rebels.

With her bravery and dedication, she has proved that she would do anything for Thomas. Without even reading the books, viewers can see that she has feelings for him, but Thomas doesn’t reciprocate them.

Instead, he has his eyes set on Teresa, his fellow Glade member who betrayed him at the end of “The Scorch Trials.” Avid fans know that the books focus more on a love triangle between the trio, but the films fail to mention it.

While Thomas figures out his next move for breaking into the WCKD facility, Teresa is busy trying to discover a cure for the flare, a widespread disease that’s killing most of the human population. Even though the title of the film is “The Death Cure,” Teresa is the only one who really cares about finding a cure; even WCKD leader Ava Paige seems to give up, while fellow WCKD member Janson selfishly searches for the cure to save himself.

Fans may have felt betrayed by Teresa in “The Scorch Trials,” but in this film, Teresa’s humanity and reasoning for leaving her friends becomes evident. She focuses on the bigger picture: saving the remaining population of the world.

Even if it means risking herself and her friends, she is willing to do anything to ensure that the human species has a future. Thomas, on the other hand, only cares about saving his friends, but in the process of saving one, he ends up losing more.

Is ‘The Death Cure’ Worth Watching?

The average moviegoers may find the film confusing, but as long as they don’t stress too much about the minor details, they’ll still enjoy it. After all, it’s filled with action-packed scenes of explosions, zombies, high-speed chases and more.

Fans of the book could have mixed reactions to the movie adaptation because it excluded crucial information. For example, the film’s writers never fully explained certain concepts, such as how the flare started in the first place. Perhaps if the film’s screenwriter added the novel’s epilogue at the end of the film, it could have tied up the loose-ends.

“The Death Cure” leaves its mark as being the conclusion for not only “The Maze Runner” series, but for movie renditions of YA dystopian novels as a whole. Unlike other films with large followings, the producers did not split the final installment of “The Maze Runner” into two parts, which was a smart move.

The “Divergent” films tried to go down the same path as “The Hunger Games” but failed to do so. The films didn’t have as much impact and unfortunately for fans, their beloved series never came to a close. Thankfully, “The Maze Runner” series gave its fans closure and marked the end of the chapter of dystopian YA movies.

Michele Mendez, Temple University

Writer Profile

Michele Mendez

Temple University
Media Studies and Production

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