Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Blu-ray Review
Painting the bigger picture behind the conspiracy, Scorch Trials loses the claustrophobic tension that made Maze Runner so good, instead trading it for generic YA franchise setpieces and tired post-apocalyptic tropes.With few original beats, or truly gripping moments, the popular franchise appears to have actually run out of steam a whole lot earlier than its Hunger Games predecessor (although, by comparison, the Divergent series never even got off the ground), with the idea of having to endure not one, but two, further films (yes, it’s another trilogy split into four), seeming even more unappealing now. It’s a shame because the first film’s Young Adult twist on the great little low-budget-high-concept survival horror, Cube, actually had something going for it, not least retaining some of those darker, more horror-inspired flourishes which added more grit than you’d usually expect from this traditionally pre-teen-friendly sub-genre. Second time round, it feels less like running and more like coasting, biding time until we eventually round out this ever-expanding franchise.Unfortunately, in building a bigger picture the franchise now feels diluted and direction-less, running blindly from one elaborate set-piece to the next, through a desolate, archetypical post-apocalyptic universe, in search of answers to questions that nobody even asked in the first place. With government-type supposed bad-guys at odds with desert-living rebels, and our group of ‘runners’ once again caught between the two, the chase-talk-chase-talk rinse-repeat formula inspires a distinct ambivalence towards both the fate of the ‘heroes’ and of the grander franchise. Poor – and, as aforementioned, diluted – plotting is trussed up as ‘mystery’ and the only real thing the film has going for it are the zombie-like infected (not far removed from the similar wasted potential in Mockingjay Part 2) which occasionally remind you of the better film this could have been.
Picture QualityThe UK Region Free release of Scorch Trials promotes a largely excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the sequel’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Detail is superb throughout, lapping up the uninteresting, unoriginal post-apocalyptic environment which seldom betrays its large budget VFX, seamlessly combined with the live action events. Skin textures, clothing weaves and background touches are revealing right down to the finest observation, and clarity remains prevalent with no signs of any digital defects or anomalies which would impinge upon your viewing pleasure.
It’s a great video presentation that still can’t save this mediocre sequel.
The colour scheme is quite variable, split between the cool blue, clinical prison/lab environment of the first act, and the running-hot desert-dominated environments of the latter two acts, still providing some natural skin tones and a few strong colours, as well as deep, rich black levels underpinning the output. A couple of minor inconsistencies leave fleeting, fluctuating contrast as arguably the only criticism in what is nonetheless a demo presentation that’s not far from the reference target.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is a tremendous offering which, again, cannot hope to save the film itself.
Dialogue remains clearly and coherently prioritised across the front and centre channels, but is far from an important part of the proceedings, with the bombastic effects and oppressive score providing the majority of the fuel for the surrounds and LFE channel. The environment pops with precise, often almost discrete effects elements, providing expansive, dynamic surround usage and more explosive cracks – bombs, rifle shots and heavy weapons fire – whilst tazer guns pulse with electric buzz, helicopter blades whip overhead, and the crumbling ruined cityscape rumbles underfoot. Scores don’t get much more painfully generic than this, insisting upon tension and terror which simply isn’t there, and persistently harassing with quite an oppressive, uninspired offering which, at least, technically excels.
ExtrasBrimming with a comprehensive selection of extra features, there’s plenty here to keep fans occupied.
Although kick-started by a faux confidential report done in-character to reveal some insight into the master plans of the mysterious organisation behind it all, which is further backed up by a surprisingly hefty 18 minutes of Deleted and Extended Scenes with optional commentary, which are watchable but don’t come anywhere near hinting at the existence of a potential better cut, the actual meat comes in the form of a near hour-long selection of Featurettes under the umbrella ‘Secrets of the Scorch’ banner, which provides the usual plethora of behind the scenes footage and cast and crew snippets.
There’s also a further 30 minute effects reel, some galleries and some trailers but, perhaps most surprisingly, buried under the rest of the offerings, an Audio Commentary by the filmmakers which feels like it should have been promoted as headlining this selection. Perhaps that's where you should begin.
Blu-ray VerdictPerhaps the next outing will turn it around, but when you’re barely halfway through another YA four-film franchise and already feel the tedium setting in, things don’t look so promising.
At least Scorch Trials looks and sounds superb on Blu-ray, with excellent video and audio and a strong selection of extra features rounding out a solid package that is sure to impress fans. Just don’t expect this to be as good as the first film and, unfortunately, in light of this, don’t get your hopes up too high for the next one either.
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