The Scorch Trials, a Step Away From the Book

Unfortunately for Thomas and his fellow Gladers, the maze was only the beginning. With an impressive opening weekend in the box office, the second installment in The Maze Runner series solidifies the latest dystopian trilogy as a hit. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is just the latest in a long line of dystopian fiction to hit the market. In recent years, the young adult dystopian genre has seen a boom of new books published and adaptations continue to hit the big screen at a continuous and steady rate.

Of these adaptations, some have risen to the top of the heap, while others have fallen to the side of the road. The Maze Runner adaptation was initially written off by many critics, and even a few fans, as another mediocre entry into a flooded market. As if to prove these naysayers wrong, screenwriter T.S. Nowlin and director Wes Ball have returned with an even more action-packed adventure straying further from its source material than the original.

The Scorch Trials sees Thomas free of the Maze but far from true freedom. Upon discovering that the omnipotent group known as World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department – or WCKD – had been responsible for trapping the group in the maze as a sort of experiment to fight against a post-apocalyptic threat, we once again watch as Thomas leads his fellow Gladers out into a desolate area known as the Scorch and fight to escape WCKD’s experimentation plan. After being rescued by a mysterious third-party group and becoming suspicious of their true intentions, Thomas and the group once again venture out into the Scorch taking us on a wild ride coming up against deadly superstorms, depraved scoundrels, and lethal “Cranks.”

To help set up the series and attract both fans of the book and newcomers alike, Ball and Nowlin kept fairly close to James Dashner’s novel with their first adaptation. But now that the filmmakers have reeled audiences in, they made a bold decision and have taken quite a bit more creative freedom from Dashner’s source material this time around. Many of the changes were made to help streamline the story and speed up the pace, but several major changes were made that can have the potential to change the entire outcome of the final film.

To help keep the focus of the film tight, less Gladers are featured as main characters, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise since so few made it out of the Maze. With so much going on in The Scorch Trials, it is understandable to see why this change was made. Fans of the book may be a little disappointed, but this is definitely not a deal-breaker.

As for the changes that may affect the entire outcome of the series, there are a few that stick out more than others. The most notable omission is the complete scrapping of ‘Phase Two.’ In Dashner’s book, the Gladers are informed that the Scorch is the second phase of WCKD’s experiments. Clear instructions are given to the Gladers and the kids make their way to the Scorch. In the movie, there is no mention of ‘Phase Two’ which does take a little away from the structure the books had, including an explanation for what is happening to them.

It also appears the evil scientists are taking a rather different approach to their methodology, as well. Instead of sending infected Gladers out into the Scorch to observe their behavior, those at WCKD appear to look at the Gladers as more of lab rats.

One aspect that does get carried over from the source material is the social and global messages contained within Dashner’s novels. Both the film and novel subtly comment on environment and societal issues like our dependency on fossil fuels like gas and oil that, if left unchanged, would result in a dystopia of our own. With the Scorch becoming a desolate wasteland due to solar flares and human consumption, it is hard to ignore the message staring us right in the face. With all the changes enacted in this second adaptation by Ball, fans of the reimagined series should be happy to hear he has already signed on to direct the third and final installment, The Death Cure, set for a February 2017 release.

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