Dual Review: ‘The Death Cure’ prompts mixed feelings

ALERT: This review of Death Cure contains spoilers.

Editor’s Note: This dual-review was written by Tyler Josefsen with Marina DeLeon as a contributing writer. DeLeon’s contributions are italicized within the article to differentiate from Josefsen’s writing.

I walked into the theater opening night with nothing but excitement and anticipation to see “The Death Cure.” I left the theater wondering if there was a cure for the boredom that may have almost killed me after sitting through the two-and-a-half hour film. The predictability was an absolute let-down.

I completely disagree. I did not find very much within the movie that I felt was “predictable.” Outside of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) being the cure for the Flare Virus, which they set him up to be from the beginning, nothing seemed too blatantly obvious. I thought the movie was very entertaining and action-packed, just like both of the other films in the series before it.

“The Death Cure” is the third movie in The Maze Runner trilogy. One of the best cinematic elements of the first two movies in the series was the mysteries that unveiled throughout. In “The Maze Runner,” the audience spent the majority of the film on the edge of their seat dying to find out “Why are these kids in a maze?” and “Who built the walls?” before finally getting an answer to those questions in the last few minutes: an answer that brilliantly prompted more questions. Audiences everywhere would be forced to wait, however, to have those questions answered in the second film—”The Scorch Trials.” “The Death Cure”, disappointingly contrary to the other two films, progresses with a lack of mystery; blatantly put, I was bored during the movie.

This particular film did not need to be full of mystery because it was the final “chapter” in the series. The goal of “The Death Cure” was to close the book, to tie up the loose ends and reveal Thomas’s purpose as the cure. Most of the major questions that set up the post-apocalyptic society had been answered, and this movie was more about the adventure of having to infiltrate and overthrow WCKD and rescue their friend, Minho (Ki Hong Lee).

The plot that DeLeon described was actually the main reason I felt a lack of excitement despite the A-plus production and almost constant action. It had a very “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” feel to it. A group of kids led by the chosen one with a little help from the rebellion must sneak into the heavily guarded compound where their kidnapped friend is being held as part of a larger plan to overthrow the corrupt governing body all sounds a little too much like Katniss Everdeen needing to save Peeta Mellark. The rebels even blew open the front gate to the city after being innocently slaughtered by soldiers. Thomas ended up being the Death Cure, and Janson (Aidan Gillen), the formerly trusted rescuer of the maze survivors who turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, ultimately dies in a final battle against our protagonist. Do not misunderstand me, I respect the classic plot structure of the hero’s quest, but this time it just seemed all-too-familiar.

Janson needed to die, though. He was the hunter, and the hunter always ends up becoming the hunted (not in a predictable manner, but rather a necessary following of the “rules” of action cinema). Plus, the way he died was creative. He was not simply shot by Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) or beaten to death by Thomas, but rather devoured by the very cranks that they were experimenting on. There was a kind of cinematic irony there that I did not see coming. Speaking of deaths I did not see coming, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Teresa’s were both shocking. Newt revealed that he was infected part-way through the film, but it never felt like he would lose the battle for his life. The fight scene between Newt and Thomas had me literally on the edge of my seat as Brenda (Rosa Salazar) raced to them with the serum. To counter “The Hunger Games” point Josefsen made earlier, Katniss and Peeta got their happily-ever-after; Thomas and Teresa did not. After Newt’s death, and Ava Paige’s (Patricia Clarkson) death, Teresa died saving Thomas with just minutes left in the movie.

I will concede, here, that Newt’s death was one of the best on-scene moments I have seen in a long time. The back-and-forth between Newt as a mindless crank trying to kill Thomas and his consciousness returning momentarily where he tried to kill himself to end it all was an emotional tug-of-war to say the least. Thomas finally being forced to thrust a knife into Newt’s chest and watch his closest friend’s body fall to the ground sent a wave of despair over the entire theatre. Teresa’s death, however, had little effect on me. I never really felt like she redeemed her character enough to be worthy of melancholy compassion when she died. Granted, she died saving Thomas’s life, but she put him in this situation to begin with during her betrayal at the end of “The Scorch Trials.” Once again, though, her death came as no surprise. The writer’s groomed Brenda to take Teresa’s spot next to Thomas the entire film.

The movie was thrilling. From the opening scene to the final literal leap off a burning building, I was hooked. A series of exciting events dispersed with unpredictability kept me guessing. The re-introduction of Gally (Will Poulter) who supposedly died in the first film, Newt’s death, Janson shooting Paige before revealing he was infected with the virus and Teresa’s last-minute turn against WCKD produced one of the best movies to start 2018.

“The Maze Runner” and “The Scorch Trials” were two of the best action flicks since 2014, and they set a bar that “The Death Cure” simply did not reach. As a fan of the series, the lack of suspense in the final film of a trilogy built around mystery was a disappointment that drops this movie to the bottom of my list.

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