You know the producers of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, new to Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, are thanking their lucky stars for international box office. The Maze Runner franchise is the scrappy kid brother in the pantheon of dystopian future sagas based on Y.A. literature. The leaders is, of course, The Hunger Games, with the Divergent series coming in second. Based on author James Dashner’s novels, Maze Runner films have kept relatively lean budgets in anticipation of a less-than-rapturous box office reception. The Scorch Trials opened strong but fizzled fast, petering out around the $80 million mark. Thanks to big business around the world, the film wound up grossing north of $300 million worldwide, ensuring that the saga would indeed be completed.
The first Maze Runner was mostly a claustrophobic, one-note tale that stuck a bunch of young men inside a “maze” loaded with deadly traps. The boys didn’t know how they got there are what they were supposed to be doing. Though intriguing, the film wore out its welcome and didn’t get interesting until its twisty final act. Scorch Trials is more of everything, which turns out to be a pretty good thing. Out of the Glade, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and company are trying to figure out the truth about the nefarious organization led by Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson). There’s tons of action, some startlingly intense horror-based sequences involving Cranks (unfortunate souls turned into zombies by the Flare virus), and a wider palette of locations.
Imaginative production design and near-constant forward momentum should keep fans of the teens-in-peril dystopian future quite satisfied. It should be said that, at 131 minutes, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials does manage to go on a bit too long. Kaya Scodelario returns as Teresa, the plucky lone female Glader from the first film. In a good development, a bit more female presence is added (including Rosa Salazar as Brenda) which alleviates the whole Lord of the Flies/boys’ club feel of the first film. It’s not high art, but as teen-based action/sci-fi goes, it’ll do.
As for special features included on the Blu-ray, there are several substantial supplements that will keep viewers busy. There are 18 minutes of deleted and extended scenes (with optional commentary). There’s also a lengthy gag reel that fans should enjoy. The “Visual Effects Reel” is nearly a half-hour but ultimately it’s kind of a bore. Director Wes Ball leads an audio commentary that also features screenwriter T.S. Nowlin, producer Joe Hartwick, and editor Dan Zimmerman. “Secrets of the Scorch” is a solid grouping of well-produced featurettes that add up to some 50 minutes of content.
You gotta love the inclusion of a special Maze Runner mini comic book in the Blu-ray case, too! These days, most studios go pretty light on printed extras, so it’s a fun addition to this “Ultimate Fan Edition.” The package also includes a standard DVD and Digital HD copy.
No complaints whatsoever in terms of audio/visual presentation in 20th Century Fox’s spot-on Blu-ray. Shot by cinematographer Gyula Pados, Scorch Trials is a film that deals in visual extremes. The Cranks exist in very dark places, while the Scorch is brightness. The HD transfer handles both with equal accuracy. The DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless surround mix is a blast of contemporary F/X-movie greatness, loaded with an onslaught of audio but never sacrificing clarity of dialogue. John Paesano’s surprisingly robust, earthy score soars above the din.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure will complete the series by adapting the third novel (of the same name) and is set for release in February of 2017.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B0176IEKPE]