- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Director Wes Ball’s latest live-action adaptation of James Dashner’s young adult novel series moves to the Blu-ray format after a successful theatrical run with Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Ultimate Fan Edition (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $39.99).

Sure, viewers are now invested in another science-fiction film series about teens fighting corporate entities in a dystopian world, but the first two films are as potent if not better than the similar “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” franchises.

Mr. Dashner’s overall mythology finds a world scorched by the sun, its citizens slowly turning into ferocious zombies due to an uncontrollable virus, and an aggressive organization trying to find a cure at any cost to life.

This sequel to the 2014 movie “The Maze Runner” picks up after a group of amnesiac teenagers escape from a lush experimental safe zone through a massive, dangerous maze.

Led by Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), the small group of mostly males along with the tough-as-nails Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) must uncover the reason for their incarceration, escape from the wickedly misunderstood W.C.K.D. organization and ultimately survive against some hostile humans, bloodthirsty creatures and harsh environmental conditions.

Since this is a bridge movie clocking in at a slightly bloated 131 minutes (with “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” to follow in 2017), I highly suggest starting the evening with watching the first film again to get a better appreciation of the characters and their predicaments.

Despite a slightly murky blue digital transfer (viewed in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio presentation) revealed in some of the indoor and nighttime locations, it still does not detract from many of the action-packed scenes.

I especially appreciated a wild escape from some of the coolest-looking infected humans I have ever seen. They reminded me of the creatures in the popular video game “The Last of Us.”

For those hip to Cranks, the Flare virus, Grievers and Gladers, the bountiful collection of extras on the Blu-ray and in its package will make it an absolute purchase for their home theater library.

Let’s start with the disc. Viewers get over two hours of additional content covering the film’s production. That includes a 52-minute, behind-the-scenes feature (broken up into six segments), 18 minutes of deleted and extended scenes explained by Mr. Ball, interviews with some of the maze survivors and even a 15-minute gag reel.

Also, viewers get visual effects breakdowns of some key scenes including a building collapsing — with optional commentary by Mr. Ball and almost 30 minutes of comparisons of nine effects-enhanced scenes.

And, for me best of all, Mr. Ball, writer T.S. Nowlin, producer Joe Hartwick Jr. and editor Dan Zimmerman offer an optional commentary track, recorded before the movie’s release.

The enthusiasm for the final product is infectious as the team discusses and deconstructs nearly every scene through story points, musical score, pacing and visual choices, comparing it to the first film and providing a well-rounded look at the making of the sequel.

The package includes a 24-page, full-color, mini comic book from Boom! Studios offering two short prequel stories that cover the earlier life of Thomas and Theresa and a Flare-infected father reliving his final moments of life.

The comic is a great idea, but it would have been better delivered as a downloadable code to view on a computer tablet.

While on the topic of downloadable content, fans looking for a challenge get a code to enhance the official “Maze Runner: Scorch Trials” mobile game. The action features key characters navigating through a movie location obstacle courses in the tradition of “Temple Run.”

After a player works through a tutorial, he can visit the main site camp, locate a W.C.K.D. supply crate and enter the code. His unlocked goodies include access to the runner Brenda and some in-app currency.


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