maze runner death cure

Review: ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ is Next Level

They escaped the Maze. They survived the Scorch. Now, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and what’s left of his friends must come face to face with WCKD in The Death Cure – the final installment in the Maze Runner trilogy, which manages to up the ante in every way for a finish that is truly spectacular.

The Death Cure picks up at least several months after The Scorch Trials and wastes no time recapping the events of the first two films, instead going full speed ahead into an impressive, extended action sequence. So for those who need a refresher, here’s where we left off: Thomas & Co. are still fighting the good fight against WCKD, an evil organization who rounds up and tests kids like the Gladers in places like the Maze. Their goal is to find a cure for the Flare virus, a global pandemic that turns its victims into Cranks (basically zombies).

This time, the Gladers aren’t just fighting for survival – they’re fighting to save their friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee), who was kidnapped by WCKD at the end of the last film, and to secure their freedom once and for all. That action sequence we mentioned? An all-out rescue mission / jail break targeting a WCKD train transporting immunes that is captivating to watch, but ultimately does not succeed in reuniting Minho with his friends. Thomas & Co. instead head to the Last City – a dystopian metropolis home to WCKD’s stronghold and the last vestiges of civilization – to bring him home.

One of my favorite things about The Maze Runner was how it effectively told a streamlined story with perfectly paced action. This final chapter does that as well, but on a way bigger scale. The stakes are higher and the potential for danger so much greater, with Cranks and WCKD’s top operatives in play. From that opening sequence until the very end, the action sequences are where this movie truly shines. The stunts and effects are truly next level and will consistently blow you away.

Then there are the characters we’ve grown to know and love over the past few years. Thomas has become a true leader, and Dylan O’Brien is better than ever, playing intense scenes and emotional moments with nuance and charisma. Kaya Scodelario plays friend-turned-traitor Teresa as we’ve never seen her before – and if you had your mind made up about her character, you might find yourself questioning those opinions by the end. Ki Hong Lee and Thomas Brodie-Sangster have some truly intense material to work with, and they handle it spectacularly. Rosa Salazar’s Brenda and Giancarlo Esposito’s Jorge are also standouts, rounding out the Glader squad and proving themselves over and over again when the going gets tough. (The same can also be said of a certain Glader making a surprise return this time around.)

We also need to talk about the Last City. The Maze Runner series has always held a fascinating mashup of settings – the natural beauty of the Glade vs. the almost steampunk Maze, the emptiness of the Scorch vs. the crumbling remains of society it contains. The change of scene for The Death Cure is major, and it raises questions central to the themes of the story. How can places like WCKD’s sterile labs and things like functional public transit systems exist when so many are scattered and suffering (if not zombified)? The Last City doesn’t seem like a place that should exist in this world – and in truth, it may barely be holding on – but it’s so interesting to explore through the characters’ eyes.

Book readers who have watched the first two movies will know that The Death Cure can’t play out on-screen exactly as it does in the books. That said, there are certain major moments that will definitely not disappoint – you know which ones I’m talking about. The film is also true to the spirit of James Dashner’s books throughout, bringing a stunning story that is both new and familiar to life.

The Death Cure is an impressive end to a series that we have followed and loved since the beginning – and one that we can’t wait to watch again and again. Don’t miss it.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure hits theaters this Friday, January 26.

Featured Image: 20th Century Fox