The success of The Maze Runner took some people by surprise. Despite the popularity of James Dashner’s series of young adult novels, many expected just another tepid entry into the teen dystopia market that would fall by the wayside, especially after the release was pushed back more than six months. Part of what makes the movie work as well as it does are the special effects, which were handled on a small budget, at least for this kind of picture, and this featurette digs into two aspects of this: the maze itself, and the monsters, called Grievers. And with profitability, comes a franchise, and the first follow up, The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, continues to add strong actors to the ever growing cast.
Reading the book, it has a unique hook, but I admittedly didn’t think much of the writing characterization. What it does well, however, is pacing and action, two things that translate to a movie screen, and it’s one of those stories that is tailor made for an adaptation. Director Wes Ball, working with limited resources, shot as much as he could practically, but given the size and scope of the setting and story, that just wasn’t possible.
The action revolves around a group of boys trapped inside a maze with high stone walls, and these are rendered fantastically in the film. They have a sense of reality and a weight to them that goes a long way to selling the story. In this video, you get to just how they went about constructing these digitally, and the juxtaposition of the before and after footage adds a whole new level of appreciation to the finished product on screen.
Out in this maze, the boys have other challenges to contend with, chief among them the Grievers, monstrous, organic-mechanical hybrids. This was even a more complicated task than the walls, but again, they went to great lengths to ensure that, as outlandish as they are, they move realistically and that there’s a sense of concreteness to them. As with the maze, the feeling of reality they carry adds a great deal to the world of the movie.
As The Maze Runner is almost all young men—there are only two women with speaking roles, only one of any significance, and she’s still way underwritten—The Scorch Trials opens up the world more, both in a general sense, and by bringing in more female characters. To this end, they’ve welcomed The Conjuring’s Lili Taylor, a fantastic character actor, to the party.
According to Deadline, Taylor is slated to play Mary Cooper, a doctor who helps Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the other escapees on their new journey, which entails them trekking through a ruined swath of Earth called the Scorch. She joins two Game of Thrones vets, Aiden Gillen and Nathalie Emmanuel, both newcomers, and Giancarlo Esposito, as well as returning player Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (another GoT alum), and more.
Set for release September 18, 2015, just a year after the first film, Ball and screenwriter T.S. Nowlin are also returning for The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.