The Scorch Trials Review

written by Maria Isabelle

Dystopian fiction has long found a home among the canonical halls of literature, but not until recent years have we seen so many offerings within this theme geared toward a young adult audience. Not only are there numerous young adult dystopian novels being written, but many of them don’t stop at just one novel but rather evolve into trilogies that then morph into three or more movies based on their various namesakes. One of the latest films in this phenomenon is
The Scorch Trials, the second installment in The Maze Runner series.


While it certainly isn’t a direct, or even at times faithful, adaptation of the second novel in the series, the film nonetheless does justice to the original and is a solid addition to what is planned to be a film trilogy based on the book series. While still recognizable as part of the series, this film   departs from its predecessor in making significant changes to the storyline as told in the source material. Some of these changes seem necessary in order to keep the flow consistent, particularly given that the timeline of this film picks up mere minutes after the ending of the last one.


Whether these changes can be considered a good thing or not depends upon who you ask. Critics and fans alike seem divided on this issue, with some bemoaning the lack of character development, apparently sacrificed for more action sequences and a sense of urgency. Others cite a lack of urgency or purpose for the escape across the scorch that results from the significant omission of the experiment’s ‘Phase Two’ plot device that was the whole reason for entering and traversing the scorch in the novel. The film makes no mention of a ‘Phase Two’ or ongoing experiment, but rather has the characters escaping to the scorch in search of a resistance group that opposes WCKD.


The one key issue that most seem to agree upon is that this film may leave some audience members confused, whether fans of the novels or purely viewers of the first movie. This doesn’t seem to bother either lead actor Dylan O’Brien (Thomas) or director Wes Ball, both of whom are on board to complete the trilogy with The Death Cure, set to begin filming within the next few months and slotted for release in early 2017. Both actor and director feel they are telling a solid story that is close to the source material but takes acceptable creative license where necessary to create a stronger film.


Regardless of other concerns, there is no denying that The Maze Runner series, and this installment in particular, provide the social commentary expected from dystopian fiction. In this case, The Scorch Trials emphasizes the devastation of a global environmental disaster and makes clear reference to at least one possible outcome of our neglect to take care of our planet and natural resources. While the devastation in the series is much more suddenly caused by unprecedented solar flares that burn away the majority of the earth’s surface, we can draw parallels to our own erosion of the ozone layer and global warming – issues closely tied to our continued dependency on traditional energy providers versus renewable sources and complacency over our much more gradual climate changes.


Audiences of The Scorch Trials are generally left with more questions at the end of the film, questions that are hopefully to be answered in the third and final installment when it’s done. Changes from novel to movie in this second film will necessarily result in a further departure from source material for the third installment, but director Wes Ball is confident that the end result will be a solid trilogy that can both pay tribute to its source material and stand on its own, as any good film adaptation should.

The Unaddressed Issues in YA Dystopian Fiction

written by Maria Isabelle

The future of mankind is dark, desolate and generally pretty frightening. At least, that is what dystopian fiction like The Giver and The Maze Runner would have us believe. Dystopian fiction pictures a future world where many of our current problems are escalated to extreme proportions.These fictitious works are set sometime in the future after we have continued down our current path of destruction and the end result is a world overrun by violence, greed and sometimes even a creepy monster or two. There is an overarching presence of oppression by some sort of political force in all these works of fiction, and it is when citizens of these dystopias realize the system they live in isn’t the one they want to live in, that the story typically begins.

This is not a new genre of fiction, but it has seen a rise in popularity in recent years, especially in the growing young adult market. While there may be many reasons for this rise in YA dystopian fiction, the fact that many of these stories feature an oppressed hero ready to fight for freedom speaks directly to the oppression many teens feel as they grow up. Unfortunately, this oppressive feeling also highlights what is really lacking in many dystopian works including the minimization of racism, sexism and a number of other issues plaguing modern society.

While issues such as technological dependency, government control, and environmental destruction get A-list exposure, real problems teens (and adults) face on a daily basis are mostly ignored. Right now, there is a big discussion happening on the role both racism and sexism play in YA dystopian fiction. Hit properties like the Divergent series actually go right for societal separation, which one would think is the perfect place for a discussion on racism and equality. Instead, Divergent (and its sequel Insurgent – streaming info for both here) avoids all of that messy real-life drama and instead chooses to base its separation on virtues instead of race, which is unfortunately far more likely the way our evil future-selves would run things.

Along the same thinking, The Hunger Games features a predominantly white world with little room for race issues. Sure, there are some minority characters in the film, but not too many fans likings. During casting of The Hunger Games, it was announced that Willow Smith may play Rue, a young girl that was written as a minority in the books, and the internet went wild.

All over Twitter, blogs, and forums fans of the series were coming out in droves to bash the casting of an African-American girl as Rue. These comments varied from the downright hateful to the more passive-aggressively racist, but the general sentiment was the same. Following the movie’s premier, the comments continued and even though Smith did not play the role of Rue, Amandla Stenberg put forth a sensational portrayal of the character even the harshest of critics couldn’t ignore.

It comes as a surprise to many that in comparison to other dystopian fictions, and actions movies in general, the main protagonists in these films are strong female characters. Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley have been dominating screens in these films for a couple years now openly challenging gender stereotypes. The underlying tone of female empowerment present in these series is great for the young girls that are typically fans of the genre. But rarely are the serious issues many women face on a daily basis like discrimination and harassment addressed.

While most dystopian fictions feature some element of racism or sexism, they barely scratch the surface of the issues and their repercussions in the real world. By tackling these major issues in young adult fiction, we are encouraging the youth of today to openly discuss the real-world problems they face now and will in the future, possibly opening up the genre to a whole new reading and viewing public. Ignoring these real-world issues are akin to simply saying they do not exist or are not important, and we all know that is not the case.


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Maria is a writer interested in comic books, cycling, and horror films. Her hobbies include cooking, doodling, and finding local shops around the city. She currently lives in Chicago with her two pet turtles, Franklin and Roy.