Maze Runner: The Death Cure film review: does the YA franchise go out with a WCKD bang?

Thomas, Brenda, Newt and the gang face their final trial in the Maze Runner trilogy’s finale

The Death Cure, the final adaptation of James Dashner’s dystopian Maze Runner novels, starts with a combination train robbery/prison break sequence that recalls not one, but two set-pieces from the first act of Fast & Furious 5 – or Fast Five as it’s known outside the UK. The success of that formula-shifting entry in the Fast series is credited with rejuvenating a franchise that had gone stale, bringing aboard lots of new fans who were entertained by the change-up in execution.

Fittingly, considering the possible homage in the opening action scene, The Death Cure is akin to Fast Five in that it’s a noticeable upgrade when compared to prior series instalments.

A key factor on the action front is the move away from handheld camerawork that did a disservice to so many of the beats in the first two films. Returning director Wes Ball and cinematographer Gyula Pados subsequently get a lot more vibrancy from the film’s apocalyptic clashes.

On other fronts, The Death Cure is paced more effectively than the slog that was The Scorch Trials, despite being 11 minutes longer; there are strong horror moments; there’s much more of Rosa Salazar as Brenda, whose plentiful charisma makes one wish she was the lead and not Dylan O’Brien; and the likes of Giancarlo Esposito and Walton Goggins are clearly having fun in their supporting turns, the latter as the Two-Face-resembling leader of an infected rebel group.

Will The Death Cure bring in any new converts, though? It’s unlikely, not least because of the trilogy-capper factor. Additionally, while the exciting action sequences and some of the stars sustain the whole piece, this universe’s internal logic remains clumsy. This is less of a problem if your film’s about bonkers car heists, but when your story’s driven by ethical issues concerning the sacrifice of a few to save humanity, it’s a niggling issue when a plot turn reveals the wicked schemes of the WCKD group could have easily been avoided through simpler means and basic competence.