Popcorn and a Book (40): The Scorch Trials

Scorch Trials VS

The Book: 2010

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (Delacorte Press)

The Film: 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials directed by Wes Ball (20th Century Fox)

It’s been about a week since I saw The Scorch Trials in theatres and I still can’t decide if I liked it or not—I’m really on the fence with this one. It was just OK for me. If you’re going into the theatre expecting the movie to be like the book, don’t. If you’re worried because you haven’t read the book yet, don’t be because it doesn’t follow the book anyway. The first fifteen minutes are…comparable. After that the story veers way off course. It’s like the writers chose a select few details from the book and decided to fill in the story on their own. And I think that was my main problem with the film. I recently read the book so I had that story fresh in my mind; when the movie starting careening off track I had trouble just immersing myself in the movie without constantly comparing it to the book. I kept thinking “That’s different” and “Why did that get changed?” and “How are they going to get to the end I know?” I think I would have to watch it again when the book isn’t so fresh in my mind to really have an opinion about how the movie holds up as a whole.

I will say that I went with two people who hadn’t read The Scorch Trials yet and both said they enjoyed it. This makes me think you’re better off either reading the books OR watching the movies, but don’t try to compare them—it will just give you a headache.

Oddly enough, the movie gave me a greater appreciation for certain plot points in the book, which I didn’t think would be possible as I wasn’t a fan of the book. [SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want the book and/or movie spoiled skip down to the end because I will go into specifics] Having read the book, I really didn’t like that the motivation of Thomas and the Gladers is completely changed. In the book the boys go out into the Scorch because WCKD makes them, promising the Gladers a cure to the Flare, the mind-eating disease. As much as WCKD’s role annoyed me, it made for excellent motivation. The characters had hope, while still having a set goal in addition to their goal of trying to survive. As much as they hated being pawns of WCKD they had a timeline they were racing against. In the movie the Gladers run away from WCKD without a plan and then take a chance on a group of rebels who may or may not exist—no race against time, no clear destination; just get away, maybe find help. It felt very willy-nilly to me. Not nearly as strong.

I did like Teresa’s motivation better in the movie, though. Her betrayal of Thomas never sat well with me in the book because I thought she could have found a way around WCKD’s orders. Having her motivated instead by a firm belief that WCKD is good and necessary because of what happened to her mother is not only more believable but it puts the betrayal firmly on her shoulders, on her choices, and not because WCKD is forcing her hand. For me, it made her betrayal of the Gladers and all those deaths a lot more unforgivable—and understandable.

[End of SPOILERS]

I liked a lot of the filming, the way the broken down parts of the city were like another maze with dead ends and lots of twists, never knowing what lies ahead (we’ll just pretend that Jurassic Park: The Lost World rip-off didn’t happen, shall we?). Of course the movie wasn’t nearly as gory as the book in order to keep things PG. I had been wondering how it was going to tackle the gorier scenes—easy answer is it doesn’t. Part of me (the squeamish part) is grateful for that, though. Aside from the plot differences, my issues with the movie are pretty much the same as they were for the book. Both are a lot of “think you’re safe, get attacked, run away, think you’re safe, get attacked, run away.” I found that got a bit tiresome.

Regardless, the movie did leave me curious to know which direction this story will be taking in Part 3 because clearly it won’t be anything like Dashner’s The Death Cure. Will my curiosity be enough to make me sit through the third movie? Probably. Still undecided on reading the third book, though.

Have you seen the movie? Share your reactions in comments.

For more information about “Popcorn and a Book” or if you would like to write your own P&B post, please visit the “Popcorn and a Book” main page for details.

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