• Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018)

    Maze Runner: The Death Cure is the third and last part of the trilogy centered around a group of teenagers immune to a virus that has decimated mankind who are hunted down by an organization that wants to conduct brutal experiments on them. I have read quite a few negative reviews about this film but let me tell you that this movie is very good conclusion to the franchise and if you liked the first two films, you will certainly appreciate this final installment as well.

    Everything isn't perfect of course. The story is very predictable. Obviously, one could blame the source material here. However, some twists are foreshadowed in a way that anyone will see through them. To give you one concrete example, there is one character who is constantly looking at his arm, rubbing it, sighing, feeling weak and looking around gloomily. When it is revealed that this character is infected by the virus, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone since the foreshadowing was completely overacted.

    Other than that, the movie is great from start to finish. Some people claim it was overlong but I never felt bored and thought it was entertaining from start to finish. The action sequences are truly intense and make for a worthy Hollywood blockbuster. The special effects are more present than in the first two films but they have the purpose to make for a bombastic finish and especially the final third of the movie is absolutely breathtaking and epic. The acting performances are as solid as in the first two installments and the protagonist has a really strong moral compass as the movie teaches us to never leave your friends behind and always believe in yourself.

    To keep it short, Maze Runner: The Death Cure might be the most spectacular action-thriller of the year. The special effects and action sequences are extremely strong. The acting performances and the characters are also above average. Only the story is a little bit predictable and simple. If you have the chance to enjoy this vivid film at your local cinema, go for it as it will help you get into this bombastic finale. Another option would be to watch all three parts and see the development of the different characters and the story line. Ignore the overtly negative reviews and enjoy this blockbuster for teenagers and young adults.

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  • Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)

    Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the second part of the dystopian trilogy about a group of teenagers immune to a virus that has decimated humanity who are hunted by a shady organization. This great second part is an improvement over the solid first movie.

    First of all, this second movie is much more sinister than the first part as the teenagers have to fight creepy creatures roaming in an abandoned world. Especially the scenes in the mysterious underground shelter in the first third of the movie are quite intense. Overall, the varied locations add a lot of atmosphere to the film. Light and sound techniques are executed flawlessly. The creatures also look quite haunting.

    Secondly, the action sequences in this film are more intense than in the previous movie. One sequence that really stands out is when Thomas, the leader of the teenagers, and Brenda, the rebellious sister of one Thomas' deceased soulmates, have to fight their way through a shaky skyscraper with numerous traps. This sequence feels like a vivid roller coaster ride.

    Thirdly, the movie continues to develop the intriguing characters that made the first film so successful. Thomas is shown as brave leader who secretly doubts his capacities. Minho continues to convince as athletic, courageous and resilient young man. Newt represents the intellectual side as he always asks the right questions with a careful yet caring demeanor. In addition to this, the film introduces a few new characters that are quite intriguing. Aris is a quiet outsider who turns out being an observing and smart teenager who saves his new partners from certain death. Jorge is a resilient man with an unpredictable character who can be very caring about his friends in one scene but brutally torture former partners in the next scene. His protegee Brenda is a tough girl who doesn't shy away from conflicts with older men.

    Obviously, the movie also has a few minor flaws. The story is quite predictable. The film has two twists, one shown in the first third and the other one at the very end of the movie. Both of them are very predictable and the fact that the group of teenagers aren't immediately aware of them after everything they have gone through in the first installment, makes them look somewhat naive.

    Personally, I also dislike Teresa's character. She always seems cold, distant and manipulative and never truly helps her partners. She makes me think of Kristen Stewart, not only physically but also regarding her behavior. That isn't meant to be a compliment as it's impossible to empathize with her. Brenda is a much more distinctive female character while Teresa's character doesn't seem to be fully fleshed out.

    In the end, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is an improvement over a good first installment and makes you want to watch the third and final part right away. This film has great atmosphere, breathtaking action sequences and intriguing character development. Those who like dystopian science-fiction movies in the key of the Divergent or The Hunger Games franchises can't get around this franchise. Make sure you have watched the first part and to watch the third and final part later on.

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  • The Maze Runner (2014)

    Based upon the novel by James Dashner, The Maze Runner is the first instalment in a dystopian trilogy that follows a group of youths as they fight for survival and against manipulation in a desolate world destroyed by heat and disease. This first movie follows a very young man who awakes in an elevator that transports him to a group of male youths that is living in a restricted natural environment surrounded by a gigantic maze. This society calls itself the Gladers. The young man doesn't remember his past and only recalls his name after a few hours of confusion: Thomas. He soon realizes that the other boys and men share his fate. They have established some basic rules to live together in peace and harmony as everybody has specific tasks to do. The most important group of people are the athletic runners who go inside the maze when it opens up in the morning and return late at night before the gates close again. The runners are trying to solve the maze to find a way out. However, there are mechanical creatures called grievers who live in the maze which can attack, kill or sting their human victims in a way that makes them go berserk. Thomas is a curious individual who doesn't like following rules and his appearance soon devides the group of youths. Some people support him as they believe he can help them solve the maze while others have gotten used to their lives in a restricted environment and consider him a nuisance. Things take a more dramatic turn when a last human being is sent up the elevator: a girl named Teresa who seems to know Thomas from the past.

    There are several elements that make The Maze Runner stand out positively. The idea to live the story through the eyes of the charismatic Thomas who gradually tries to find out what is going on around him makes the film captivating, mysterious and suspenseful. The fact that the film takes place in a restricted environment soon leads to quite intense relationships which help the story move forwarde. Most viewers will identify with one character or another. If compared to similar dystopian films, this movie doesn't seem to overuse special effects which gives it a more authentic atmosphere. The final half hour is quite tense and violent and leads to a bittersweet finale. On one side, one finally gets some important background information that explains most of that happened in the first ninety minutes but on the other side, the new answers lead to even more questions as the movie ends on a cliffhanger which almost makes it mandatory to watch the second instalment as well. If you're not planning on watching a trilogy, don't watch this movie in the first place.

    The story also has a couple of flaws. The background story seems surprisingly basic and is lacking many details. Some events in the story are illogical or simply left unexplained such as the Glader who got stung outside the maze which is never fully explained. The story obviously also has some similarities to other dystopian movies, especially concerning the bleak future of our planet and the basic main protagonists and antagonists. The movie's middle section is somewhat plodding and the movie could have been shortened by about ten minutes without leaving out anything essential.

    In the end, you will like this film if you're a fan of other dystopian science-fiction movies with a set of young characters like The Hunger Games or The Divergent Series. The unique setting and the mysterious plot certainly make this movie stand out. If you are looking for a creative and unique experience, you might find the movie somewhat boring and predictable.

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  • Ready Player One (2018)

    In the seventies, women were into sharp-dressed revolutioners. In the eighties, athletic types became more and more popular. Throughout the nineties, ideals became more material and people with beautiful and fast cars would attract people. Nowadays, geeks are all the rage. Twenty years ago, those people were outsiders because of their chubby features, big glasses and strange beards and because they spend most of their free time in front of their consoles in their parents' basement, wearing Mario Bros. shirts and drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos. Today, these outsiders have become trendy because of their chubby features, big glasses and strange beards and because they spend most of their free time in front of their consoles in their parents' basement, wearing Mario Bros. shirts and drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos. Sometimes, this world is a strange place. In order to understand more about this stereotype and pimp my trendy knowledge, I decided to give Ready Player One a shot.

    I didn't expect much but got a very rewarding surprise. Ready Player One avoids stereotypes as opposed to my somewhat exaggerated yet quite accurate introduction. This movie could have focused on great-looking main characters who are destined for each other. But this isn't Divergent. The movie could have been overacted with overtly dramatic emotional ups and downs portraying immature teenagers. But this isn't The Hunger Games. The movie could have overwhelmed us with eye candy in form of massive flashy special effects without any depth. But this isn't Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. The film could have had a quite emotionless plot without any interest set in a stereotypical dystopian world. But this isn't Ghost in the Shell. The movie could have felt quite stretched with its ambitious running time of one hundred forty minutes and included vapid lows throughout the middle section. But this isn't Blade Runner 2049.

    Ready Player One is better than all the movies mentioned before. The two main characters are grounded and sympathetic which makes their love story surprisingly credible and emotional. The acting performances are balanced as the characters are sometimes overwhelmed by emotions but often have to use their intellect to solve problems. The only moment when the movie overwhelms us with flashy colours is in the first five minutes to briefly introduce the virtual reality of OASIS but the rest of the movie doses special effects very well as the movie balances calm and intellectual moments with dramatic and vivid passages. The plot centered around a massive treasure chase might not be revolutionary but includes numerous clever references to pop culture of which I particularly liked the setting of The Shining, the nod to Mechagodizilla and the allusions to progressive rock veterans Rush. Moreover, the movie has several interesting messages such as the fact that nothing is as magic as our own reality. I also liked the side characters, especially the unique inventor of OASIS who reminds me of a mixture of Olaf Schubert and Tommy Wiseau. Finally, the movie didn't waste one single minute and was entertaining from start to finish thanks to an already interesting novel this movie was based upon, outstanding scriptwriting efforts and very solid directional work.

    In the end, I can only recommend watching this movie at your local theater. You don't need a distracting, expensive and headache-inducing 3D version at Cineplex though, just go along with the old school 2D version in your small local cinema. It would suit the message and intention behind the novel and film much better. Now I can realate much more to geeks with their chubby features, big glasses and strange beards who spend most of their free time in front of their consoles in their parents' basement, wearing Mario Bros. shirts and drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos.

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  • Annihilation (2018)

    Annihilation is a calm, intellectual and surreal science-fiction film in the key of recent successes such as Arrival, Ex Machina or even Blade Runner 2049 to a certain degree. Based upon a recent novel by Jeff VanderMeer, it tells the story of a mysterious and expanding extraterrestrial entity known as The Shimmer that seems to transform, mutate and copy its natural environment. Several groups have gone inside The Shimmer to investigate the phenomenon but none of them have come back as all of them were apparently killed, killed one another or went crazy and got lost. One year after his disappearance, a soldier named Kane suddenly comes back home to his wife Lena. Kane doesn't seem to be himself however. He is emotionally distant, seems to suffer from dementia and suddenly starts to feel very sick. On his way to the hospital, a government security force intercepts the ambulance and brings Kane and Lena to a secret area near The Shimmer. The security force wishes to interrogate Kane but he is in a coma. The security force then decides to send one last group into The Shimmer, consisting of a worried Lena who is a biologist and has been working for the military for seven years, an obsessed and strict psychologist named Doctor Ventress, a physicist with borderline personality disorder named Josie, an alcoholic paramedic called Anya who has anger management issues and surveyor and geologist Cass who mourns the death of her daughter who died of leukemia. The five women set out on a suicide mission as they soon lose track of time and realize how the mysterious entity not only transforms their environment but also themselves mentally and physically. In a last ditch effort, the group attempts to find out the secret of the entity and annihilate it before it annihilates them.

    There are several elements that make Annihilation a worthwhile experience. First of all, the film has a constant gloomy and mysterious atmosphere from start to finish. Secondly, the movie has an intellectual plot that makes the viewers speculate until the very end and beyond. Thirdly, the five female lead characters are very interesting in their own ways and their inner demons only add to the menacing tone of the movie. Fourthly, the overall calm film is occasionally shook up by a few sudden battles and gory scenes that never feel forced because they tell us more about the strange entity and the fate of the lost groups. Fifthly and maybe most importantly, the film is visually stunning. The animations, colors and light techniques make the extraterrestrial entity very spectacular and especially the film's climax is an unforgettable dream-like experience. Finally, the film's ending is quite controversial as some people might praise it while others could despise it. It's definitely something worth discussing. You should watch this film if you have an open mind for an intellectual experience. If you are just seeking passive entertainment, this movie is definitely not for you.

    Annihilation also has a few negative elements of course. In my opinion, it's much too close to movies such as Arrival and seems to jump on the bandwagon. This might also be the reason why I happened to find the movie's twist quite predictable which lowered its intensity quite a bit. Even though I'm aware that this is fiction, I disliked the fact that five characters that would never be chosen for this type of mission in real life got teamed up together. Some of them, like the extremely selfish psychologist that would clearly need a psychologist herself or the overtly aggressive paramedic who is a danger to herself and anyone around her, feel sketchily exaggerated, even given the circumstances that the extraterrestrial entity has an impact on the characters' psyches. Some more subtleness regarding the characters would have suited the movie's tone better.

    In the end, you might appreciate Annihilation even more if you haven't watched movies such as Arrival and Ex Machina before because it would be your first impressive contact with this type of intellectual science-fiction movie. If you have watched those two movies and others of its kind before, you will probably realize that Annihilation is inferior to those films and simply a good intellectual science-fiction movie. The visual components and the intellectual story are still good enough to watch this movie at your local cinema but the film's impact isn't as big as I would have expected beforehand.

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