I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Connor Bynum // Film Critic
MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE
Rated PG-13, 141 minutes.
Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson, Aidan Gillen and Barry Pepper
Available today on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
When I reviewed MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE earlier this year, I drew attention to how the franchise was heavily delayed due to lead actor Dylan O’Brien suffering an injury while filming. This impacted not only the film’s production, but also the audience’s excitement for the action packed finale to the YA franchise. This same feeling of obligation, over anticipation, is sadly even more prevalent as the film hits store shelves with a slick 4K coat of paint.
The ensemble cast of young actors all give commendable performances and convincingly portray a group of kids that have seen far too many horrors in their time. The dynamic between Thomas (O’Brien) and his best friend, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), is easily one of the stronger aspects, as their camaraderie is genuine and believable throughout the film. The action set-pieces are hit and miss, but the opening sequence involving hijacking a train is wonderfully reminiscent of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.
O’Brien’s accident clearly affected the final result of THE DEATH CURE. Half of the movie feels as though a fair amount of thought and effort was put into the cinematography and action sequences, but the other half feels disjointed and rushed. It’s almost as if the cast and crew were racing to get the movie finished regardless of how many corners they had to cut all for the sake of just getting it done already. It’s a shame things happened the way they did, because this probably would have been a more enjoyable finale if there hadn’t been a delay.
THE DEATH CURE makes its way to 4K via upscaling from a 3.4K Digital Intermediate, and the result is mostly impressive. The opening action sequence with the train benefits well from the uptick in detail with wide shots of the desert appearing vivid and crisp and finer textures on armor and skin tones are noticeably improved over the Blu-ray version throughout. The increased resolution also improves the look of the zombie-like victims of “the Flare.” There are still some hints of grain to be found in some darker scenes, but overall, it is still a decent improvement.
With its last act taking place primarily at night, the inclusion of HDR10 is a welcome improvement over the Blu-ray as the improved contrast between light and dark tones makes for an overall pleasant viewing experience. The increased color saturation is especially present throughout the film with the clear blue sky in the opening set piece as well as the bright orange flames in the explosion heavy finale.
As for the audio, the disc comes with a Dolby Atmos track that doesn’t disappoint with well mixed sounds of bullets flying, cars screeching, and fists punching. The sound design does often draw attention to the seemingly limitless magazine capacity in some of the guns used, but that is more of a fault on the film itself rather than the audio track. In the end, this is a fine teen friendly action experience across the board.
Other than the director’s commentary track, there are no special features included on the 4K disc. The extras found on the included Blu-ray are fine, but usually range at around 6 minutes each. Unfortunately, the powers that be have neglected to make any sort of reference to O’Brien’s accident and the subsequent delay in the production. Similar to the case of JUSTICE LEAGUE in 4K, this was a fine opportunity to give the audience an inside look at what happened on their terms.
Obviously, details about the accident itself are not necessary, but the story itself is simply fascinating and to pretend like nothing happened in the first place is bordering on negligent. That being said, the features themselves are loaded with sincerity and passion from everyone involved in the three films.
One noteworthy extra is actually the inclusion of a physical comic book detailing the events leading up to the final film, and it’s worth a look for those interested in the lore of the franchise.
The full list of special features can be found below:
- Deleted and Extended Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary by Wes Ball, T.S. Nowlin, and Joe Hartwick Jr.
- 4 Featurettes:
- The Final Run
- Allies Reunited
- A Look Back
- Going Out on Top
- Gag Reel
- Visual Effects with Optional Commentary
- Audio Commentary by Wes Ball, T.S. Nowlin and Joe Hartwick Jr.
- Exclusive 24-page prequel origins comic book written by screenwriter T.S. Nowlin
Final Grade: B-
While the visual quality found on this disc is certainly an improvement to a flawed film and the extras are mostly an earnest farewell to the saga, this is another case where only the most dedicated of fans will be the ones who decide to pick this one up.