The graveyard of cinema is littered with the bones of Young Adult franchises that went bust.
Sure, it’s all fun and games when you’re a “Hunger Games” or “Twilight” fan. But try sitting through “The Giver” or “I Am Number Four.” And sometimes these things just keep staggering along, like zombies. Has anybody heard from the “Divergent” series lately? It might still be going. No one knows.
All this is daunting for a movie like “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” the third chapter in a series nobody has really been that wild about in the first place. Well, surprise, surprise: This is a competent and sometimes gripping movie.
The film begins with a roaring action sequence — no set-up, no exposition, just our heroes chasing a train at top speed. Director Wes Ball squeezes maximum juice out of the situation, with stunt work that’s gleefully over the top but not dumbed-down.
The “Maze Runner” world is depopulated by a plague. The teenage heroes are mysteriously immune, so the elites want to exploit them for a possible vaccine.
That’s really all you need to know. Chosen One Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) leads his immune crew back into the danger zone to rescue their pal Minho (Ki Hong Lee). They might also be curious about what their former comrade Teresa (Kaya Scoledario, the lead from the most recent “Pirates of the Caribbean” film) is up to, now that she’s working as a scientist for the other side.
Well-placed suspense sequences pace the film: getting through a tunnel crowded with “cranks” (zombified sick people), rescuing a busload of immune children with a crane.
The dialogue isn’t too painful, although it’s sometimes unnecessary. When the crew passes through the horrifying refugee camp that looks like a “Mad Max” rehearsal, someone says, “This place has really gone to hell.” Yes, we sort of guessed that.
Good villain here, in Irish actor (and “Game of Thrones” guy) Aidan Gillen, who purrs his lines and rarely changes out of a menacing gray turtleneck. (I realize a gray turtleneck does not sound menacing, but the way Gillen wears it, it is.)
Among the adults, there’s also Patricia Clarkson and Giancarlo Esposito; Barry Pepper goes full McConaughey as the inspirational-hippie-guru of the immunes. The teens include Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Rosa Salazar, plus the welcome return of Will Poulter (the maniac cop in “Detroit”) after taking the second “Maze Runner” film off.
Remember when the “Hunger Games” series split its final book into two movies? This solid film is evidence on that theory: Don’t do it.
“Maze Runner: The Death Cure” (3 stars)
A solid and sometimes gripping third chapter in the Young Adult trilogy about teenagers immune to a worldwide plague. The suspense sequences are well-handled, and there’s not much nonsense around the edges. With Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scoledario.
Rating: PG-13, for violence
Showing: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Oak Tree, Seattle 10, Thornton Place Stadium, Woodinville, Cascade Mall