Book v Film: The Maze Runner – The Scorch Trials

“He didn’t care about the others anymore. The chaos around him seemed to syphon away his humanity, turn him into an animal. All he wanted was to survive, make it to that building, get inside. Live. Gain another day.”

Book:
Film:
Adaptation:

The second book adaptation in James Dashner‘s The Maze Runner trilogy, The Scorch Trials, once again directed by Wes Ball, follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the rest of the Gladers moments after escaping the maze. Told that they are now being taken to safety, the truth quickly becomes apparent and it seems that the maze was only the beginning. Now, their journey takes them to the Scorch, a desolate landscape that was once a major city, now scorched to the ground and consumed by a disease known as the Flare. Teaming up with resistance fighters, the Gladers take on WCKD’s vastly superior forces, only to uncover the shocking plans that WCKD has had planned for them all along.

The following post is a review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book. You can read my review of the book on its own here.

Film Review:

After reading the first novel in this trilogy and watching the following release of the film adaptation in 2014, I quickly became interested in this young adult dystopian series of novels. They are incredibly fun to read, with a new twist springing up in every chapter to keep you engaged and, as a novel, The Scorch Trials is of the same quality; full of adventure, action and anticipation.

On paper, this should have made a fantastic and eventful film, with The Scorch Trials giving us our first glimpse into the outside world. Unfortunately, this second adaptation can only be seen as a huge flop, and much like the Divergent series, it all seems to be going quickly downhill.

I loved The Maze Runner novel, but felt that the film adaptation was only a decent action-filled adventure, and I was hugely disappointed by the small but constant changes from the novel. These many inconsistencies may have only been minor, but they built up to create a much bigger flaw overall.

So I was expecting the same with this second adaptation, and from the trailer alone it was obvious that changes were being made from the very beginning, showing a lot more communication with the WCKD organisation, followed by the Gladers going off into the Scorch by choice and with Teresa.

In the novel, the Gladers are forced to go into the Scorch after being told that they need to find a cure to the Flare, which they have all been infected with, and Teresa is then stolen from the group and replaced with a male who was part of another Maze Trials (Group B) which was female-led.

So even from these few minutes of footage seen in the trailer, all hopes for a close adaptation were thrown out of the window quite abruptly. But the single change puts into motion something much bigger.

With the film showing the group choosing to flee to the Scorch instead of being sent there for Phase Two of testing, this single change alone changes the whole premise of the film in context of the trilogy. The Gladers’ minds need to be tested to find a cure for the Flare (more of which we find out about in the third novel), so for the adaptation to completely overlook this is a pretty big deal.

I will go into all of the changes from the novel below, but let’s just say that, by the end, The Scorch Trials film is almost unrecognisable from its original source. As a book, The Scorch Trials is an impressive young adult dystopia, filled with dark tones, character struggles, and relationship tests, which all ensure that you don’t want to put the novel down. But sadly the same can’t be said for the film.

The book is exciting with new technologically advanced monsters, personal tests of humanity, and struggles against a totalitarian organisation, which all keep the pace up, the scares coming, and the readers on edge. But everything that makes the book so enthralling just doesn’t happen in the film.

Even for viewers that haven’t read the book beforehand, The Scorch Trials feels very messy in terms of plot and structure. Most of the characters, aside from Thomas and Teresa, fall into the background, and it adds nothing to the lengthy list of unanswered questions we already had, with the already thin plot completely losing any significance that it had in context of the trilogy as a whole.

Differences From The Book:

As I said above, The Scorch Trials is almost unrecognisable from its original source. So let’s begin, in chronological order, with everything that went wrong.

  • The book begins with Thomas alone in his room, talking to Teresa in his mind. In the film, Teresa and Thomas still don’t communicate telepathically. Instead, the film begins with the group being transported into a building, as we see Cranks running around and being shot dead outside. We don’t know about any of this in the book yet.
  • In the film, the group are welcomed by Janson. In the book, we only know him as Rat Man and do not find out his name until the third book. He doesn’t have this much interaction with the group, either, and only appears briefly later on. Thomas is then questioned, alone, by Janson in the film. He explains a little more about WCKD, which doesn’t happen in the book either.
  • In the book, the Gladers are by themselves in the dormitory, but in the film the Gladers are introduced to a number of other groups. Janson is the only person other person, aside from Aris, that the group interact with in the book, whereas we see teams of people working in the background in the film, testing the Gladers after escaping from the Maze. Janson then starts calling out people’s names – we later find out that they are being tested on – but none of this happens in the book since we the Gladers are alone.
  • After their first night’s sleep in the book, the Gladers are awoken by the Cranks breaking in to their dorm, as they run into a darkened common room to escape. Here, they find that their rescuers have been hanged from the ceiling. In the film, their rescuers are simply part of WCKD, so there was no need for such a violent end to their lives.
  • Teresa is taken away at this point in the book, and replaced in her room with Aris. In the film, Teresa is taken away from the group during testing earlier on, and Aris meets Thomas by sneaking into his room and asking him to follow him through the air vents. Here, he shows Thomas that WCKD are using people’s bodies to test. This doesn’t happen in the book. Instead, Aris explains to the Gladers about his group (Group B), an all-female group with Aris being the only male, just like Teresa being the only female amongst the Gladers. This is only hinted at in the film with someone commenting on how lucky Aris was to be surrounded by girls. Aris could also talk to one of these girls – Rachel – telepathically, but this is not explained in the film and we only see Rachel’s body being tested on.
  • In the book, the boys then discover tattoos on their necks, which assign them roles. Aris is “The Partner,” Newt is “The Glue,” Minho is “The Leader,” and Thomas’ tattoo reads “To Be Killed by Group B”. There is no mention of this in the film. Teresa is given some kind of tattoo, but it has no meaning.
  • In the book, the boys then re-enter the common room to find that the bodies have gone, but find that Janson, who they call Rat Man, is waiting for them. This is the only time they talk to Janson, as he goes on to explain that WCKD have been studying them to try to find a cure for the Flare. He tells them that they have ALL been infected with the Flare, and must get through the Scorch in two weeks to find the cure. In the film, everybody is seemingly immune to the Flare, so this conversation is not needed.
  • In the film, Thomas and Aris then witness Janson communicating with Ava. She asks whether he has found The Right Arm. TRA are not introduced to readers until The Death Cure, and Ava is only ever referred to.
  • In the book, the group begin their journey into the Scorch feeling that they have no other choice, without Teresa. In the film, after seeing Ava talking to Janson and realising he is part of WCKD, the group rescue Teresa and flee into the Scorch by choice, in search for TRA.
  • In the film, there are only 7 members of the group, whilst there are more in the book.
  • In the film, the Gladers go straight out into the Scorch at night-time. This skips over one of my favourite chapters in the book, which sees the group travel through a pitch black underground tunnel filled with traps. Here, they are attacked by molten metal balls, which injures Winston. The group then enter the Scorch in daylight, taking ages to adjust to the light, having to use blankets to cover their skin, and carrying as much water as they could get from the dormitory. In the film, the group do run down dark corridors, but they are running from Cranks and the metallic balls are completely left out. In comparison, the Scorch doesn’t seem that hot in the film, either, which makes it somewhat irrelevant.
  • After walking through the Scorch, there’s a scene in the book where Thomas enters an abandoned hut after hearing a girl scream. Here, he finds Teresa alone. Teresa is in some kind of a trance but comes out of it for a second to kiss Thomas and to tell him to stay away from her. This scene doesn’t happen in the film since Teresa is completely fine and with them the whole time.
  • All of Thomas’ memories/visions from the book are left out, though certain things are revealed in other ways. It doesn’t have the same effect, though.
  • In the lightning storm, 7 people die in the book, Winston being one of them. In the film, Winston kills himself after being attacked by a Crank.
  • The film does not explore the levels of “Cranks”. In the film, Cranks are all zombie-like, whereas in the book they can look fairly normal but be experiencing different levels of insanity. When Winston is bitten, he takes mere hours to turn complete Crank, when this wouldn’t happen for months/years in the book. Also in the book, Jorge is a Crank in the early stages, but this isn’t explored in the film. He is, instead, just a refugee in hiding.
  • In the film, Brenda and Thomas are separated from the Gladers and Jorge due to an explosion, and we don’t see the rest of the group again for a while. In the film, Janson is the one stirring up all of the trouble having found the Gladers. Jorge taunts the WCKD soldiers and they are all about to escape together over a zipline, when Thomas chases after Brenda in the opposite direction.
  • In the book, Thomas discovers a message written all over the city that says that he is the real leader, but this isn’t seen in the film.
  • In the book, Thomas and Brenda are captured by another group of Cranks who take them to a club and drug them. This scene happens in the film too, but when Brenda tries to kiss Thomas in the book, he refuses because of his feelings for Teresa. He doesn’t refuse in the film, but he does tell Brenda that “You’re not her”, which she doesn’t appreciate, but they are not supposed to kiss until the third book.
  • In the club, Thomas is shot as he tries to escape which leads to an infection. Thomas is then captured by WCKD and taken on an aircraft until he is healed. Here, he hears a conversation saying that this wasn’t part of the plan. He is then sent back to the rest of the Gladers. In the film, Jorge rescues Thomas and Brenda, and then interrogates Marcus about TRA.
  • Just like the beginning of the film, the ending is completely different. The rest of the film focuses on TRA, who we do not meet in the book. Here, Mary, a former WCKD scientist, reveals that Thomas was their informant, sharing all of the information on WCKD’s acts, and explains how the cure works, having to cure Brenda. Teresa then betrays the group by telling WCKD their location.
  • In the book, the Gladers are, instead, attacked by Group B, led by Teresa. They capture Thomas and, on deciding not to kill him, as much as Teresa disagrees, they make their way to the Safe Haven. On their way, Teresa comes to Thomas with Aris. Teresa and Aris kiss, and she explains that she has been manipulating Thomas all along. They force Thomas into a gas chamber, and Thomas has visions of the two as a couple before the events of the maze. Eventually, Thomas is rescued by Aris and Teresa, who explain that they were forced by WCKD and that it was all part of a bigger plan. After escaping, the groups both make it to the Safe Haven where they are attacked by gigantic bulb monsters created by WCKD. This is another one of the book’s epic scenes that the film completely misses out. After the groups fight their way to the WCKD air craft, they are told that they must choose between Jorge and Brenda to come with them. This is just another test, however, but then Brenda starts communicating with Thomas telepathically.
  • The book ends with Thomas, now separated from his friends, in a white room. Teresa telepathically communicates with him, reminding him that “WCKD is good”, but Thomas decides to cut off all communication with her for good. The film, however, ends with Minho being captured by WCKD during their ambush of TRA’s camp. In the morning, with only Thomas, Newt, and Frypan surviving from Group A, and Harriet being the lone survivor of group B, Thomas convinces the group that their next step, set to follow in The Death Cure, is to infiltrate WCKD, rescue Minho, and terminate Ava.

Overall Verdict:

The film misses out on some of the major parts of the book and, instead, includes a lot of information that readers won’t learn about until The Death Cure. It’s difficult to predict how the following instalment will follow (whether they split this final book into a two-part film or not, I don’t know), since much of the foundations of the story have been altered in this middle instalment.

Even if the constant changes from the novel weren’t put into consideration, The Scorch Trials is a weak instalment in a franchise that started off so well, missing out on everything that made the first instalment so exciting when it was all their in the book for the makers to use. In general, The Scorch Trials is a poor film, which is a huge shame considering the potential it had. For fans of the book, it’s not even worth watching, and it almost definitely leaves no hope for the final instalment.

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is set to be released on DVD on 1st February.

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