4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
“MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD copy; 2018; PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, profanity, and some thematic elements; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu
Best extra: “Unlocking the Cure,” a four-part making-of
IT TOOK a while to get here, but the third installment of “Maze Runner,” adapted from the YA trilogy by James Dashner, was worth the wait.
The theater release was delayed several months to allow its star Dylan O’Brien (“American Assassin” “Teen Wolf”) a chance to recover from injuries he sustained during filming. By this time, interest in teen dystopian films and zombies had been on the wane. That doesn’t mean the “Maze Runner” trilogy isn’t entertaining.
In fact, for those who enjoy their sci-fic with appealing characters and strong action/adventure, it’s a binge-worth candidate. Director Wes Ball and writer T.S. Nowlin have been on board since the first film, so continuity and development are first rate. Production values are high and they’ve managed to keep all their actors involved. In the extras, Ball and Nowlin say newcomers can jump right into the third act. You can – but it’s best if you watch all three.
Each film has its own theme, building to the climax. Earth has been scorched by solar flares, and plague turns humans into Cranks – zombie-like cannibals. It’s only a matter of time before everyone is infected, says Ava Page (Patricia Clarkson), scientist and high ranking official of WCKD (World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department, pronounced “wicked”).
Everyone except the immunes. Page and her team have been experimenting on mixed groups of teens – control subjects – to develop a cure. So far, Thomas (O’Brien) and his friends have managed to escape WCKD’s maze of labs. But in the second film, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” his pal Minho (Ki Hong Lee) is recaptured. It’s up to Thomas and other freedom fighters, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, to run “Mad Max”-type gauntlets to save him. They must return to the heart of WCKD, facing new threats and old betrayals.
Production detail is stunning; the blend of digital film and CGI make “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” reference quality 4K and Blu-ray formats. There is a range of locations from a barren desert setting and outstanding train/plane/motorcade chase to the big rebellion in the clean, futuristic chrome and neon-hued last city, home of WCKD. Pacing is breathless.
Images are sharper, contrast deeper and colors richer and truer than we usually see in a 2K intermediate master. HDR toning provides an excellent blend of bold and natural colors, with authentic multi-racial skin tones. Black levels are solid throughout, with good background detail. The combo of blacks and blazing color in a fiery conflagration is especially vivid.
Both 4K and Blu-ray offer a default DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack. A Dolby Atmos track is available on the 4K giving height speakers a good workout particularly in the futuristic hovercraft and battle sequences. Dialogue is clean and clear, with remarkable ambient and effects sound.
“You need to be able to run,” Lee says drily in the multi-part making-of. True, that. Thomas and the rebels race through tunnels with eerie, shrieking Cranks in pursuit, soldier-filled hallways and battle grounds hitting all surround speakers.
An enthusiastic commentary with Ball, Nowlin and Producer Joe Hartwick Jr. can be found on both the 4K and Blu-ray discs. Other bonus features only appear on the Blu-ray including deleted and extended scenes which can be viewed with or without commentary from the trio. “Visuals Effects: Breakdown and Effects Reel” has optional commentary from Ball.
“Unlocking the Cure” is a four-part making-of with interviews and fairly detailed production information. “Going Out on Top” details the opening train raid sequence. Also find a gallery of stills and storyboards, and gag reel.
Unlike the four “Hunger Games” films – and other book trilogies made into money-making film quartets – the “Maze Runner” benefits from its tight storyline. “The Death Cure” has moments of triumph and heartbreak that enhance the final “Maze Runner” installment. Good characterization, pacing and a compelling storyline make it more than just another sci-fi adventure flick. There are heroes to love and villains to hate, and a world of imaginative theater holding it all together.
— Kay Reynolds