“I watched as that kid died. In his last few seconds, there was pure terror in his eyes. You can’t do that. You can’t do that to a person. I don’t care what anybody tells me, I don’t care how many people go crazy and die, I don’t care if the whole shuck human race ends. Even if that was the only thing that had to happen to find the cure, I’d still be against it.”
Directed by Wes Ball, The Maze Runner: The Death Cure is the third and final film in the adaptations of James Dashner‘s series of Maze Runner novels. As Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) leads his group of escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet – including Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Frypan (Dexter Darden), Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) – they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all, on a mission to find a cure for a deadly disease known as “The Flare”. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions the Gladers have been asking since they first arrived in the maze.
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.
The Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a well-rounded finale to a somewhat hit and miss trilogy of adaptations. Already set up by its predecessor to be very different from the book, The Death Cure wasn’t helped by a pushed back release date when so many young adult dystopias have been attempted and mostly forgotten about over the past few years, but it may just be the instalment to remind you how good some of them were.
When you don’t think of it is an adaptation, The Death Cure is an entertaining young adult adaptation. It has some good action, likeable characters, and there are quite a few surprisingly emotional and heartfelt moments that may dupe you into thinking that you actually cared about this franchise this whole time. This instalment certainly makes up for the many mistakes in the second instalment, anyway. It just doesn’t have much substance because of everything that has been lost from it.
The trouble with this adaptation is that the previous film, The Scorch Trials, was so different from the second book that this final instalment had no choice but to follow in the same way. With the way that The Scorch Trials film ended, there was no way that The Death Cure could go back on itself to explore the few things that made the book such a decent read. Instead, it was obvious from the outset that it was going to have to take on a story of its own.
And that’s why you’ll either love or hate this film. If you haven’t read the books, you’ll likely think that The Death Cure is a decent teen action. It might not make a lot of sense or have any relevance, but Dylan O’Brien leads a great cast who keep you engaged. Fans of the book, however, probably stopped being interested in these films after watching The Scorch Trials and will be really disappointed with how far these films have moved away from Dashner’s work. The films have lost all context of the books, with the cure losing all of its importance and the characters losing their relevance and, because of that, it just doesn’t hold together as well. To make matters worse, the many questions we have from the first two films are completely ignored and all of the significance of the trials has faded into the background.
If the film followed the book more closely, especially in its final half, then this could have been the finale we had all waited so long for. The book sees the characters re-enter the maze and take on WCKD as a team, as the government’s actions and intentions are laid out flat for us to understand how this dystopian future world came into existence. The film, however, forgets its origins and seems to start its own battles. It loses a lot of what makes the books stand out and puts its focus all in the wrong places. Still, it somehow manages to be an enjoyable watch, despite this.
Differences From The Book:
As I have said above, the changes in The Scorch Trials meant that this final instalment was going to be very different from the beginning. Firstly, the Gladers are all told in The Scorch Trials book that they are infected and are sent out into The Scorch to search for the cure. In the film, however, we assume that all of the Gladers are immune, so the “death cure” isn’t as necessary. Secondly, the film introduced us to The Right Arm early on, whereas we don’t meet them until halfway through The Death Cure book. Both of these changes start the book and the film off in very different ways, so let’s begin there and then continue to look at these changes in chronological order:
- The Scorch Trial film ends with the Gladers already working with TRA, when Minho is captured by WCKD during their ambush of TRA’s camp. With only Thomas, Newt, and Frypan surviving from Group A, Thomas convinces them that their next step should be to infiltrate WCKD to rescue Minho and terminate Ava. And that’s where The Death Cure film follows on from, as they ambush a train owned by WCKD to rescue Minho and the others Immunes onboard. The Scorch Trial book, however, ends with Thomas being separated from his friends after trying to find the cure, when he is imprisoned in a white room. The Death Cure book picks up from this when, 26 days later, Thomas is finally freed.
- In the book, each of the remaining Gladers have been separately imprisoned in a room as Phase 3 of their trials (with Phase 2 being their journey through The Scorch). The film doesn’t go into detail about any further phases after the maze, and they don’t find themselves back under the control of WCKD since they aren’t recaptured at the end of The Scorch Trials. In the film, it is only Minho who has been captured.
- In the film, Thomas and TRA are hiding out at some kind of old port that is full of shipwrecks. This location isn’t in the book.
- In the book, Janson tells Thomas that he still has the Flare (although he was promised a cure at the end of Book 2) but that his test is almost complete. He later confirms that Thomas is immune. In the film, the Gladers aren’t told that they have the Flare or made to find the cure, and Thomas confirms what we already assumed, that they are all immune.
- In the book, Janson tells Thomas all about how they are analyzing their brain patterns to make a blueprint to find a cure for the Flare. In the film, we see WCKD put Minho through a series of tests and them making a serum from his brain patterns. It is kind of explained, but not as well as it is in the book.
- In the film, Minho sees the Maze and a Griever attacks him in his visions. Since he hasn’t been taken by WCKD in the book, these visions don’t happen.
- In the book, Thomas is reunited with the other Gladers and is told that WCKD are going to remove “The Swipe”, which will give them their memories back. There is no mention of this in the film and nobody appears to miss their memories. Removing The Swipe also means that Thomas will lose his telepathic communication with Teresa, but they didn’t do this any of the films.
- Teresa only has a small role in the book but she keeps emphasising the WCKD is good. In the film, she is working for WCKD after betraying everybody at the end of the second film.
- In the film, we see Teresa working a lot with Ava Paige. In the book, we don’t see Ava. She is present in the end, but there are no interactions with her.
- In the book, Newt begins getting angry with Janson which is when we first see start to see that something is wrong with him. We then find out that he is one of the few who isn’t immune to the Flare. In the film, he figures this out by himself since he has a black rash all up his arm. He first gets angry with Thomas and then finally tells him that he is infected.
- In the book, Newt gives Thomas a note and tells him to read it “when the time is right.” In the film, it isn’t until Newt dies when he gives Thomas a pendant that he later realises has a note hidden inside of it.
- In the book, this is the first time that Janson tells the Gladers his name, as they just refer to him as Rat Man before this. In the film, he is only known as Janson.
- In the book, Thomas has many more flashbacks to his past. He dreams of playing with his mother and father and finding out how his mother reluctantly gave him to WCKD to help the world to find a cure. None of this is explained in the film and we don’t know anything about his parents.
- In the book, Brenda is working for WCKD and helps Thomas to escape. In the film, it is not mentioned that Brenda and Jorge were actually working for WCKD.
- In the book, Brenda tells Thomas that she is immune and that she was only acting in The Scorch. In the film, Brenda didn’t work for WCKD so she, therefore, still has the Flare. Jorge even looks at her bite and asks how she’s doing.
- The whole first 20 chapters of the book take place in WCKD’s headquarters, as Thomas, Minho, Newt and Brenda fight off guards and try to find their way to Jorge to escape on a Berg. The rest of the test subjects (including Frypan and Teresa) have escaped on another Berg and have already taken out half of the guards for them. In the film, they haven’t been captured by WCKD so none of this happens. Instead, Thomas, Newt and Frypan sneak away from The Right Arm to go and find Minho, but Brenda and Jorge save them from a Crank attack shortly after and join them on their journey.
- We only get a small glimpse of the Launchers in the film, but the electric grenade type weapons are used often in the book and hit Brenda and Thomas before their escape.
- In the book, Jorge is a pilot for WCKD so he knows how to steal a Berg. In the film, they somehow have one of their own. Jorge isn’t a pilot, but he still knows how to fly it.
- After all of this fighting in the book, Thomas, Minho, Newt, Brenda and Jorge escape WCKD on a Berg and head to Denver. In the film, the group go to The Last City in a jeep.
- In the film, Brenda says that there aren’t any cities left standing. In the book, it is Brenda and Jorge who know about Denver.
- In the book, WCKD’s headquarters are far away from the city. Janson tells Thomas that WCKD won’t go there because it’s overrun with The Flare. In the film, their headquarters are in the heart of the city.
- In the book, Brenda tells Thomas about her family. We don’t have such a close relationship with her in the film.
- In the film, Ava is refusing entry into the city because the infection rates are so high. There are slums outside the walls and guards with huge weapons shoot anybody that tries to get inside. In the book, there is no wall. There is security, but it’s not as high. Instead, the group drive to an airport and use fake IDs to get inside.
- In the film, Janson tries to shoot at Thomas. He doesn’t want him dead in the book.
- In the book, the group are scanned upon arrival to see if they are Immune, and Newt has to hide onboard and stay behind. In the film, the group sneak into the city through the sewers and are never scanned.
- In the film, Gally is part of a rebellion group that is separate from The Right Arm. In the book, Gally is a part of The Right Arm; this is the first time we meet them and this is the only rebellion group involved.
- In the book, somebody gives Thomas a note which is from Gally that says where they can go to meet him. In the film, the masked group kidnap Thomas and his friends.
- In the book, Gally’s note says that the end of the world is upon them. The film doesn’t seem so drastic or apocalyptic.
- More is detailed in the book about what happened to Gally after the Maze. Since Brenda worked for WCKD, she knows that he was used by WCKD to kill Chuck. Gally also explains that he faked going crazy afterwards so that they would send him away. In the film, none of this explained; Gally just skips over the questions.
- In the book, Gally explains to the group about the Immunes going missing. This isn’t really explained in the film. Instead, the group are rescuing the test subjects who were stolen along with Minho at the beginning. It is implied that they are all Immune, although not everyone is in the book.
- In the film, Teresa tries the serum on a patient but it doesn’t work. This isn’t in the book since Teresa doesn’t work for WCKD, and there isn’t a potential serum that is tested.
- Minho then attacks Teresa in the film. He doesn’t attack her in the book, but he definitely doesn’t like her.
- In the film, Thomas kidnaps Teresa so that she can help them to get inside WCKD. She removes his chip. In the book, the group plan to see a man named Hans who used to work for WCKD, in hope that he can remove their chips.
- In the film, Teresa is curious as to why it is taking the disease so long to take its full effect on Brenda. In the book, Brenda is immune and only pretending to have the Flare.
- When Hans removes Thomas’ chip in the book, WCKD take over Thomas’ body and try to get him to attack the group. They manage to restrain him. He also finally tells them all about his memory flashbacks, but he doesn’t have as many of these in the film and they aren’t explained in any detail.
- In the book, Thomas sees The Purge in his dreams. This is when the original creators of the trials had to all be killed because they had the Flare. This isn’t explained in the film, although there were some visions of it in The Maze Runner.
- In the book, the group travel in a taxi to see Gally and stay overnight in a motel. They don’t stay inside the city in the film, they only sneak in and then hide out with the rebellion group outside the walls.
- We see much more of the city in the book, as the group go to a mall and a coffee shop. We only really see inside WCKD in the film, nowhere that reflects the old world.
- In the coffee shop in the book, Thomas sees a man on a drug called Bliss which numbs the effects of the Flare. This isn’t discussed in the film.
- In the book, Thomas is captured by a man in the coffee shop who tries to take him away, but the man is shot dead by a vehicle. A hologram of Janson appears telling Thomas that they need him to return as he is the Final Candidate. This doesn’t happen in the film. Janson doesn’t communicate with Thomas until they sneak into WCKD.
- In the book, we still think that Janson could be a good guy, despite the Gladers dislike of him. In the film, he is a baddy from the beginning and his motives seem much more obvious.
- In the book, Newt leaves a note saying that he has gone to live with the Cranks. The group travel to Crank Palace to find him, where they pay some guards to help them out. Newt seems too far gone so they leave him there. They then get attacked by a crowd. None of this is in the film and there is no Crank Palace. We only see Cranks that have completely gone to the disease, whereas that’s not always the case in the book.
- In the book, this is where Thomas reads the note from Newt. It says that if he was ever Newt’s friends, then Thomas would kill him. Thomas doesn’t read the note until the final scene in the film, and the note is much more sentimental, looking back on their time together.
- In the film, Ava admits that she has lost and that the disease is airborne and is going to take over the city. In the book, Ava announces a state of emergency. When the group get back to the city, they are captured. Here, they are reunited with everyone (including Frypan and Teresa).
- In the book, Minho steals a Launcher and forces his captors to take Thomas and Brenda to their boss. A man called Lawrence drives them to see Vince. In the film, Lawrence is the leader of Gally’s rebellion group, whilst Vince is the leader of TRA. Since TRA and the rebellion group are the same in the book, Vince is the only leader so the film has made Lawrence’s role much bigger.
- In the book, Vince explains that TRA has been stealing Immunes to mimic WCKD so that they can get inside their headquarters. In the film, they use Teresa to get inside.
- In the book, Thomas and Lawrence are attacked by Cranks as they are driving. In the film, it is Thomas, Newt, and Frypan who are attacked by Cranks whilst in the Jeep much earlier on. The scenes feel very similar although they are completely different.
- In the book, Thomas sees Newt on his way to WCKD. They fight, and Thomas kills him, just as Newt asked. In the film, Newt has been with them the whole time but only starts to turn into a Crank after they have escaped from WCKD with Minho. Newt kills himself during a fight with Thomas.
- In the book, Newt explains to Thomas that he had a limp because he tried to kill himself in the Maze. Newt doesn’t have a limp in the film so we don’t learn this about him.
- In the book, Thomas goes to WCKD on his own so that he can plant a device that will render their weapons useless, and TRA plans to turn up afterwards. In the film, they use Teresa to get inside WCKD. Brenda and Gally go to find the Immunes whilst Thomas and Newt rescue Minho. Thomas then goes back inside WCKD on his own after Teresa talks to him over an intercom.
- In the film, Teresa tells Thomas how his blood is the cure for the Flare and takes some more samples from him. In the book, Teresa isn’t involved in any of this; it is Janson who tells Thomas that they need his brain to make the cure.
- In both the book and the film, TRA attack WCKD. In the film, Lawrence sacrifices himself to let the infected into the city and burn it down. In the book, they just destroy the headquarters; we don’t know what happens to Denver.
- In the book, Thomas is sedated and awakes to find a note and a map from Ava, showing him where the Immunes are hidden. In the film, he is restrained by Janson whilst Teresa takes a sample of his blood, but Teresa turns on him and attacks him so that Thomas can escape.
- In the book, the Immunes are hidden in the Maze. In the film, they easily find the Immunes inside the building. Brenda escorts them out of the building and onto a bus.
- In the film, Thomas confronts Ava but she is killed by Janson. We don’t know her fate in the book, but she helps Thomas out a lot more.
- In the book, Thomas is reunited with all of the surviving Gladers, including Teresa, Minho, Gally, Frypan, and Aris, and they all go into the Maze together. They have to fight some Grievers and escape the Maze before the walls collapse on them. None of this is in the film which is a huge disappointment. We see some of the Maze and the Grievers in Minho’s visions at the beginning, but it’s not the same. In the film, Teresa and Thomas simply have to make it out of WCKD alive.
- In the film, Janson is killed by Cranks. In the book, Thomas strangles him to death.
- In the film, Teresa helps Thomas board a Berg and dies when the building collapses at her feet. In the book, a piece of the ceiling is about to fall on Thomas but she pushes him out of the way and is killed instead. Either way, she sacrifices herself for him.
- In the film, Thomas kisses Teresa. In the book, he kisses Brenda for the first time once they reach the Safe Haven.
- In the film, Thomas has been severely injured. He hasn’t been in the book.
- In the film, the group reunites with TRA and escape to a safe haven. In the book, they leave TRA behind and only the Immunes are transported to the Safe Haven via a Flat Trans inside WCKD.
- The book ends with an epilogue explaining that Ava worked with Brenda and Jorge to create the Safe Haven to save the Immunes so that they could start afresh. WCKD IS GOOD! This isn’t explained in the film. We don’t see any of the good sides of WCKD.
Whilst I would normally hate a film adaptation for being so different to a book that I quite enjoyed, I don’t dislike this film as much as I did the second adaptation or other franchises like Divergent, despite the even bigger and constant changes in this adaptation. Maybe it’s because I knew that the film wasn’t going to follow the book very closely from the start so I was rid of any high expectations and could enjoy it for what it is, or maybe it was those heartfelt moments that really did trick me into thinking I liked this film a lot more than I did.
Either way, The Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a satisfying enough conclusion to a trilogy that is far more interesting to read than watch. James Dashner probably didn’t recognise it is as his own, but this instalment will definitely widen the franchise’s fanbase.