Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Maze Runner: The Death Cure 4K Ultra HD Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
The final installment in the Maze Runner series drops on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on April 24th. A DVD trilogy box set with limited edition bandana chosen by fans is also available. All editions include an exclusive 24-page prequel origins comic book written by screenwriter T.S. Nowlin. Maze Runner: The Death Cure sees Thomas and his friends on their final mission against the WCKD Corporation. The infected outnumber the healthy and if they don’t find a cure in the Last City, humanity will be lost.
Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Based on James Dashner’s novel The Death Cure, the conclusion to the Maze Runner saga begins as Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Frypan (Dexter Darden) are the last of the free “Gladers”. They are immune to the flare virus which has turned most of the population into zombie like monsters. They are working with a small resistance movement and are attempting a rescue operation. Other immunes have been tagged and loaded on a train light cattle, headed for the Last City. There the evil WCKD Corporation will torture and study these individuals, in the hopes of finding a cure for the flare. 

The rescue mission saves a train full of young people but Minho (Ki Hong Lee), former Glader was on a different train. Thomas is determined to bring back his friend and the others follow without question. They plan to rescue Minho alone and soon need saving from the infected, known as Cranks, themselves. Luckily fellow resistance fighters Jorge and Brenda followed and are there to swoop in before the trio are overrun by Cranks. 

They aren’t sure if the Last City is real or just a myth, but they make their way to the city walls. WCKD has walled off a section of a downtown city that has working electricity and even public transportation. Just outside the walls is a dirty wasteland but the Last City appears uninfected. Outside the city, Glader Gally (Will Poulter) is working with a band of rebels. The others had no idea their “friend” was alive and he claims to be able to get them into the city. Gally has another surprise for Thomas when he shows him that Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) is working in the city. In the end it will take both Teresa and Thomas to save mankind. 

The Maze Runner films are a continuing story and you should not start with part three. I recommend a refresher viewing of the first two films as the thirds takes off with little explanation of who the characters are or how they got to this place. I appreciate that, as a viewer. I don’t enjoy watching lengthy recaps placed there for people who were too lazy to watch an entire series. Two previous films is not much to ask and I highly recommend considering the Maze Runner saga as a whole. Whether or not you choose to read the books is another story but at least watch the movies. 

All three films bring up some very interesting questions like how far should science go to save mankind? What kind of experimentation, either physical or psychological, would you consider off limits when the future of civilization is at stake? Do you value the needs of the many over the needs of the few? Whether or not you want to think about that at all, the film is still entertaining. It has drama, action and plague infected zombies. These aren’t your typical mindless flesh eaters. The infected turn slowly and retain their personalities for far too long. The young actors in the film all do a great job and the seasoned actors offer a few surprises. 

The makeup and special effects are very well done with some very impressive computer-generated work done to remove entire pieces of flesh from a character actor. I really like both the first and third film but the second is necessary to fill in some information. As a series, they are worth the watch and are filling the whole in my dystopian section now that I’ve gotten rather sick of Divergent/Insurgent/Allegiant. Divergent had me interested but viewed as a group the three films disappointed me. The same is not the case with the Maze Runner series. As a whole, I like them more, and am even more willing to forgive some shortcomings. The final installment definitely has the most heart and some very emotional moments between the characters that have been through a lot together. 
Video (5 out of 5 stars) 
Maze Runner: The Death Cure is presented on 4K Ultra HD with a 2.39:1 ratio. If all you had ever seen was the Blu-ray you might feel like you had nothing to complain about but the film truly shines on 4K UHD. The picture is incredibly sharp with colors that pop off the screen. Colors you might not have taken notice of (like the orange in the opening train or the teal paint on the truck) is stunning. Similarly, the contract of the lights on the aircraft consoles in the dark is rather impressive. Watching the extras you’ll learn how much visual effects were used and it blends seamlessly with the live action. Skin tones are accurate as expected and pale and lifeless when infected. Bruised and scratches are realistic and look painful. 
Audio (5 out of 5 stars) 
The Dolby Atomos track on the 4K Ultra HD disc is a small step above the impressive DTS-HD MA 7.1 Blu-ray. From the beginning, bullets sound like they are whizzing around your living room. Inside the train, calls for help sound appropriately hollow. Aircraft blades feel like they could be turning overhead. When water trickles in the sewer it sounds like you are there. I couldn’t ask for more from an audio presentation. Well done. 
Extras (4 out of 5 stars) 
Unless noted, the feature is found only on the Blu-ray disc: 
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (27:51) - with Optional Audio Commentary by Wes Ball, T.S. Nowlin, and Joe Hartwick Jr and available by play all function or individually. The following scenes include unfinished picture and sound: 
    • “No Symptoms”/Without Minho 
    • “Running Out of Time” 
    • Sewer Scene/Serum Vault 
    • Subway Tunnel 
    • Freeway Jump/”Trust Each Other” 
    • Newts Broken Leg 
    • Lawrence Camera Shutdown 
    • Preparing for Battle 
    • Frypan’s Grand Entrance 
    • Lawrence is Gone 
    • Teresa and Ava Wait 
  • Featurettes: Unlocking the Cure – Available with play all function 
    • The Final Run (6:03) – Includes cast and crew interviews, exploring the scope and scale of the city set. A brief look at stunts and character development. 
    • Dystopia (4:19) – The world of WCKD with detailed sets, especially labs and South Africa substituting for Detroit. The new maze inside the city and the safe haven at the end of the film are seen in this extra. 
    • Allies Reunited (5:28) – The gang is back together and the cast describes how they have become a family over the course of filming the trilogy. There is dancing and silliness on set and newcomers are welcomed to the Maze Runner family. 
    • A Look Back: The Director’s Journey (5:54) – It is explained that the Director basically got the job from a short film and the studio put amazing trust in him letting him take on these films without having previously directed. Letting him see his vision through worked well for this series and the cast appreciates having him lead their efforts. His unusual directing style can be seen here. 
    • Going Out on Top (4:33) – The opening number train heist and how it came together. 
  • Gag Reel (11:38) – Bloopers, line flubs, prop malfunctions, dancing and singing are included. 
  • Visual Effects with Optional Commentary – I recommend the commentary as Wes Ball’s explanations are vital to understanding what you’re watching. 
    • Visual Effects Breakdown (16:40) – Train Chase and Goodbye Teresa 
    • Visual Effects Reel (11:21) – See various scene progressions 
  • Audio Commentary by Wes Ball, T.S. Nowlin and Joe Hartwick Jr. (DVD, Blu-Ray and UHD) – You might find all the making of information you were looking for in the featurettes. In the visual effects commentary Ball casually mentions the accident that injured the film’s star but lets the sequence pass without explaining what happened here. They do clear up what kind of experiments Minho is undergoing and things they tried to subtly explain. 
  • Gallery – Over 300 images. 
Summary (4 out of 5 stars) 
Maze Runner: The Death Cure didn’t knock anyone’s socks off with box office numbers but I am thrilled to have the 4K UHD to finish the series at home. I left my summary intentionally vague so as not to spoil this film or the previous two for those who are interested and I highly recommend them all. Although infection has spread and there are zombies, this isn’t your typical horror flick. This is an action film with well-developed characters that fans have come to love. This film has some very touching moments and is a fitting goodbye for the franchise. The 4K UHD is technically impressive and includes a healthy list of enjoyable extras. Recommended.

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