The Scorch Trials and A Look at Dystopian Fiction

| October 15, 2015

Realistic and plausible fears of the future of our world have helped usher in a new popularity in dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. Many are frightened at the idea of another world war, nuclear disaster, loss of natural resources, and even the overthrow of humanity by man-made forces we can no longer control. Recent films have taken advantage of these issues and have been incredibly successful – no matter what the critics say. The Maze Runner is no exception.

The Scorch Trials, the second in The Maze Runner series (the first of which you can stream through DirecTV), picks up after Thomas and the others escape the labyrinth. The Gladers’ adventures have only just begun, however, as they are taken to a shady base full of suspicious people. The film has diverged significantly from the novel of the same name, which would have had the potential to be a great breakthrough within the mediocre films of the same genre but it ultimately falls short and leaves much to be desired. Many critics have found the film unsatisfying and confusing and spends most of its time focusing on our main characters just running.

As with most young adult dystopian fiction, The Scorch Trials focuses mainly on the mystery of what happened to the world, why it happened, and how the young heroes are going to survive in it. The film version includes more action and less suspense than the book version, due to some changes to the plot but it still ultimately focuses on the Gladers getting out of the secret base, surviving in the Scorch, and meeting up with the rebels. The themes of the first film (in addition to other dystopian films) continue in the second with the distrust of authority figures which reflects real-world concerns of government surveillance.

Despite the representation of these themes, no time is spent on a handful of other issues that current society faces on a daily basis, such as racism and sexism. While the majority of characters in The Scorch Trials are male, the few female characters present are not treated as less capable than they are. And the cast is a mix of races, both in the group of heroes and the group of possible bad guys. Yet none of them act like this has any bearing on the story whatsoever.

Perhaps in a world where the worst has happened, a large part of the population has been wiped out along with most of the resources needed to survive, things such as race and gender just aren’t considered important anymore. The characters have too many other things to focus on to worry about what color of skin their allies have or what gender their enemies have. However, in dystopias, one would think that these problems would play a significant part in the chaotic environment of the end of the world. After all, if women and people of color have it rough now, who’s to say it won’t be worse in this type of future?

Despite this, young adult sci-fi dystopian films and novels are continuing to capture attention. This is possibly due to the action-packed scenes found in Divergent, dangerous rebellions in The Hunger Games, and the mysteries of the universe that is The Maze Runner. Audiences want heroes they can root for in worlds that escape their own and this genre does a phenomenal job at doing just that.

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