Welcome back! I’m giving you guys a double feature review for Maze Runner: The Death Cure and Winchester. The Death Cure is a YA post-apocalyptic film with a lot of exciting action scenes. Winchester is a Victorian haunted house film and a very stark contrast to the Maze Runner. Which movie is better? Keep reading and find out.
In a nutshell, The Death Cure takes place during a zombie apocalypse in a world that was devastated by solar flares. An organization called WCKED is experimenting on children who are immune to the virus, hoping to find a cure. A group of rebellious teenagers are planning to rescue the children while chaos ensues.
I definitely enjoyed this film much better than the other Maze Runner installments. The movie has surprisingly good performances, especially from the lead actor, Dylan O’Brien. His portrayal of Thomas is very strong, convincing, and emotional. In fact, I felt quite invested with most of the characters. Their relationships and trauma seem believable. The film’s director, Wes Ball, does a great job of showing the bonds and conflicts between the characters. Friendships and rivalries bring out some of the best elements in the overall plot. I don’t remember the performances being so strong in the previous Maze Runner movies, so this outcome was a pleasant surprise.
The actions scenes are amazing. If you’re a fan of the action genre or dystopian films, I highly recommend this movie. The action sequences are exciting, lengthy, and creative. Wes Ball uses a lot of practical effects and stunt work to bring the adventure to life. Personally, I believe The Death Cure has much more entertaining actions scenes than most post-apocalyptic films. Some of the scenes reminded me of Mad Max: Fury Road a little bit.
This film poses some interesting questions. Many of them were introduced in the previous Maze Runner movies, but The Death Cure really gives the audience a lot of food for thought. What happens if a handful of people are immune to a deadly virus? Should we sacrifice them for the rest of society? Or should we provide a brighter future for them before the rest of mankind falls? Unfortunately, somebody has to lose. The story also shows how people can develop a false sense of security. I’m going to mention something that’s in the theatrical trailer. There’s one remaining city in the world and it’s protected by a humongous wall. Is that wall going to protect everyone from extinction? I doubt it, but the residents of that city seem to think everything will be fine.
Ironically, I'm also impressed with the musical score. John Paesano created the film's score, bringing a lot of excitement to the actions sequences and slower nuances to the dramatic scenes. Parts of the music are very powerful and I couldn't expect more from a YA adaptation.
Some elements didn’t work very well in this movie. First of all, it’s way too long. This type of film doesn’t need to be any longer than an hour and half, but it’s actually two hours and twenty minutes long. It really slows down in between the actions scenes. I thought there was too much exposition, even though some of it was necessary for the plot.
The story was probably the film’s weakest element. It has a lot of plot holes and goes beyond my suspension of belief. I had a hard time going along with some of the elements regarding a potential cure. It’s not a confusing movie, but some of the plot points don’t quite work. Also, the teenagers have too many skills and twists of luck for their own good. The SWAT team can’t hit the broad side of a barn. But the teenagers can take any firearm and never miss. They also have the ability to drive like a stunt driver. I know these elements are necessary in a YA action film, but it was a little hard to believe sometimes. Teresa is an immune young adult who works for WCKED and I thought some of her elements were strange too. She’s a scientist who’s looking for a cure to the virus. How does that work? She’s not old enough to be a reputable scientist with a lot of training. I also don’t understand why WCKED wasn’t experimenting on her because we found out that she was immune in the first Maze Runner film.
I also think the film gets melodramatic sometimes. Even though I felt emotionally invested in the story, it went overboard. Wes Ball tries really hard to pull at the audience's heartstrings. Some of the most dramatic moments seem a bit corny and could produce giggles instead of tears. I wish the creator's of this movie toned down the drama a little bit.
It’s hard for me to recommend this film to the general public because the highs are really high and the lows are incredibly low. Sometimes I loved this movie. Then I lost interest during certain scenes. Basically, I recommend The Death Cure for fans of the Maze Runner franchise, action movie buffs, and anyone who enjoys post-apocalyptic or dystopian cinema. Did you read the Maze Runner books? Try the film series. You might like it. I also think young adults will appreciate this movie in many ways. The Death Cure has enough positive elements to make me feel curious about the books by James Dashner. I'll probably pick up the trilogy and see how it compares to the movies.
Let's move on to Winchester. It's a completely different film than the Death Cure. Supposedly, Winchester was inspired by true events. Sarah Winchester is the widow of gun manufacturer William Winchester. She owns half of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and hires construction crews who add new sections to the house all the time. Men are literally working on the house twenty-four hours a day. Some time in the past, Sarah had a meeting with a medium who said the house needed constant construction if she wanted to keep spirits at bay. Particularly, the ghosts of anyone who was killed by a Winchester gun. Several businessmen own the other half of the company and they want total control. They hire a psychologist named Dr. Eric Price to deem Sarah mentally unfit to run her part of the company. Dr. Price visits the mansion to give Sarah an evaluation and he gets a whole lot of unearthly surprises.
This film is getting a bad wrap from other critics. I'm not sure why they hate it so much because the movie is actually quite enjoyable. The first half of the film focuses on the characters and storyline. It's a fascinating tale with a bizarre house. I know parts of the movie were filmed at the real Winchester house, but most of the scenes were obviously shot on live sets. There are a lot of strange things for the audience to see. Stairways lead to the ceiling, doors lead to brick walls, and hallways weave like mazes. The architecture is interesting, unique, and unsettling. I appreciate getting to know the characters and their backstories. Winchester has a lot of exposition, but it doesn't seem boring or slow. The pacing is decent anyway because the film only runs for an hour and forty minutes. It actually makes sense to spend some time setting up the plot. Haunted house movies get really stale if they only focus on continual jump scares, so I don't mind having a more gradual setup.
Winchester has a couple of key actors. Helen Mirren plays Sarah Winchester and I don't think she's capable of giving a bad performance. She's eccentric, but insightful and mysterious. I thought it was a bit odd that Helen Mirren agreed to be in this film, but she elevates it to a higher level. I also enjoy Jason Clarke as Eric Price. His character has a lot of personal issues and sometimes I wonder if he's crazier than Sarah Winchester. I don't want to give away spoilers, but the audience learns a lot of interesting elements about Dr. Price.
The second half of the movie focuses on spectral activity and the scary elements. Most of the jump scares are somewhat predictable, but they're still effective. I jumped out of my skin a few times. The mansion gives an ambiance that's appropriate for a Victorian haunted house story where anything could hide and frighten you. Overall, it's a spooky film and a lot different than other haunted house flicks.
Winchester definitely has some flaws. The story has plot holes and I'm sure many viewers will be skeptical. It's a real stretch to say this movie was based on a true story. I don't believe anything in this film happened except the construction of the house. The theatrical trailer says some of the ghosts are trapped in rooms with thirteen nails embedded in the doors. How are you going to trap a spirit in a room? They explain it in the movie, but I still think the logic is hard to believe.
Audiences will also notice some horror film clichés. Winchester has a lot of predictable jump scares, generic spectral activity, and a few scenes we've all witnessed in other haunted house movies. I also wish it was scarier. Even though the film is quite spooky and exciting at times, I wouldn't say it's particularly scary compared to a lot of haunted house movies. However, it's only PG-13 and retains good entertainment value.
I'm also disappointed with the production design and visual effects. You would think a Victorian haunted house film would have really impressive production design. It's fine, but nothing special. The budget was only 3.5 million and I can tell very little money went into the set pieces. Most of the spirits have practical effects, but it's painfully obvious when the crew uses CGI. It's definitely subpar visual effects for the modern era.
Despite my complaints, I actually recommend this movie. It's different than many ghost stories and includes a lot of great tension. I didn't feel bored at all. In fact, I felt wide awake when the credits rolled. Fans of the horror genre should go see this movie. Granted, some viewers might be disappointed if they want it to be super scary. Winchester is more suitable for an adult crowd. I assume teenagers will find this film dull. What if you're a fan of Victorian and Edwardian thrillers? I'm not sure what to say. Some Victorian fans might like it and others probably won't.
Here's my overall verdict. I enjoyed Winchester much better than The Death Cure. They're completely different films, but Winchester is the winner for me. Either way, it wasn't a bad start for 2018. The first couple months of the year are usually slow for cinema and I wouldn't say either film is terrible. I saw both of them on deluxe screens and it was a fun experience. However, it's not necessary to see either movie in IMAX format. In fact, many of you can just wait for streaming. Both of these films struggled with the plot, but the characters were very good.
Did any of you guys see these movies yet? Tell me about it in the comment section. I'm interviewing a special guest next week. You can find out the details when I post the full interview. Be safe and enjoy your night at the movies.
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