Oh hey we’re back! I had a dream that Chris Hemsworth was mad at me because I referred to him as the guy from Blackhat (2015) and when I went to apologize he called me a loser for writing about movies! So that’s where I’m at! Anyway I saw two movies because I didn’t feel up for staying up to watch The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) after the Super Bowl despite the insistence of Netflix’s marketing team! Extremely big shoutout to my friend Fran for letting me drag her to see Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018) with me even though she’d never seen any of the other ones!
Wild Things (1998)
It’s the one with the threesome, we all know that much. But after watching this movie, I think that describing it as the movie where there’s a threesome is kind of like describing Saturday Night Fever (1977) as the movie where Travolta does some disco dancing. It’s true that that’s the thing that everyone seems to remember, but there’s so much more than dancing going on in Saturday Night Fever just like there’s so much more than a threesome going on in Wild Things. There’s also Kevin Bacon’s dick.
There are, what, like, no less than five different twists in this movie, each twist disrupting whatever narrative had been going on before it while simultaneously propelling the movie forward up until the very end. There’s a point somewhere in the middle of the movie where it becomes very clear that not everyone will be making it out alive, which is par for course with these erotic thrillers, sure, but Wild Things delivers this feeling of tension and menace with a certain glee and enthusiasm that sets it apart from the erotic thriller pack. By the end of the movie you realize you’ve developed a kind of combination of fascination and bloodlust, trying to figure out the big picture, but also craving one more insane plot twist to completely derail your expectations, leaving you to again speculate about where this movie could possibly have left to go.
Wild Things has that late night cable movie vibe built right into its DNA but the constant bickering and betrayal in this movie at times makes it feel like the best reality TV, brought to its natural endpoint of murder. Like, what if LC just had it in her to murder Audrina? Or what if everyone in SUR plotted to kill Jax? I’m sure we’ve all wondered. It’s amazing that Wild Things had the answer to those questions way back in 1998! We just didn’t know which questions to ask, we were so young and foolish!
Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018)
***FYI POSSIBLE SPOILERS ARE HERE IN CASE YOU CARE ABOUT THAT KIND OF THING***
Out of all of the movies that came from the boom of YA dystopian fiction, The Maze Runner series has to have been one of the messiest. It wants to have it all — violent death games, “social relevance,” weird monsters, zombies, almost everything you’ve ever seen in one of these kinds of movies. Every single one of these elements feels like focus group tested half measures, but the weird thing about it this third time around is that it kind of works? Maybe it’s just because after two thematically messy movies, I’ve grown accustomed to its scattershot approach to the genre of young men scowling and something something resistance something, but I actually found this installment to be the best of the trilogy. It seemed less interested in making a heavy-handed YA allegory and more interested in being a by-the-numbers action movie, which I guess reads like faint praise (it is), but as far as conclusions to YA dystopian movies go, I think you could do worse than just trying to make a competent action movie. I mean Divergent isn’t even finishing as a movie, at least Maze Runner has the integrity to finish what it started.
The performances are mostly fine. Dylan O’Brien is the kind of combination of suitably hot and mostly bland that works perfectly for a protagonist in a YA series or a Walter Hill movie. Thomas Brodie-Sangster is trying the action hero’s best friend route, and while I doubt it’s going to lead to more action movies for him, I do admire his ability to inhabit a character who carries the subtext of “is constantly waiting to hit the ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ needle drop.” Aidan Gillen seems to be having a great time playing a relentlessly smirking villain for whom it seems the phrase “mincing around” was invented. Also *deep breath* *pregnant pause* WALTON GOGGINS IS IN THIS MOVIE?? Truly the first big surprise of 2018 for me was that Walton Goggins reveal. He’s in the movie for all of ten minutes but wow what a thrill!
There’s a lot of stuff to like in this movie, especially if you’re not too bogged down with caring about whatever happened in the last two movies. I’ve seen all of them, and I cannot even begin to remember the finer points of this movie, i.e. why there was even a maze to begin with. Actually that’s a little bit of a lie — big shout out to Minho, the best character and the only one I remember from the other ones that wasn’t Dylan O’Brien or Kaya Scodelario. It was a little disappointing to see that genuine action hero Minho spends the majority of this movie being tortured or in a hospital bed drugged out of his mind, but what a payoff when he rages free of his restraints Total Recall (1990) style. But I digress. I honestly feel like you don’t particularly have to have seen the previous two movies for this movie to work. There’s enough in there to get you up to speed, plus, maybe an added benefit of the series trying to shoehorn every popular YA thing into this world is that you kind of already get a sense about how we got to this point and how things are going to play out. You’ve seen a YA movie, you know there’s going to be a lot of talk about being free and true to yourself and sticking by your friends. You’ve seen a zombie movie, you know that someone near and dear is going to hide their infection and then turn in the third act. Etc. etc. It can come off as a little predictable, but in a movie where all of these themes and genres are fighting for space, I found it to be a comfort, knowing that I could always depend on something exciting happening to get our Maze boys out of whatever predicament they were in because something exciting always happens to get our heroes out of scrapes in these kinds of movies. (And it is pretty interesting watching the trickle down effects of action sequences from The Fast and the Furious series and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)played out in the conclusion to a lower tier YA franchise.)
Did anybody else notice a lot of just straight up guns and shooting in this movie? I’m struggling to remember if the other two movies had this level of gunplay, but I feel like they didn’t? I know there are guns that shoot electric bits because it’s the future and there are always guns that shoot something else besides bullets as a non-lethal alternative, but there are just straight up guns in this one. Maybe it’s an attempt to make the series feel a little older, a little more serious, but it is pretty jarring to see our Maze boys growing up to be a team of hardened militia men, carrying around rifles and raiding government facilities for dubious reasons. Maybe that’s another thing that made the movie work for me: The Death Cure knows it’s coming at the end of the YA wave and it’s trying to shake its YA trappings before the runtime is up so that maybe it can be remembered as something more than the last gasp of big budget YA dystopian fiction. I don’t think it’s successful at accomplishing that, but it’s an interesting effort, considering that the message of the movie seems to be that any effort to forestall death is meaningless and a waste of everyone’s time.