• by Wes Singleton

Maze Runner: The Death Cure, C+

Rated PG-13, 140 minutes

The overlong yet entertaining "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" is a serviceable final chapter of the "Maze Runner" film series, loosely based on James Dashner's best-selling YA novels of the same name. In spite of some contrivances and an inconsistent narrative, the touching ending should please die-hard fans of the series the most.

Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) leads some escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions that the Gladers have been asking since they arrived in the maze.

"Maze Runner: The Death Cure" is an uneven but mostly enjoyable entry into the YA dystopian future, something that went out of vogue after Katniss left "The Hunger Games" in 2015. "Maze Runner," directed by Wes Ball and written by T.S. Nowlin, who directed and wrote the other "Maze Runner" films, respectively, has always been a junior-league "Hunger Games" and follows a similar theme of having a young twenty-something save the planet.

In this case, it's Thomas, played by the appealing O'Brien, and featuring the same characters from the other films, including Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Frypan (Dexter Darden), Brenda (Rosa Salazar), Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and even Will Poulter's Gally, who they somehow manage to resurrect here without a clear explanation. Barry Pepper, Aidan Gillen, Giancarlo Esposito and Patricia Clarkson also reprise their roles as some of the adults, some of whom are allies, some of whom are not.

The "Maze Runner" films follow the same very basic plot outline as the books and feature some of the same characters, though the similarities tend to end there. In other words, they amp up the action with many splashy visuals and explosions in order to draw a wider audience; on the downside, they dumb down the story considerably, with plenty of silly contrivances and coincidences that have characters and things appearing just at the right moment.

"The Death Cure" is about 20 minutes too long, and a slower middle act dealing with the deadly virus could've been trimmed. The best is the ending, which puts a moving coda to the series and is a tribute to many of the characters lost throughout the series - and while I won't give away any spoilers here - two central characters make an exit this time out.

"The Death Cure" is better than the second film but still not as original or tense as the first film. If you're a fan of this and sad to see it end, then this is for you.

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