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The third and final film in the “Maze Runner” series, subtitled “The Death Cure,” gets it half right as an action movie. The stunts, the explosions and the chases are all exciting and elaborately mounted; there’s just not much of a movie to go with them.

When it was announced that last chapter of the on-screen “Divergent” saga was going straight to live on a farm upstate — or, rather, directly to television — it seemed like we’d heard the last gasp of the once ubiquitous, now exhausted YA genre. But no, here comes “The Death Cure” to pound the final nail in the coffin of teenage chosen ones fighting zombies in a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Goodbye, and good riddance.

“The Death Cure” provides no exposition or title cards up front to bring you up to speed if you missed the previous chapters or if, like me, you saw them but can scarcely remember the slightest detail about them, apart from a maze and some running. Nonetheless, we’re plunged right into the first of several splashy stunts, wherein a plucky band of rebels hijack a train, capture a futuristic fighter plane and liberate several dozen pre-adolescents.

Watch Video: 'Maze Runner: The Death Cure' Trailer Shows Dylan O'Brien Back on the Run

That this entire operation involves the train, the plane and various feckless bad-guy soldiers winding up in exactly the right place at exactly the right time is the least of the film’s concerns. The one detail that Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his cohorts miss is getting the train car that contains their friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”); realizing his mistake, Thomas wants to try another rescue mission, even though it will take him and his friends into the heart of “the last city,” a walled stronghold controlled by the wicked WCKD corporation, which has been attempting to use all of these untainted teens to wipe out the virus that’s turned most of the planet into half-dead bloodsuckers.

For those who have been paying attention and have any emotional investment, “The Death Cure” brings back some surprise characters, offers redemption to some (if not all) of the villains and winds up with an emotional coda that pays tribute to the brothers- and sisters-in-arms lost along the way. And we know it’s emotional because the score by John Paesano (“The Star”) keeps whipping us in the face with tear-jerking semaphore flags.

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For everyone else, there’s the action, and it’s here where “The Death Cure” makes its strongest case for existence. There are cranes and buses and explosions and shoot-outs and hand-to-hand battles and invasions and demolitions, and they’re all delivered with a verve that is otherwise missing.

Director Wes Ball’s entire feature output has been these “Maze Runner” movies, and he definitely seems to have been learning on the job. He (and a no doubt very talented second unit) teams with editors Paul Harb (“The Expendables 3”) and Dan Zimmerman (“The Dark Tower”) and a top-flight visual effects crew to jolt the movie back to life every 15 or 20 minutes with another thrilling sequence.

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In between, alas, T.S. Nowlin (“Phoenix Forgotten”), adapting James Dashner’s novel, mostly goes through the YA motions. The plot is so by-the-numbers and the dialogue so forgettable that the talented cast of character actors – including Lee, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Patricia Clarkson, Giancarlo Esposito, series newcomer Walton Goggins, and one more who can’t be mentioned since it’s a spoiler – seem to be mainly biding their time until a more interesting and possibly less lucrative project comes along.

As for O’Brien and co-star Kaya Scodelario, they’ve been reduced to beautiful blanks over the course of this entire series. If it turns out that they have a post-YA resurgence along the lines of what Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have achieved since “Twilight,” more power to them.

The world of “Maze Runner” was never particularly unique or interesting. The best thing that “The Death Cure” does is blow it up spectacularly.

20 Biggest Movie Letdowns of 2017: From 'Life' to 'Justice League' (Photos)

  • 2017 Movie Letdowns

    While there were huge hits, 2017 also gave us big gambles that didn’t pay off, franchise films that look like they have diminishing returns, and would-be franchises that are unlikely to see a sequel. Here are the 20 biggest movie letdowns of the year.

  • Dark Tower

    "The Dark Tower":

    Stephen King Fans waited for a decade to see the theatrical adaptation of his most popular non-horror property and instead got a 90 minute incomprehensible mess that didn't do the original novels justice.

    Columbia Pictures
  • Valerian

    "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Filmmaker":

    Luc Besson waited 20 years to finally make his favorite comic. The film is sincere but overstuffed, visually gorgeous but dramatically clunky, and it represents a singular vision while simultaneously featuring two wildly miscast actors in the lead roles.

    STX Films
  • great wall matt damon

    "The Great Wall":

    USA Today referred to the film as "a complete trainwreck." An attempt to please both sides of the Pacific missed the mark with a weak plot and underdeveloped characters. The whitewashing controversy with star Matt Damon didn't help either.

    Universal Pictures
  • cars 3

    "Cars 3":

    The animated Pixar film never quite lived up to what came before it and the script tended to be fairly unremarkable, with lots of by-the-numbers character development and more awful jokes for Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy).

  • Geostorm


    The film is the second biggest flop for Warner Bros. this year, after “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” failed to recoup its $175 million budget back in May.

    Warner Bros.
  • transformers the last knight

    "Transformers: The Last Knight":


    Michael Bay's fifth installment of the "Transformers" series allows Mark Wahlberg to play yet another character who’s both the Chosen One and always right about everything -- resulting in a film that is loud, disjointed, and confusing.

    Paramount Pictures
  • zac efron the rock baywatch


    Torn between being a hard-R comedy, a coming-of-age story or a straight-up reboot, this film fails at all three. Turning a dopey old TV action show into a comedy is much easier said than done. Even if you put Dwayne Johnson in trunks.

  • Power Rangers Post-Credit

    "Power Rangers":

    The film based on the kids' TV show failed to be the "Power Rangers" movie fans clamored for, and the poor box office and mixed critical reaction means fans won't get a sequel featuring the Green Ranger.

  • Ghost in the Shell

    "Ghost in the Shell":

    American adaptations of Japanese manga and anime simply don't work, especially when the main roles are whitewashed by non-Asian actors. Along with not respecting the source material, a convoluted plot doesn't help either.

  • David Beckham King Arthur

    "King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword:" 

    A movie made up of three different "King Arthur" screenplays that Warner Bros. bought mashed into one is probably not a good way to spend $175 million.

    Warner Bros.
  • Alien Covenant

    "Alien Covenant":

    Director Ridley Scott made an interstellar version of “Friday the 13th,” with a respectable ensemble of actors as the camp counselors and various fanged slimeballs filling in for Jason Voorhees. Audiences were not having any of it.

    20th Century Fox
  • tom cruise the mummy

    "The Mummy":

    The inaugural entry in Universal’s multi-film gamble that will turn their legendary horror characters (Frankenstein, Dracula, et. al.) into an “Avengers”-like cross-pollinated saga called Dark Universe, is an out-of-the-gate stumble that doesn’t even have the sense to sport its own so-bad-it’s-fun personality. 

  • mother


     Darren Aronofsky's divisive gonzo movie is the lowest wide-release opening of star Jennifer Lawrence's career, and the film was punished with an "F" CinemaScore score from exiting audience members. 

  • Suburbicon


    Matt Damon did not have a good 2017 at movie theaters. Even with George Clooney directing, and a script by the Coen Bros., the film was a huge bust at the box office making only $9 million off a $25 million budget.

  • Life super bowl li trailer


    Despite killing off Ryan Reynolds in the first 30 minutes, the film was too much of an "Alien" clone that didn't bring anything new to table. The C+ CinemaScore from audiences didn't help either.

    Columbia Pictures
  • Fifty Shades Darker Review

    "Fifty Shades Darker":


    Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey came back in a movie that resembles an un-asked-for collaboration between the Hallmark and Playboy Channels.

  • the circle emma watson

    "The Circle":

    Tom Hanks and Emma Watson are stuck in a Dave Eggers adaptation striving for relevance but never finding realism. An over-the-top and implausible story that tries to be “timely” and “relevant” but mainly hits us over the head with absurd situations.

    STX Films
  • Emoji movie trailer

    "The Emoji Movie":

    OMG, this animated feature is a POS with no LOLs. It is a soul-crushing disaster because it lacks humor, wit, ideas, visual style, compelling performances, a point of view or any other distinguishing characteristic that would make it anything but a complete waste of your time, not to mention that of the diligent animators who brought this catastrophe into being.

    Sony Pictures Animation
  • Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler and Jason Mantzoukas in 'The House'

    "The House":

    This suburbanite casino comedy flirts with relevance and wit but mostly spins its (roulette) wheels. The dull and unfunny comedy became Will Ferrell's worst box-office opening in 18 years.

    Warner Bros.
  • Justice League DC

    "Justice League":

    The biggest letdown of 2017 is DC's attempt at a Marvel style "Avengers" movie with all the DC heroes which under-delivered and had a lackluster villain. Box office wise, "Justice League" won't even outgross the first entry in series, 2013's "Man of Steel."

    Warner Bros.
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From sequels and adaptations to remakes, TheWrap looks at massive movie misfires from the past year

While there were huge hits, 2017 also gave us big gambles that didn’t pay off, franchise films that look like they have diminishing returns, and would-be franchises that are unlikely to see a sequel. Here are the 20 biggest movie letdowns of the year.

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