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‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ 4K Ultra HD review

May 18, 2018 GMT

A film franchise devoted to young adults caught up in a deadly dystopian world lumbered to a conclusion earlier this year in Maze Runner: The Death Cure (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 142 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $39.99).

Now available in the ultra-high definition format, director Wes Balls adaption of author T.S. Nowlin’s third novel of the series continues the drama of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), a teen immune to the mutating Flare plague that has ravaged humanity.

After a rousing Mad Max-style train heist to rescue immune children from the clutches of WCKD (World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department), Thomas, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Frypan (Dexter Darden) and members of the rebel Red Arm faction plan an even more daring mission.

A small team will attempt to break into the WCKD-controlled Last City (humanity’s final urban lifeboat) and rescue their old pal Minho (Ki Hong Lee) from experimentation.

They are hoping to avoid a confrontation with evil assistant director Janson and his soldiers. Specifically, trying to not get captured and become lab rats to Chancellor Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) and researcher Theresa (Kaya Scodelario), Thomas’ first love.

Although the plot slows down to an occasional crawl, mired in character exposition (not a bad thing), the film’s generous length and action scenes should still satisfy fans, and its a much better ride than the young adult “Divergent” film series.

However, occasional fans and casual viewers will need to invest some major time in the franchise to really appreciate “The Death Cure,” considering the second film of the series “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trial” came out in late 2015. Yes, go back and watch at least that film and “Maze Runner,” arguably the best of the group.

Additionally, I tip my hat to Mr. Ball for his fiscal constraint in delivering a fairly complex, 142-minute film loaded with special effects and big-budget action scenes for a mere $62 million. Filmmakers delivering bloated efforts such as “Justice League” ($300 million) and “Geostorm” ($120 million) could learn a lot from the man.

4K UHD in action: Although the disc offers a 4K upscale from the 2K master format, viewers will still appreciate the detail and vivid color throughout the film.

For contrasts in darkness and tweaks to high-dynamic range, look to the dream sequence that finds Minho lying in a sun-drenched, windy lush field with a glint of shiny perspiration on his face. He then gets stuck running in a dark corridor with a hint of green emergency lights and more perspiration while a Griever creature (a large cyborg spider) stalks him.

Examples of subtle details that pop much better than the high-definition version of the film includes Chancellor Ava Paiges bright white suit that never washes out on screen but reveals every wrinkle, groove and stitching on the material; or the veins undulating on an infected girl’s cheeks. Equally impressive details allowed me to nearly count every freckle on Theresa’s face.

Also, an explosive confrontation between rebels and WCKD troops offered fiery hues and embers so lifelike that I could almost feel the heat, and it was like I was looking out of a high-rise window as the battle took place below me.

Best extras: 20th Century Fox does not disappoint fans and offers over two hours of extras for the final “Maze Runner.”

First, an optional commentary track by Mr. Ball, Mr. Nowlin and producer Joe Hartwick Jr. delivers an enthusiastic discussion that deconstructs the story, the key missions, the special effects, subplot resolution, location shooting and key themes of the series with the director, obviously, driving the conversation.

Next, a 21-minute, four-part featurette covers more about the story; discusses the location design; and focuses on the director, with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with all primary cast members and Mr. Ball.

Also worth diving into is 28 minutes of visual-effects breakdowns, with an informative optional commentary track by the director. It mainly covers the train heist and Thomas’ escape from the top of a blazing building, with each presenting comparison shots before the effects were added and the finished shot.

Rounding out the digital features are a short, behind-the-scenes look at the train heist; an insufferable 11.5-minute gag reel; and 27 minutes of deleted or extended scenes.

Finally, the package contains a 24-page, full-color, mini comic book called “Maze Runner: Origins” from BOOM! Studios containing an illustrated story (written by Mr. Nowlin) that highlights the first meeting of Theresa and Thomas as well as some key characters.