The Maze Runner series may deservedly live in the shadow of YA book-to-film darling The Hunger Games, but it's got a few things going for it. Handsome and brave Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) leads the cast of plucky, likeable teenagers as they face a mysterious threat in the form of WCKD, the powerful scientific entity that rules their post-apocalyptic world. The series is short on explanations, so watch the first Maze Runner to get whatever bearings you can before entering The Scorch Trials.

That said, for a series that gives itself so much latitude, introducing something as played out as a zombie plague is pretty lame. If you can overlook that, there's rarely a moment where the action rests. With Thomas & Co. constantly pursued by either WCKD's Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) and Janson (Aidan Gillen), various underworld criminals, and/or the goo-dribbling undead, Scorch maintains the unrelenting pace of the original. It's not all kid stuff—there's dark shit, and a few good action scenes.

On balance, though, Scorch falls short of its predecessor due to its downshift in original concept. It's still probably enough to keep you hanging on for the forthcoming third and final adaptation. Unless they pull a Mockingjay and try to milk it into two films—in that case, none of this will be too hard to walk away from. recommended