The Scorch Trials: Book VS Film

Today’s post was written by a dear friend of mine, Rachel Hatton. Rachel has amazing taste in books and films, as well as being a hugely talented writer, and so she’s easily the best person to write this comparison between the Maze Runner series of books and the recent film, The Scorch Trials
Spoilers ahead! 

Last wknd, my long anticipated wait for the next Maze Runner film, The Scorch Trials, was over. I was so excited to see the film. Although the first film hadn’t been close to the book I had hoped things would be different for Scorch Trials. Even after hearing terrible reviews, I went in with high hopes. Which were soon dashed in the space of seconds. Spoiler Alert for those who have not read the book or seen the film, you will want to stay away from this post.

Book starts with the gladers all in their dorm having just been rescued from the glade and Thomas wakes up hearing Teresa speak to him telepathically.

Neither Thomas or Teresa have this ability. The film opens with them dropped off by helicopter by their rescuers to a ‘safe fortress’.

I can slightly understand why they didn’t go down the route of telepathic communication. It could have seemed to far out, but then again this is a generation that has grown up with the likes of XMen and such, but that’s not to say that they couldn’t have made an alternative. Even a feeling, or an unusual connection felt between Thomas & Teresa could have worked. I don’t think it necessarily had to be cut out completely.

Thomas wakes up to find the facility being attacked by Cranks and the rescuers are all dead.

This never happens. There is doubt cast from the beginning about Janson’s intentions but Cranks never attack the building.

Thomas goes to find Teresa and instead finds Aris who explains he was also in a maze, called group B, but he was the only male amongst girls.

When they are escaping, Thomas takes a doctor hostage to help him find Teresa, seeings as he cant hear her thoughts, and she’s there drugged up. He wakes her up and takes her with him. Thomas has already met Aris at this point in different circumstances to the book and he is also escaping with them.

^ This also annoys me a little bit. Mainly about Aris. The knock on effect again made a big difference to the story. In the film, no atmosphere is being created here to make the watcher think and debate on who Aris is and why is he so weird etc. In the book there is suspicion, fear and confusion, you’re constantly trying to figure it all out, racking your brains. Aris is weird but not in the geeky sense that the film makes out which is stereotypical and annoying and honestly just plain lazy when profiling this interesting character.

The boys all reconvene in the dorm and discover tattoos written on the back of each other’s necks. Thomas’ says ‘to be killed by group B’ and Newt is ‘the glue’, Minho ‘the leader’ and Aris, ‘the partner’.

None of this happens. The boys don’t discover the tattoos until later which consist of odd lines and circles that have to be read by a barcode to decipher them & even then no attention is given to this and the boys never know what they are or what they say.

^ Not including this in the film was also a big mistake. This is the moment technically speaking where the story changes entirely. The point of this was another test from WCKD, but seeings as in the film they’re no longer being tested, they’ve just escaped, then they couldn’t really use this to the same effect. It was all to do with how they would accept these given roles considering they assigned themselves roles within the glade. The new mix up causes tension which leads to arguments and separation in the book. In the film we have some dudes with dots and lines on their neck that no one cares about until the end of the movie, and even then they’re not bothered. It’s seemingly not viewed as important.

The gladers then discover all the bodies of their dead rescuers have been cleared away somehow. They find a scientist, Janson aka RatMan, who explains to them that WICKED has been studying them and they are told the truth of the Flare.

Again this doesn’t happen. The only thing that Thomas learns is by spying on Janson, with the help of Aris, when he contacts Ava Paige and they mention harvesting the teens and at this point Janson is told to get on with it and stop slacking so now the gladers are in danger of being drained. At this point they decide to try to escape.

^ We see the ripple effect once more. WCKD is never properly explained in the book or film, but it is more so in the book. You are still left wondering because you are drip fed these interesting little tid-bits and you can’t wait to uncover more. In the film I purely got bored of waiting and getting nothing to hold my attention on what was going on.

The scientist tells them that they all have the Flare. They are instructed to leave and survive two weeks in the Scorch and to find the safe haven where they will find their cure.

They are told they are immune to the Flare. The boys leave of their own accord after hearing about their fate at the facility. They choose to escape the building, causing a right mess as they do, and enter the scorch not knowing where to go or what to do. They have no plan but they all followed Thomas.

^ WE HAVE A BIG ONE! Yes, the film is correct, they are all immune. But why tell them that? They’ll go running off into situations and not be scared of Cranks or anything else. Telling them that they have the Flare shows WCKD’s constant intention of training and studying their reactions. This also gives them purpose to go into the Scorch, (even though they don’t want to!) because they can get a cure from this ‘safe haven.’ This also has an effect later on in the film.
This one annoys me the most. The book is called the Scorch Trials. Not because it sounds cool but because it was phase 2, their next trial to prove themselves. In the film basically Thomas over hears a conversation that never happened and they all willingly leave to go into the Scorch. It’s not a trial then is it? They haven’t been instructed to go in, they went on their own accord. There wasn’t even any mention of this being what WCKD wanted, they made it so Janson and the guards tried to stop them from leaving. THEY WERE MEANT TO GO. Without this key part in the story, the gladers all immediately have no motive or purpose to what they are doing and where they are going, which has a massive ripple on effect. Rather than being in search for something that they believe will help them, being driven, they wander aimlessly in the Scorch, not knowing where to go and who to follow. This was one of THE biggest mistakes they made in changing the film. The lack of story is laughable and makes me wonder what they were thinking and how they thought they could develop a story from here.

Winston dies in a storm in the Scorch.

Winston shoots himself after being infected with the Flare by a Crank.

^ This was quite interesting because it makes the gladers wonder why they were told they were immune when Winston clearly got infected. In the book this wouldn’t have been a surprise but in the film it was. Not much attention is paid to it other than that they deduce they could all become infected and to keep an even clearer distance from the Cranks. Though really they should have given this more thought, shouldn’t they. In the book it explains eventually how not of all them were as immune as others and thus this could happen.

They find a building where a girl is screaming. It’s revealed to be fake and instead Thomas finds Teresa where she kisses him and tells him he must stay away from her.

Teresa is with them the whole time and this doesn’t happen.

^ Clearly this scene couldn’t be used because they weren’t sticking to the story. Although this maybe isn’t vital, it still adds something in the book of interest. Again, arising suspicion and a feeling of hatred for Teresa, really tying you into the story and the feelings between Thomas & Teresa. There’s no effort to do this in the film.

They find a city which at first they think is their safe haven to get too. They meet Jorge & Brenda who welcome the gladers to the Crank House, all are Cranks who aren’t full term so are just a bit crazy. (If I remember right Brenda already has the Flare.) Jorge definitely does. (In the book the glare virus progresses much slower than in the film) Thomas convinces Jorge & Brenda to help them in exchange for some of the cure.

They come across the building during a storm and are chained up for information & left seemingly for dead. Nobody has the Flare despite having Cranks downstairs chained up as their ‘guard dogs.’ The gladers don’t say much and certainly don’t bargain. Jorge decides that he can use them because they are valuable being immunes.

^ Again. Purpose and story is lost on these scenes. In the book a fight breaks out with Jorge & Minho and Thomas breaks it up by bargaining with them that if they help them, he will give them some of the cure when they find it. In the film, Thomas and the Gladers have nothing to bargain with as they are not in search of the cure. Instead it’s a relatively pointless scene that only comes about because they are trying to get safe from the storm and stumble into this building. Not knowing where to go from there when Jorge questions them about where they are from they aren’t keen to say the truth so are tied up in an effort of interrogation. Eventually Jorge finds out they are from WCKD and plans with him and Brenda to leave the others and take the Gladers somewhere, that part wasnt clear to me, because they’re valuable being from WCKD. Again, we have a huge difference in plot here because of that tiny detail at the beginning, them escaping the compound rather than being told they had the Flare and that they must go into the Scorch to find a cure. Ripples!!

When Thomas & Brenda are separated from everyone else they find messages written on the city walls saying that Thomas is the real leader.

Never happens.

^ So it’s no essential and might even seem odd but again, it’s WCKD testing the Gladers resolve and how they react to situations. In the book we feel Thomas’ confusion and when he gets a little big for his boots. Lack of character development I feel although in the grand scheme of things, even if they had stuck to the book, I doubt this scene would have made the film anyway.

Thomas & Brenda are attacked by a Crank called Mr Nose who as you can guess has no nose and wants their nose. Scary scene.

Guess what, never happens. Although they take the tunnel to move through the city, not by choice, they are encountered by lots of Cranks who chase them until they manage to evade them. No Mr Nose.

^ This scene was incredibly tense to read in the book and I jumped so many times! I was on edge! In the film the Cranks freaked me out so bad that I just couldn’t look so I have no idea if one of the Cranks chasing them had a nose or not, either way the scene was jumpy in the film rather than sinister in the book and I’d have preferred the latter as there were plenty plain old chasing scenes and I felt a slight change would have mixed it up and benefited the film. It also would have been a nice nod to the fans (considering nothing else has..)

Thomas and Brenda are captured by Cranks, just crazy, who party all the time and drug themselves up to stay high. The leader, Blondie as Thomas calls him, drugs them on arrival and forces them to join the party at gunpoint.

Thomas & Brenda waltz up to these people. Blondie offers them a drink and they take it and they join the party drugged up.

^ It doesn’t add the sense of danger that they were in that you get in the book. Again, feeling was lost, something else that had it been in the film probably would have kept my attention a little longer.

Minho and the other gladers rescue them but Thomas is shot in the shoulder with a rusty bullet and gets an infection. Thomas’ infection gets worse which forces WICKED to capture Thomas so that they can heal him as they can’t have him die, he’s important. They explain how he was never meant to get shot.

When Thomas and Brenda wake up the gladers and Jorge are there and he has been interrogating and beating up (Alan Tudyk’s character) Thomas is fine. Next they head off for the mountains in search of the Right Arm.

^ Ripple effect again. Can’t do any of this because the story hasn’t followed these lines. It was good in the book to see that WCKD never wanted Thomas to get hurt or worse killed, so they intervened when they had too. It causes questions of, ‘why didn’t they help the others when they were in trouble?’ ‘Could more of the gladers have survived if they were all viewed special like Thomas?’ ‘Why the favouritism with Thomas, what’s so special about him?’ Also the gladers don’t search for the Right Arm until the 3rd book or very close to the end of the second.

The gladers come across group b in the desert and Teresa is leading them. They take Thomas as prisoner and Teresa says she plans to kill Thomas.

The gladers meet 2 members of group b in the mountains and they take them back to their camp full of men and women and look after them and give Brenda some medicine as she is getting worse after being bitten by a Crank previously.

^ In the book this is where the affect of the tattoos comes in, showing the characters progress into what they feel they should be or maybe just natural development, but you get to find out again how the decision WCKD have made for them affect them. I think including all this would have made for a much more interesting and better story.

Teresa comes to Thomas with Aris, she explains that she has been manipulating Thomas all along. They lock Thomas in a room where he passes out. While passed out, he remembers some of his past relationship with Teresa and Aris before he entered the Maze. Eventually, Thomas is rescued by Aris and Teresa, who explain that they were forced by WICKED to make Thomas feel totally betrayed, and that if they hadn’t complied, WICKED would’ve killed Thomas. Thomas no longer trusts them.

They are just about feeling safe and settled with these people when Thomas notices that Teresa has wandered off. He finds her and she tells him a story about her mother getting the Flare, she remembers as WCKD restored her memories for her. Then she says she hopes he can understand what she did & helicopters appear from the mountains.

^ I still think this would have had more of an impact if we had known her tattoo had said ‘The Betrayer’. Even the betrayal was different though and still hurt Thomas but not in the same way as in the book where the reader ached with him.

After watching this film I actually agreed with all those horrible reviews Id heard. The film lacked story and drive because they bypassed the book completely. Had they stuck to the original story, there would have been purpose in all those scenes. Without this, it was just a bunch of boys (and a girl who shouldn’t even be there but don’t get me started again) running and escaping one situation after another, desperately trying to figure out what to do and where to go. Albeit this has some great visual effects and moments of heroism but otherwise it has unfortunately become a big mess. James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner Series, had said he hoped the fans would still enjoy the film even though it was different to the book. Quite frankly you could have named this film something completely different and changed a few character names and no one would have even known it belonged to The Maze Runner Series. One disgruntled fan right here Mr Dashner.


  1. As a person who loves books, I read all of the maze runner series and it was the best series I have ever read. I was so excited to watch the films but I got disappointed very quickly. The whole story line has changed ! You might as well not even call in the scorch trials because there is no trials !!! If you changed some character names and the name of the film people wouldn’t even have a second thought it came from the maze runner series. The author has spent ages writing these book which are amazing and to see these films come out like this is truly disappointing. Dont get me wrong, the actors were brilliant and could’ve made a brilliant film but to see the possible potential of these films just go down the gutter is heartbreaking.

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