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But How Gay is ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

What is Maze Runner: The Death Cure?

Remember how huge dystopian young adult adaptations were just a couple years ago? The Hunger Games was the biggest franchise in the world. Every young star needed their own version to be more like Jennifer Lawrence, like how Shailene Woodley led the Divergent series. Well, Maze Runner is former Teen Wolf star Dylan O’Brien’s series, and it’s finally ending with this movie after two previous films, five years of work, and one near-fatal accident. More on that one in a bit.

Because of delays, The Death Cure is coming out long after the dystopian YA trend has faded. Lawrence has moved on, and talk of Hunger Games spinoffs has yet to bear fruit. The Divergent series faltered at the box office, before proposing scaling down to a TV movie and losing Woodley as lead. Suffice it to say that the final Maze Runner film feels like a product of another time. But here it is, with all the signatures of the final installment in a dystopian YA series: world-expanding rebellion, protagonists whose actors have aged beyond them, and an esteemed actress who deserves so much more than being the villain in this series (Patricia Clarkson).

The plot is actually relatively simple: The Flare virus is killing humanity, and a shadowy organization called WCKD (pronounced “wicked,” just to properly telegraph that they’re evil) studies those immune to the virus to find a cure. They do so by putting them through trials that torture them which WCKD justifies by saying it’s for the greater good. Time is running out, though; the virus is accelerating, and humanity needs a cure more than ever. Plus, they’ve got a rebellion on their doorstep led, of course, by O’Brien’s Thomas, a WCKD turncoat who seeks to stop them before they torture any more of the immune.

Who’s in it?

A whole lot of twinks, let me tell you. This movie has more twinks than Dunkirk. O’Brien is our lead, and while I can’t blame him for taking the franchise opportunity when he had the chance, he lacks the wit and charm that made him so likable as Stiles on Teen Wolf.

As blonde British twink Newt, Thomas Brodie-Sangster is easily best-in-show. He’s the right combination of committed to the plot, but funny enough to wink at how absurd it all is. He’s joined by fellow twinks Dexter Darden, Ki Hong Lee, and Will Poulter. (The survival of that last actor’s character is supposed to be a surprise, but he’s advertised as being in the movie, and you’re reading a review of Maze Runner: The Death Cure by a homosexual who hasn’t seen the first two movies, so I assume you don’t mind.) Kaya Scodelario, best known as Effy from Skins, also stars as a former love of Thomas’ who the group harbors a grudge against for her loyalty to WCKD.

And of course, there’s Clarkson, playing scientist and leader of WCKD Ava Paige. She deserves so much more than being in this series. We put many of our greatest actresses through this: Kate Winslet was in Divergent, while Julianne Moore was in the final Hunger Games movies. Hell, even Meryl Streep had to do a turn in the gritty adaptation of The Giver. Hopefully, with the death of the dystopian YA adaptation comes the death of this bullshit practice. Our top talents deserve better than stock villain roles with no real depth to them.


Why should I see it?

Honestly, I’m not sure you should. But it’s not really about the quality. The movie itself is thoroughly fine, and if you’ve invested in this franchise, I guess you’ll want to see it through.

But as a non-fan, I’ve been pretty grossed out by how all this has gone down post-O’Brien’s accident. When your star nearly dies on-set, no matter how committed he is to returning (and to be clear, he’s been nothing short of affirmative on this point), I think you have to shut it down. There’s a macabre element to The Death Cure now. Which stunt was it that nearly took a young actor’s life? How worth the investment was finishing this movie? Maybe I’m reaching, but combined with how rattled O’Brien still sounds, if I were the studio, I might’ve just taken the L and moved on. The genre’s moment had already passed anyway.

But how gay is it?

You know what? It’s a hell of a lot gayer than I’d have expected. While Thomas and Scodelairo’s Teresa is supposedly the big love story here, there’s way more development put into Thomas and Newt’s relationship. Newt even has a scene where he gets to rage with jealousy at Thomas’ lingering feelings for Teresa. Sure, it’s only a friendship. But I think we know the tea.

Combined with Clarkson’s iconic presence and the general Basket o’ Twinks vibe, and The Death Cure winds up pretty gay considering having no canonically gay characters.

Do two of the twinks get so close to each other you think they’re gonna kiss at one point?

They sure do!

Does Patricia Clarkson almost get to do something interesting, only to be stopped by her fellow (male) antagonist at the last second?

Yes, ma’am.

Will you ever see the first two Maze Runner movies?

Absolutely not.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is in theaters now.


 

Kevin O'KeeffeKevin O'Keeffe

Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer and 'RuPaul's Drag Race' herstorian. He covers film and TV for INTO, and writes the movie review column "But How Gay Is It?" every Friday.

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