150919mazerunnerposterLike “Hunger Games” and “Divergent,” the other box office hits based on books that are popular especially with teens, this weekend’s No. 1 movie, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” is a dystopian tale of teenagers in the future fighting back against government, or quasi-government, tyranny.

And while this second movie in the “Maze Runner” series has far more action than story, it does provide an interesting case study in what happens when postmodernism throws critical thinking and biblical morality out the window.

In other words, this film about future teens explains why today’s teens (and twenty-somethings, and thirty-somethings) seem so logically and morally clueless to the rest of us.

The story, continuing from the first “Maze Runner” film, is set in a future world where an epidemic called “the Flare” has wiped out most of the world’s population and left civilization in ruins. But a well-armed and mysterious medical organization called W.I.C.K.E.D. is running tests on surviving teenagers to find out who may have the tell-tale signs of being immune to the Flare and thus hold a key to finding a cure.

Most of the action follows the hero trying to get free from WICKED’s grip and lead his friends to freedom. He fights off zombies, gangs and WICKED’s armed thugs, all the while wrestling with his own erased memory.

The film has plenty of intense action, but the characters aren’t as compelling as the first film in the series, and the story just doesn’t really survive all the action that’s heaped on top of it. It’s an entertaining, but empty and nutrition-less movie meal.

What is interesting, however, is watching the moral reasoning of two characters (I won’t reveal their names, because to do so would be a major spoiler) who stand on opposite sides of what WICKED is doing.

But what is WICKED doing? We learn early WICKED is taking children from their parents, conducting cruel and fatal experiments on them and, when teens “pass” the experiments, hooking them up to machines that slowly suck a certain enzyme from their bodies until they’re dead. This enzyme can keep a person infected with the Flare alive for months. And if WICKED can kill and harvest enough of these children, they might even find a cure.

Hmm … sound familiar, Planned Parenthood?

“It’s all just a means to an end,” a WICKED official explains. “I’m not a monster, just a doctor looking for a cure.”

Now, to a clear-thinking person of biblical morality, it’s clear WICKED is actually … well, wicked. Even if a cure is possible, biblical morality rejects the strain of utilitarianism that justifies killing a few children now if it might help save hundreds later. Our American system of individual rights guaranteed by law was founded on the Christian ethic of individual worth.

But of course, there are shockingly few people in America today who think like that.

Enter our two, unnamed characters from “The Scorch Trials.”

Character ABC is a former WICKED employee. ABC used to be part of the program and was more than willing to kill for a cure until it was ABC’s own friends who were used in the experiments. Killing others, fine. Kill ABC’s friends, and ABC turns on WICKED and leaks the location of their experiment facilities to the resistance army.

Character XYZ is also a WICKED employee. XYZ explains that XYZ’s mother was infected with the Flare, leading to a long, slow, agonizing death. It’s a horror story, painful and detailed and tragic, especially to think of XYZ enduring it as a child. This is why XYZ simply must support the work of WICKED.

“We have to find a cure,” XYZ states, “no matter the cost.”

For ABC and XYZ, who both sound like modern-day voters trying to justify political positions, there’s a noticeable lack of critical thinking, ethical standards or objective morality. Instead, their respective positions were formed … on the basis of what they felt to be right.

Exhibit A on “what’s really wrong with teens today”: Mistaking feelings for thought and what feels right for what’s morally right.

Now, most of “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” is about the value of loyalty, friendship and not leaving a man behind. That’s the emotional thread that weaves all the action together.

But I can’t help but be fascinated by watching this great, moral crisis at the climax of the film when ABC and XYZ confront one another … and I realize … no one in the film is really relying on morality at all.

Content advisory:

  • “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” rated PG-13, contains just over 50 obscenities and profanities.
  • The film contains a scene of the hero taking a shower, but no significant nudity. There is an extended scene in a dance club/brothel, where drugged and drunken characters in various states of dress dance about in a haze. The hero, also under the influence of a drug, passionately kisses a girl. No sexual activity or nudity is seen, but the scene is deliberately lurid.
  • The film has no shortage of violence, particularly when the diseased “people” attack, which leads to the zombie-like things being kicked, shot, clubbed with baseball bats, impaled and so forth. There are gunfights and grenades and fires and people falling. There is also an emotionally charged scene when a character is diseased and turning into a zombie and is given a gun to kill himself. The actual shooting happens offscreen. The movie also contains vomiting and bleeding and other gross and gory imagery.
  • The film has no overt religious content, though the resistance army that saves people from WICKED is called “The Right Arm.” Scripture also refers to the Savior Jesus Christ as the “right arm” of God. This isn’t specifically addressed in the film, but the parallel is curious.

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