Today: May 28, 2024
MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS TM and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

Maze Runner: Wes Ball Q&A

An idyllic reflection of green shrubbery in a shimmering pool is our first view in Wes Ball’s powerful 8-minute short Ruin. Released in 2011, Internet audiences were blown away by the kinetic chase scene that followed, set in an abandoned and overgrown megacity. With no dialogue, but stunning visual and sound design, Ruin told a story about life in a post apocalyptic world unlike any other. As calling cards go, it doesn’t get much better.

In the flurry of sharing that followed, the short attracted the attention of executives at Fox, who brought Ball in for a series of meetings. By the end of his first week of contact with the studio, Ball had a deal to develop Ruin into a feature and, first, to adapt James Dashner’s novel The Maze Runner for the big screen.

It was a dream come true for the talented director, who had previously achieved success as the owner of Oddball Animation, a visual effects company. Few first time feature filmmakers get to play with Hollywood’s toy box. But Ball more than met the challenge, delivering a film that was critically-acclaimed, action-packed and intense, and a global box office hit, with ticket sales in excess of $340m.

Wes Ball was never going to be one to rest on his laurels, though, which is why, with The Maze Runner still playing in theatres, he decamped to Albuquerque, New Mexico to start production on Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. Picking up on the story of Thomas and the Gladers now they’ve escaped the maze, the film introduces audiences to The Scorch, and a whole new set of challenges faced in a post-apocalyptic Earth. From set, Ball tells us what to expect.

You’re already halfway through production and the first movie only just came out. How quick has the turnaround been for you?
It’s crazy. It’s nuts. I don’t feel like I left, really; it feels like we just jumped right into the next one. But it’s cool to keep the momentum going, and the cast is still fresh and in the mindset. It’s probably a good thing.

Where does Thomas go in this film?
The big question is: what do they do now they’re out of the Glade?

The first movie, for me, was about that period of your life when you’re in high school, and you’re still under the umbrella of your parents and you’re locked into your own world. It’s about breaking free of those constraints and setting out into the brave new world around you. This movie is very much the next chapter in that little stage of life, I think, when you’re going off to college and you’re on your own. You’re making your own choices and deciding who you’re going to become.

For me, the story becomes: they’re out of the maze, but they’re still lost as a group of characters. It’s a cool concept to play with. They don’t know what they’re supposed to do now. It’s not about saving the world, you know, it’s about finding their way through it and what their existence means to the world. What’s fun now is we get to tell this saga, really.

We’re fortunate enough that we got to make the next one, and there’s a good chance now that we’ll make the third one. It’s really fun and really neat to build those story- and character-arcs.

Did you feel you needed to up the ante with the set pieces?
Definitely. There are these things called Cranks, which James Dashner created, which are basically zombies but we’re trying to do something very, very different with them. We’re trying to make something a little more interesting. That’s kind of our movie monster this time.

It’s interesting: in terms of the VFX thing we probably have a couple of hundred shots less in this movie. The problem is that the shots we do have are 10 times more difficult and much, much bigger. The set pieces themselves are much more fun too. The last one, you know, we were on such a small budget for a film of that scale – and we’re not on an enormous budget now – and our MO is to squeeze as much as we can out of the budget we have, and put it all on the screen.

This next one is fun because we get to have these set pieces that remind me of Spielberg’s set pieces. They keep on going and unfolding and they’re not these two- or three-minute set pieces that we had last time. We get to really have a lot of fun now, so the set pieces themselves can be driven by story. It should be a lot of fun.

Is the Scorch an entirely different palette?
It really is. The last shot of The Maze Runner is the world we’re in now. That’s what I find really interesting, too – that last movie, the textures were greens and concrete greys, and then our last shot was these oranges and dark burnt colours. We get to play in that world now. But, even that, in itself, we’re changing too. There was no electricity or technology in the last movie. Now we get to go in these abandoned warehouses, and light them up with old generators and do some really fun stuff. Especially in this old, abandoned mall where they have these old work lights strung up. We get to really play and just the light itself is very, very different, so the colours are very different.

And hopefully in the last part of our movie, we’ll be changing our colour palette and setting up the next one too. I took that idea from STAR WARS. It used to go into these different, varied terrains and that’s so much fun to do. Especially here; creating these worlds and making them real and believable. It’s fun to play with those palettes and hopefully make a movie that feels a lot bigger than it really is.

In truth, we’re still a very small movie, really, which is fine because it means we get to take some chances and do a lot of cool stuff without having to do the broad appeal to everyone. That’s the fun thing about what we hopefully did with the last one for people; maybe take some risks that you couldn’t afford to do in a more expensive movie.

Why do you think there’s such a trend towards dystopian sci-fi?
It’s obviously been around for a while, but you know, it seems like it’s in the cultural zeitgeist right now. It’s not anything we’re forcing upon people, it’s just something that people find interesting and we’re delivering what they want to see right now. But I do think there’s something that resonates particularly with young people, about the world being kind of a precarious place right now. Plus for me, personally – and it’s totally strange, and a little dark I guess – but I find it quite romantic, the idea of starting over. Hitting the reset button and building a new world, essentially. That’s kind of where my mind is and it was what I did with Ruin. I wanted to do something that was very beautiful and lush, and kind of enjoy the end in a way. This movie’s not quite that, but I do find it fascinating for some reason. Everything has its day, and it’ll all, eventually, putter out, I’m sure.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com

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