Last year, both Maze Runner books author James Dashner and Divergent series creator Veronica Roth joined the list of novelists whose YA sci-fi/post-apocalyptic best-selling books have given rise to a successful movie franchise. 20th Century Fox already has the film sequel, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, on course to make a Fall 2015 premiere date - and there's also a fair chance the first Scorch Trials trailer is going to be attached to certain prints of The Divergent Series: Insurgent (when it opens in theaters next week).
In the meantime, the first official screenshots from Scorch Trials have been unveiled, providing an early look at the film's characters, both new and returning. Falling into the latter camp are Maze Runner leads Kaya Scodelario as Teresa and Dylan O'Brien as Thomas - who, last time we saw them, had escaped from The Glade only to discover that the world outside is... well, even more dangerous than their old home.
Maze Runner director Wes Ball and screenwriter T.S. Nowlin also worked on Scorch Trials; the latter has now begun putting together a script for the third installment, The Death Cure, while Ball finishes up post-production on the second Maze Runner installment. An official budget for Scorch Trials has yet to be confirmed, but it might well be higher than Maze Runner's $34 million budget - as the sequel explores a Mad Max-style scorched Earth.
Ball describe the post-apocalyptic setting of Scorch Trials to EW as follows:
"[The massive solar flare that devastated the planet] has transformed the world into a desert with sand dunes that crawl and are swallowing the ruins of a lost world.
Said world is filled with infected humans known as Cranks - Balls says "We don't want to call them zombies, but they fit into that category. They're not undead, but they are rage-filled." - hardened by having to survive under these extreme conditions - even more so than Thomas and the others were by living in The Glade. The following Scorch Trials images (via EW and People) include some of those new character additions to the Maze Runner franchise, while at the same time teasing new dangers that Thomas, Teresa, and the other Glad survivors face in the outside world. [UPDATE: We've added two more images, courtesy of Empire.]
Click for Full-Sized Version:
Here's a quick rundown of new characters in Scorch Trials (most of whom are not pictured above):
- Jorge Gallaparga (Giancarlo Esposito), the leader of a group that crosses paths with Thomas and the others.
- Ponytail (Jenny Gabrielle) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar), who are members of Jorge's group.
- Aris (Jacob Lofland), an employee of WICKED prior to the events of The Maze Runner.
- Janson a.k.a. Rat Man (Aidan Gillen), a WICKED researcher who presents himself to those who escaped from The Glade.
The first Maze Runner movie was, all things considered, a decent introduction to the larger mythos of the Maze Runner universe - though, also an introduction that (by the time the film's third act wrapped up) had arguably proven to be less satisfying as a standalone adventure than it could've been. It sounds as though the sequel could be an improvement, but only time will tell if the payoff provided by Scorch Trials - and eventually The Death Cure - winds up justifying the buildup it took to get there.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials opens in U.S. theaters on September 18th, 2015.