A Story Told Best On Paper

Ashley Santoyo, Book Reviews

The Death Cure by James Dashner is the final installment in The Maze Runner trilogy. It follows the adventures of Thomas and his friends as they set out to destroy the evil, post-apocalyptic organization known as WCKD. On January 26 of this year, the film adaptation of the novel was released in theaters. I had the pleasure of watching the film only a few days ago.  I read the book a few weeks before, so I easily recognized many plot changes while comparing the book to the movie.


The opening scene of the novel finds the characters locked up at one of WCKD’s facilities. Specifically, our main character Thomas is in solitary confinement with the rest of the group. However, the film begins with a major action scene in which Thomas is seen attempting to rescue a captured group member, Minho, from WCKD before they can experiment on him. As previously stated, the novel placed all characters under WCKD’s control at the beginning of the story, including Minho. I was very surprised with this change in the plot, since it is rare for a director to change how the story begins rather than how it ends.

Before discussing the ending, there was another change in the plot that I very anxious to see acted out in the film: Newt’s death. As one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the novel, I was ready to cry as I watched it on the screen. However, the way that the film portrayed his death changed the way it affected me. In the novel, Newt becomes infected with the deadly virus that will turn him into a Crank (their version of zombies). He keeps his infection a secret from the rest of the group until he can finally get away from them and join other Cranks to save his friends the trauma of watching him transform from Newt to a crazed Crank. Still, Thomas bumps into Newt in one of the last chapters of the book as the group is on their way to destroy WCKD. They have a fairly violent argument where Newt basically begs Thomas to kill him before the virus can take over his mind and body. To my surprise, he agrees; Thomas shoots Newt and breaks my heart at the same time. After reading this, I had to take a short break so I could wipe my tears. Knowing Newt would die, I anxiously waited for the scene to be introduced in the film. I almost missed it, considering the movie was mostly out of order from the novel. In the film, the group already knew he was infected by the time they attacked WCKD, and he could be saved from the virus by taking a solution (an antidote) one of the group members had access to. Anyway, in the film, Newt and Thomas have their argument where Newt begs Thomas to kill him, but the film version finds Thomas accidentally kill Newt by stabbing him in the chest. As unexpected as this version of Newt’s death was, it did not impact me the same way Thomas’s shooting his best friend intentionally did.

Moving on to the ending, one of the major plot changes was Chancellor Ava Paige’s (the WCKD organization leader) involvement with Thomas’s group of survivors from the maze. The novel has an epilogue stating her involvement clearly: she organized for two of Thomas’s friends (Brenda and Jorge) to bring all of those immune from the deadly virus to a safe haven she created in hopes to repopulate the world. It is also revealed that the deadly virus was released by the government to control the population, but it went wrong. The government was unable to contain it and created WCKD as a means of preserving what was left of the human race. The novel ends with Thomas and those remaining in his group arriving at the safe haven. On the other hand, the film does not explain any of this and ends with the group at the safe haven. If I were to have only watched the film, I would be confused and left with many questions the novel’s epilogue very clearly explained.

Overall, I would choose to read the book over watching the film. Yes, I still enjoyed the film. However, it changed so much of the book’s plot that I was struggling to connect it to things we, as viewers, should have seen in the previous two films. The novel held so much more information than the film and explained the motivations behind the events. I would recommend readers to watch the film and read the novel so that they may come up with their own opinions of both versions. Nonetheless, I will probably rewatch the film for pleasure rather than criticism, or to reconnect with Thomas and his friends.