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The Scorch Trials trailer: Watch Dylan O'Brien run for his life in the Maze Runner sequel

A deep dive into the new footage with director Wes Ball

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The good news is, they’re no longer trapped by giant, mechanical walls locking them inside the center of a massive maze. 

The bad news is … they’re no longer protected by those giant, mechanical walls either.

In the first trailer for The Scorch Trials, the sequel to last year’s blockbuster YA adaptation The Maze Runner, Dylan O’Brien’s Thomas is still trying to figure out his place in the world, but he and his fellow survivors of the maze are also discovering that world is a blighted, desperate place.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials opens Sept. 18. After you watch the trailer below, The Maze Runner director Wes Ball walks EW through this adaptation of James Dashner’s 2010 sci-fi novel, which also blends in elements of his third installment, 2011’s The Death Cure. 

“It really does pick up immediately after the last movie, when they were lifted away in a helicopter by these mysterious rebels,” Ball says. “The world’s in dire straits, and these kids are important for fixing the world. And because they are so important, a lot of people want their hands on these guys.”

The trailer only teases what’s to come, ending shortly after the team of kids who survived the first movie make their escape from the facility run by WCKD, which created the maze and placed them within the wooded “Glade” at the center as a kind of experiment/training ground. If the subjects lasted long enough to escape, that was proof they were meant for bigger things within WCKD — whether they liked it or not. As Ava Paige, the chancellor of WCKD (played by Patricia Clarkson), explains in the new trailer: “It’s safe to say the maze trials were a complete success. It’s time now to begin Phase 2…”

Not only has the world been decimated by a solar flare, which has turned most of the planet into a cinder and placed this quasi-governmental organization in power, but a plague has swept the surviving population, sitting dormant for long periods but waiting to emerge.

“In the last movie we said these kids are immune to the virus, but in the second book we learn they actually are infected,” Ball says. “So that will sort itself out in the movie. The question is who is immune and who isn’t. That’s a mystery we hold out.”

NEXT PAGE: ‘The Scorch Trials’ gets a new villain … by way of ‘Game of Thrones.’

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Joining the cast this time is Aidan Gillen, best known as Littlefinger from Game of Thrones, playing another duplicitous powermonger, a WCKD apparatchik who had only a small role in the novel. 

“He plays essentially the villain of the movie, this character named Janson – or what the book fans would know as Rat-Man,” Ball said. “We expanded his role in this movie and he’s really fun to watch onscreen.”

Here, Janson is interrogating Thomas, whose mind was wiped along with the other Gladers before they were dropped into the maze. But really, how do you question an amnesiac?

Janson is actually there to give information and see how Thomas reacts. “Don’t you want to understand … why this all happened?” he says sliding a file across the table. “I just need to know: Whose side are you on?”

It’s a hard question for Thomas to answer, because he never knew there were sides. Inside the maze, everyone was in it together, but things aren’t so simple on the outside.

Beyond the WCKD facility, a group of infected scavengers known as the Cranks await. We don’t see much of them in this teaser, but expect a more in-depth look in the months ahead. (New characters played by Giancarlo Esposito, Lilly Taylor, and Barry Pepper are also apparently being held back for later.)

NEXT PAGE: Meet the fearsome girls of Group B …

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The Gladers are shocked to discover there were other mazes, with other survivors like them. While Kaya Scodelario’s Teresa was the lone female in the original movie, they learn Group B was the reverse, comprised entirely of girls.

We glimpse them only momentarily near the end of the trailer. Although they are masked, it looks like Katherine McNamara as Sonya and Nathalie Emmanuel as Harriet.

Obviously, they mean business.

With a group made entirely of girls, the wildcard thrown into their midst like Teresa was a lone boy, Aris (played by Jacob Lofland,) shown briefly inside the WCKD facility (not eating his cornbread.) Although Aris is a significant figure in Dashner’s books, Ball says the movie version tweaks and changes the character readers may remember

In the book he was a contemporary of Thomas, very much that version of him in the other maze,” Ball says. “But I just felt I didn’t need another handsome, strapping man to compete with Thomas. I wanted someone who would be a little more of a little brother to him. So I changed it slightly.”

NEXT PAGE: Thomas makes a grim discovery …

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Everything he learns distresses rather than reassures Thomas, who explains to his friends in the trailer, “We never escaped. This was all just part of their plan.”

Within this new facility, he discovers a lab full of embryonic versions of the Grievers, the predatory creatures that inhabited the maze and slaughtered many of his friends. (Picture a giant, half-mechanical mosquito who has a baby with a Rancor monster from Return of the Jedi.) Those weren’t just mutant fiends who sought sanctuary within WCKD’s ever shifting walls … they were designed by the group and placed there on purpose.

Not only that, but they see other kids like them, strung up in a different lab. Looking at those bodies, attached to cords and tubes and cables, suspended from the cieling, it’s easy to see themselves as puppets, whose strings are being pulled by the forces that appear to be offering them safe haven now. “Maybe this place wasn’t as safe as we thought it was,” Ball says. “It’s a little bit of a prison break as they’re trying to get the hell out of Dodge.”

As he catches them in the midst of escape, Janson warns them, “The maze is one thing … But you kids won’t last one day out in the scorch.” That doesn’t stop Thomas from doing a Dukes of Hazzard slide right under a closing door to escape Janson and his soldiers. 

Still, here’s what scares Thomas now: Could this be just another test? “His character is responsible for taking the kids from the last movie and fleeing this maze at great cost. A lot of people died, some of them his best friends,” Ball says. “So Thomas has a lot of guilt resting on his shoulders. And he might be doing it again, marching these kids into dangerous situations. He’s wrestling with the responsibility of being a leader. Sometimes you make the wrong chocies.”

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