"Maze Runner: The Death Cure"

Dylan O’Brien, left, as “Maze Runner” protagonist Thomas, is surrounded by a solid supporting cast that includes Giancarlo Esposito and Rosa Salazar.

“Maze Runner: The Death Cure” starts with a show-stopping train heist that’s as exciting and well-executed as these movies get.

Our hero Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his team race alongside the train in their dusty, rusty “Mad Max” vehicles to save a group of lab-experiment children from a terrible fate. Eventually, the action sequence goes airborne, and, man, I don’t really remember anything about the previous two “Maze Runner” movies, but it sure seems like we’re in for a good time with this one.

We are not.

After that thrilling set piece, the film runs into a wall of plot and expositional dialogue. Over its bloated 143-minute run time, “Death Cure” occasionally rallies with a good action scene or character moment, but this will be slow-going and unengaging for all but the most devoted fans of the “Maze Runner” series.

The third and final film based on the books by James Dashner, “Death Cure” at least caps off the trilogy as a consistent crop of middling movies. On the YA adaptation spectrum, “Maze Runner” is too dull to compete with “The Hunger Games” but infinitely more appealing than the still-incomplete “Divergent” franchise.

After the train ride, we pick up with Thomas and the friends he’s made over the last few films. Previously in these movies ... blah blah who could care less blah.

Society has collapsed due to a virus that makes people zombie-ish. The elite have taken refuge in a walled-off safe-haven city. The poor are outside trying to fend off the infected and not get sick themselves.

In an effort to find a cure for the “Flare” virus, an organization called WCKD (this movie is very subtle) puts children in deadly situations in the hopes that the terror will produce a byproduct of virus-fighting antibodies. Or something? I think I have that right.

Whatever the case, Thomas and friends need to get into the city to rescue a friend. This leads to a lot of chases and shootouts and explosions, all of them executed better than usual but not well enough to justify wading through the rest of the movie.

Wes Ball, who also directed the previous two “Maze Runner” films, has a talent for compelling visuals and action sequences. And he’s unafraid to mix practical effects with the CG. The stunt work is very good. It’d better be, as one vehicular stunt mishap during the shoot nearly killed the film’s star.

O’Brien, for his part, is ever the handsome and likable leading man, though this glum movie franchise strips him of most of his charm. The “Maze Runner” movies always have done a decent job, though, of filling their supporting roster with good actors.

Patricia Clarkson and Aiden Gillen (and his twitchy rat smile) return as the bad guys. Giancarlo Esposito is back, too, as resistance fighter Jorge. And we get the welcome new addition of Walton Goggins as a slumlord missing a nose.

“Death Cure” comes most alive whenever it pays attention to Rosa Salazar, who plays Brenda, a sorta love interest to Thomas.

Salazar is cool and charismatic, and her character is good in a gunfight and better in a car chase. She’s learned to make the most of the apocalypse, and she actually seems to be enjoying herself. Every so often, the feeling is infectious.

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