While many moviegoers are looking forward to the November release of "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2," that's not the only movie franchise based on a series of dystopian young adult novels returning to theaters this fall. "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials" is the middle act of the Maze Runner trilogy. It continues the saga of Thomas and the other survivors of the brutal human experiment as they learn more about their plague-ravaged world and the civil war that threatens to further tear it apart.

While fans of the Maze Runner novels are already lining up for this sequel, those who only saw the first film may not know what to expect. To help you prepare for Thomas' latest adventure, here are the five key things you need to know before entering The Scorch.

1. Out of the Maze, into the Scariest (Sandiest) Place Ever
Don't expect Thomas and friends to be dropped into another isolated experiment with a giant maze in the middle. This time, our heroes will be venturing into the wider world.

Mind you, that world is every bit as dangerous as the original maze. Dubbed "The Scorch," this hellish desert is filled with deadly obstacles of both the man-made and natural variety. It also contains the ruins of the civilization that once was. If "Mad Max: Fury Road" left you craving for more post-apocalyptic desert wastelands, "The Scorch Trials" may be just what the doctor ordered.

2. There's a War Brewing
Thomas and friends finally encountered the faceless enemy controlling their every action in the climax of the first movie. Look for the sequel to delve much deeper into the mysterious organization that is WCKD, and reveal why they dumped a bunch of teenagers into a giant death trap.

As you can expect from a group whose name sounds like "Wicked" (and was actually spelled that way in the books), not everyone in the world of Maze Runner is thrilled with having a totalitarian regime calling the shots. This film will also introduce a resistance group rising up in opposition to the heavily armed and militaristic WCKD.

The question Thomas struggles with in this sequel is which side of the conflict he wants to be on. Not unlike a certain upcoming Marvel Studios movie, "Which side are you on?" is really the crux of the conflict.

3. You're Gonna Meet Some New Allies (and Enemies)
"Scorch Trials" will feature several returning characters from the first movie, including Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and the mysterious researcher Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson).

Look for several major new players to enter the board, as well. The most significant of these will be Janson (Aidan Gillen), one of the researchers in charge of the facility supposed designed to protect teens like Thomas who are immune to the deadly Flare virus. Naturally, Janson is more than he seems, and his motivations might not be so benevolent. Would you expect anything less from the guy who plays Littlefinger on "Game of Thrones?"

Other new characters will include Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and Aris (Jacob Lofland) as new allies to Thomas' group, and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) as the leader of a dissident group known as the Cranks.

4. More Answers Are Coming
The first "Maze Runner" didn't seem to want viewers to know much about the true nature of this world, or the reason why dozens of innocent teens were dumped into a giant death trap and forced to build a Lord of the Flies-style civilization. As per usual in these types of mystery-driven stories, the characters with the answers always seemed to be the most tight-lipped.

Expect the sequel to ease up in that regard. The film won't just showcase the wider world outside of the maze, it'll also explore the sorry state of civilization after a disease called The Flare has decimated humanity. What is the source of this disease? Can it be stopped? Are Thomas and his friends better off cooperating with WCKD's experiments or seeking answers in the wastelands of the Scorch?

Also look for the sequel to delve deeper into Thomas' past as he wrestles with old memories finally resurfacing. Based on the trailer, it seems we'll get a closer glimpse into Thomas' childhood and the tragic events that left him orphaned and alone.

5. It's Really Different From the Book
Book purists might want to brace themselves: The adaptation will be a bit different from its source material – more so than the first movie was.

As Maze Runner creator James Dashner explained in a recent interview, some of these changes are "rippling effects" that occur as a result of deviations in the first movie. Perhaps the biggest change is that the telepathic communication between Thomas and Teresa won't be included in the film. Instead, other storytelling devices will be used to continue building their relationship.

Another major change is that a significant chunk of material from the third Maze Runner novel, "The Death Cure," will be shifted into this film. So fans can expect the climax of "The Scorch Trials" to play out much differently than the book.

The good news is that the series will buck the familiar trend of most YA novels-turned-movies by not breaking the final installment into two parts. "The Death Cure" is currently slated for release in February 2017.

"Scorch Trials" hits theaters this Friday.
categories Movies, Trivia