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There are a lot of reasons to be excited for Maze Runner: The Death Cure: it closes out the Maze Runner trilogy, it features plenty pretty people, and its opening marks the end of the teen dystopia phase kickstarted by The Hunger Games in 2012.
But if you’re a friend of Cape Town, there’s an extra reason to spend 2h23m watching a group of teens get miraculously rescued time and again. The film, set in what can be assumed is futuristic America, was shot almost entirely in the Mother City, and the filmmakers do not shy away from embracing local surroundings.
What results is a haphazard, CGI’d, zombified tour of Cape Town. And while the story may suffer for local audiences unused to seeing zombie fights break out in the Civic Centre, watching The Death Cure is like piecing together a fun puzzle of which places you recognise beneath the post-production cover-ups.
Minor spoilers ahead.
The Death Cure opens with an action-packed train chase amid fynbos and the Western Cape’s distinctive mountains, and moves slowly closer to the CBD, until finally Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his motley crew arrive somewhere around Tafelberg Road and gaze over a rundown city centre.
Deftly avoiding a full shot of Table Mountain or Cape Town’s distinctive coastline, The Death Cure allows a view of Lion’s Head’s butt — better known as Signal Hill — while covering our skyline with the fictional Last City, walled off to “cranks” infected with the zombifying virus.
So begins the thrill ride around Cape Town, as The Death Cure takes the viewer through our underground tunnels, train station, cathedral, and — most notably — the Cape Town International Convention Centre (though the signage is deftly changed to “WCKD Virus Prevention Centre”).
The filmmakers also loved the idea of our unfinished freeway, and made sure to include it (and similar CGI duplicates) around their own fictional city. And yet another obsession came from the Portside entrance of the glassy FNB building, which showed up in no less than three separate scenes.
Throughout Death Cure, buses dangle from cranes, desperate men hide behind cement pot plants, lead characters run past rounded robots and blue street signs; everything bar the actors screams Capetonian. In fact, even the extras are identifiably South African. Some just have the South African look (from Camps Bay surfer dudes to nurses with miraculous cheekbones) and one fictional policeman even has a mini monologue with which to flaunt his homegrown accent.
And finally, the crew ends up where most every Cape Town shoot ends up: Kogelbaai, the picturesque beach just outside Gordon’s Bay that has appeared in plus minus five million car commercials.
Maze Runner: Death Cure is a standard action finale, filled with unnaturally adept teens and flawed science. But for those enamoured with Cape Town, the film is a twisted love letter to the city’s mixture of urban and natural aesthetics, littered with sweeping aerial shots and sleek lighting that embraces the city’s casual chaos.
Watch the full trailer below.