HOLLYWOOD—I was a huge fan of the “The Maze Runner” when it exploded onto the screen in 2014. The movie came out of nowhere and was absolutely thrilling and fun to watch. Less than a year later, we have its sequel: “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.” Unfortunately, that feverish intensity, unique narrative and character growth that the first flick had lacks a bit in the second outing.

This might be an important disclaimer: If you haven’t seen the first flick, you will be utterly lost and confused watching the sequel. This is one of those occasions when you seriously have to see the predecessor to understand and follow the narrative for the sequel.

Back to uncover more secrets are Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Teresa (Kaya Scodalario), Frypan (Dexter Darden) and Winston (Alexander Flores). They are otherwise known by fans of the series as Gladers, who found their way out of the torturous maze in the first movie.

“The Scorch Trials” acts more like a conspiracy flick, where the characters suspect they have escaped danger, only to find themselves in deeper trouble than they were the first time around. They don’t have to only worry about ferocious creatures coming after them, they have to deal with the violent tendencies of humans wanting control and zombies, yes, you heard me zombies!

Upon escaping the facility that turns out to be a false base for the WCKD organization, the group ventures out into a deserted world, better known as ‘The Scorch.’ It’s a desert that has little to no civilization, but in typical movie fashion the audience discovers there are others secretly lurking on the outskirts hoping to survive.

What made the first installment so much fun was seeing this civilization emerge amongst a group of teens who were well aware that at any given time it could be their turn to enter the maze. That same fun is missing here. I will acknowledge that the sequel does present the action on a grander scale, and some of the fight sequences, chase scenes and action are indeed bigger and better, but some of the characters just fall flat.

Notable players like Patricia Clarkson, Giancarlo Esposito and Lili Taylor make welcome additions, but fans of their work will be slightly disappointed here. Simply put “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” is not a stand-alone film. Those who enjoyed the first will have fun this second go around, but in small doses. If you didn’t see the predecessor, this might be a flick worth skipping until you’re up to date.