‘Escape Room: Tournament of Champions’ Review—Sloppy Nonsense
The pandemic resulted in the delays of many movies we were eagerly anticipating. This July, we are finally getting to see some of those movies, such as Black Widow, Jungle Cruise, and Escape Room: Tournam—hold on, they made a second one?!
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is a horror film directed by Adam Robitel. The film is a sequel to the 2019 movie Escape Room. The film continues the story of Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller), two survivors of a life-or-death escape room, as they find themselves trapped in another high-stakes room and try to uncover the person behind all this.
This is the second horror sequel of the month after The Forever Purge (unless you’d like to count The Boss Baby: Family Business), and I was a tad more excited for this film because the original Escape Room wasn’t anything special, but you could tell the writers wanted to make something fun and thrilling.
Unfortunately, this movie recycles the same bag of tricks as the first, offering more escape room scenes where our group of characters has to figure out the clues to escape before time runs out and they die. What’s more shocking is how this movie is even stupider than the first film.
This movie makes no sense. There are moments in the first film which feel a bit out there, but as this sequel tries desperately to outdo the original, it ends up getting so insane that you can do nothing more than take everything on screen with a grain of salt.
Our central premise has Zoey and Ben going to New York City to uncover the truth about Minos Escape Rooms. While they’re there, a robber snatches Zoey’s necklace that her mom gave to her. Zoey and Ben chase after the robber, who leads them into a subway and escapes with the necklace.
Suddenly, their subway car detaches from the rest and leads them to an abandoned tunnel. We discover that the subway car is the first escape room they must get out of. Every other person in that subway car was previously a survivor of a Minos escape room, who must play again in a “tournament of champions.”
I’ve thought about this. I’ve thought about it for a while since I got back from the theater, and I cannot figure out how this setup makes any sense. The first movie was simple—strangers go to the address of a building, and every crazy escape room takes place within that building.
But how the hell does this work? It’s likely that the “robber” worked for Minos and led Zoey and Ben to the subway on purpose. But how did the other contestants get on the subway? Why did these three Minos survivors happen to also be on the same subway car as them? And why was there nobody else in the subway car despite the train station very clearly being packed?
Also, the idea to have the escape room begin on a public train is ridiculous. How did Minos booby-trap the subway car to the extent that they did with nobody witnessing it? How does nobody at the MTA notice that the subway car has detached itself and start an investigation?
The movie continues with more escape rooms, and none of them are quite as fun as the first film with the heat room, the cold room, and the upside-down room. You can see the filmmakers trying to do more interesting things with the production design, but the scenes feel more disposable this time around.
As for the characters, they are much weaker this time around. The first film employed well-placed flashbacks to slowly uncover the pasts of every character. In this movie, the characters only briefly state their backstory and spend the rest of the film working in the escape rooms.
I struggle to recall any of the characters’ backstories because they were referenced so quickly, and they never come back into play. For the most part, the characters feel like their sole purpose is to die in the escape rooms.
We also have a character from the first movie who returns in this film so that the writers can go, “You didn’t see THAT coming, did you?!” But they do nothing else with this character. This character's return ultimately leads to nothing, as they vanish without a trace in the final few minutes with a storyline completely unresolved.
My least favorite part of the first Escape Room was the ending, which I thought was absurd and took away from the rest of the film. This movie’s ending doubles down on the absurdity with a final scene that makes absolutely no sense but solidifies the film’s attempts at being the new PG-13 Saw.
The thing with this film is that at the very least, it’s not boring. It’s easy to get invested in the escape rooms and seeing how the characters will put together the clues and get out of the situation, as the stakes are very simple: life or death. There are thrilling moments, but the characters just have nothing to do.
For crying out loud, this movie begins with a montage recap of the first movie. That’s ridiculous. It’s as if they wanted to go, “Previously on last year’s episode of Escape Room!” and remind us of everything that happened because they knew nobody remembered the first film.
Throw in a fake-out dream sequence near the beginning and the most blatant spoken movie title line since Suicide Squad, along with the acting, which feels more like everyone yelling endlessly, and you have a sequel where writing about it has honestly made me like the film even less.
It’s not a miserable film to watch. You can turn it on and be entertained by it, but the story offers so much sloppy nonsense that by the end of it, you’ll wish that you had watched a better thriller than what we’re getting here.
Grade: ★★☆☆☆ [4/10, D+]
Jonathan’s Tips: Unless you really liked the first Escape Room, skip this one. It isn’t good. The trailer has some minor spoilers. Watch at your own risk.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is only in theaters July 16, 2021.