CAST: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Isabelle Fuhrman, Thomas Cocquerel, Holland Roden, Carlito Olivero, Indya Moore
RUNNING TIME: 88 mins
BASICALLY…: After surviving a deadly set of escape rooms, Zoey (Russell) and Ben (Miller) find themselves in a much more sophisticated line of rooms that might prove even deadlier…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Even though it only came out a couple of years ago, it feels like so much longer since Escape Room first graced audiences. Sony’s Saw-lite answer to the escape room craze wasn’t a major box office or critical success, but it obviously did well enough to warrant a sequel, even though it hasn’t exactly stayed in our minds since then (I completely forgot it was even a thing until trailers for this film started coming out).
I’m slightly grateful, as much as I am disturbed, that Escape Room: Tournament of Champions actually opens with a “Previously On…” recap, like I’m watching the latest episode of an ongoing TV series. Maybe it’s been a while since I’ve seen a theatrical sequel to something open with that kind of thing – the Fear Street movies had opening recaps too, though they can get away with that because it’s Netflix, where you’d expect to see that kind of thing anyway – but it was rather jarring to witness in front of something that should at least attempt to stand on its own. Although, it was helpful since I had forgotten pretty much everything about the previous movie, so I suppose it had people like me in mind when it decided to do that.
I think I’ll need an opening recap for the next Escape Room movie as well (which they’re bound to make, if they can bring this one into existence), because much like the first film I am bound to forget pretty much everything about this incredibly silly and nonsensical movie, no matter how hard it tries to stay within the mind.
The sequel opens up shortly after the events of the first film, where our leads Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) have barely survived a bunch of deadly escape rooms designed by shady organisation Minos. Desperate to bring down the criminal enterprise, Zoey and Ben head to New York where they hope to find a way to expose their sadistic pass-times, but they unknowingly wander right into Minos’ newest set of escape rooms – only this time, they are joined by other survivors of Minos’ rooms who are just as traumatised as our leads are. Among the new arrivals are fallen priest Nathan (Thomas Cocquerel), panicked travel blogger Brianna (Indya Moore), Rachel (Holland Roden) whose nerves have been damaged, and emotional guy Theo (Carlito Olivero); together, they must all work through the new escape rooms if they are to make it out with their lives, and bring down Minos once and for all.
While the traps themselves are different, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is merely the same movie as the first but on a slightly higher scale. There isn’t much that’s new other than, again, what kind of rooms our characters have to go through – and, also like the first (at least, from what I remember of it), they are the most elaborate and convoluted set of traps that anyone could ever come up with. These are the kind of puzzles that rely heavily on people deducing the right riddles at the right time, or finding certain objects and then placing them in the exact position at the very last second; it’s increasingly hard to believe that people have actually survived these rooms because the answers are never obvious to them, and you have to wonder what the people behind the scenes would have done if nobody got any of the answers right and were left to die in more and more outlandish ways. Some of the puzzles are creative – one set in a bank with deadly lasers is a highlight – but the further you go along, the more you realise that none of it really makes any sense, and that it’s sheer dumb luck that anyone would make it out of these very difficult traps alive.
There is also something noticeably more unpleasant about this film, as well. While there aren’t really any characters who are necessarily annoying (though honestly, they could have at least benefited from that because it would have meant that they had some kind of personality), a lot of their dialogue throughout the movie is delivered in overlapping screeches, which can get very difficult to stomach after a short while. The traps, too, feel a lot meaner and more sadistic than before, which I understand is the whole point, but it’s still very uncomfortable when suddenly we’re introduced to acid rain as a means of torture, or when a train carriage is electrified to a point where a simple touch of a handle could mean certain death. Crucially, it feels like there wasn’t a lot of thought put into the ideas of these deadly puzzles, and that they’re just there because the filmmakers wanted to outdo themselves for the sequel; even some of the more ridiculous traps in the Saw franchise were a little better thought out than this, because while a lot of those didn’t make sense either, they at least felt like the natural progression from one film to another. Here, there’s no process between the previous Escape Room film and this one with how cruel and unusual they are, and it’s not very entertaining when you’re stuck watching these rather thoughtless traps kill people who really don’t deserve it.
It’s a sequel that lacks guts, figuratively and literally – its watered-down nature, done solely to obtain a PG-13 rating in the United States, takes away the gore and twisted menace that the Saw movies bathed themselves in – and the lack of any interesting character or story arc all but certifies its forgettable destiny. The writing, with its hokey dialogue (including the most eye-rolling title drop in a good long while) and non-cohesiveness in the plotting, gives very little reason for you to care about anything, nor does it really make you all that excited to see more of these. The first film may have ended with an all-too confident promise that there would be more in this franchise, but the way that this one leaves things, it only has you groaning that you very likely have to endure future instalments very soon.
If/when a third Escape Room comes into the picture, maybe then they can put things in the right position – but two movies in so far, I doubt that there’ll be much puzzling over whether or not this is all a waste of time.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is an uninventive sequel that rehashes its predecessor but on a larger scale, with some nonsensical and rather unpleasant traps not making this a comfortable viewing experience.