Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions reeks of sequel as it struggles to continue the narrative in a way that isn't setting up for yet another installment. The rooms are bigger and more inventive, but the plot is thinner and the characters aren't nearly as memorable.
Adam Robitel‘s surprise hit Escape Room dropped in 2019 to middle-of-the-road, if not slightly positive reviews and rightfully so as the film capitalized on a popular trend to make for a horror series that is just ripe for sequels and continuations, which has led us to Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, a sequel that promises to bring old characters back and throw them into even more elaborate traps as they attempt to solve the immediate and overall puzzle before time runs out.
Tournament of Champions sadly falls flat on its face, possessing the strength and energy to be better than the original in every way, yet it struggles to string together a plot that tries so hard to be complicated, but is really just a poor distraction from the fact that there are no real stakes this time around, yet everything is delivered with an overly-dramatic tone.
Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) survived the first Escape Room, only to reveal that there is a large entity involved with this sick and twisted means of entertainment for the upper-class. Now, they are hell-bent on unraveling this puzzle and getting to the bottom of it, which means a trip to New York to find the not-so-secret headquarters, only to fall face first into another game, only this time they are joined by fellow survivors.
Tournament of Champions is a fitting title as our main characters must now face another set of elaborate escape rooms and traps with fellow veterans in order to escape and yet again find out what is really going on.
Adam Robitel‘s Escape Room was surprisingly entertaining as it managed to take the popular trend of escape rooms and add a horror twist on for good measures. Escape Room didn’t take itself all too serious and ended up becoming a fun ride, despite its PG-13 rating. To make things even better, the film ended on a high note, setting up for a potential Saw-like series that could continue coming back as long as new characters and rooms are thrown into the mix, while our main characters focus on bringing down an evil entity that’s responsible for all of this death and destruction.
Escape Room as a franchise reminded me of both Saw and Resident Evil. I say Saw because of the creative rooms and endless ways to die and I say Resident Evil because both Escape Room films are tied heavily to last-ditch endings that tease at the potential of more, all with one shady corporation behind it all, much like Umbrella in the Resident Evil movies.
Yet with Tournament of Champions, director Adam Robitel has already managed to over-stay his welcome, failing to deliver on everything that came before it and instead giving us a sequel that has more inventive scenarios and rooms, but less character development, an overly serious tone and just a lack of direction or urgency as the characters spill into one room to the next, without ever advancing the narrative past “evil company must be stopped, but let’s fall for this trap again”.
Taylor Russell‘s Zoey continues to show shades of genius as she cracks the codes and solves the puzzles at a rapid rate, yet she continuously falls for the dumbest and most obvious traps, which leads me to believe that maybe her and Ben deserve to die if they can’t seem to stay out of trouble long enough to avoid another escape room?
The rest of the new cast isn’t nearly as memorable as our main leads, failing to land like the rest of the co-stars in the first film, despite everyone surviving and winning their own escape room games. It’s weird how this should be a team of pros and yet they all still struggle to accomplish such basic tasks or they fail to work as a team within the time constraints, acting surprised was something wild happens, despite knowing what happens to those that don’t make it.
A small army of writers are credited for this film, which is never a good sign as Tournament of Champions definitely feels like a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen”. I applaud Robitel for bringing it all together, despite coming up short-handed, because the film at least looks like it was made with the best intentions.
Yet despite all of my disappointment and negative thoughts, I’d still continue coming back for future installments, because I think the formula is there and there’s an opportunity to mine this franchise for quite a while, if a clear narrative can be established beforehand and each film given the proper time and effort to be a bigger part of a whole.
Perhaps someone else needs to come in and take the reins or perhaps Robitel needs a consistent team of writers that understand what long-form storytelling is all about? Or maybe this series is only going to get worse (and cheaper) with each new installment, assuming these don’t make more money than the previous entries and either come in around the same margin or lower?
I guess the weekend box office numbers will decide the fate of Escape Room. But if it was up to me, I’d say bring in a better team of writers and get the ship back on track as this has the potential to be the next Saw or Paranormal Activity for the next five years, if the filmmakers actually spent the time to improve and move forward.