Director: Adam Robitel
Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Indya Moore, Holland Roden, Thomas Cocquerel and Carlito Olivero
It’s almost a given at this point that if a horror film makes money, even if there is no need, there will be a sequel. Escape Room didn’t even play into the idea that it was a stand-alone film. The final minutes set up a sequel pretty well, although it meant that there wasn’t much pay-off, which was a let-down. The ending is just essentially to be continued… And that’s exactly where Escape Room: Tournament of Champions starts, just a few weeks after the events of the first film without any set up we are back in the action. It starts running and doesn’t slow down to a walk once through it’s short running time.
Tournament of Champions is a noticeably short film, it’s something like 80 minutes when you take off the credits, and to pad it out they do add some moments that could be cut, most notably the opening catch-up of the first film. It pretty much replays the main plot points, and it goes on for a while, once that’s over we are with Zoe (Taylor Russel, Waves, Words on Bathroom Walls) in a therapy session as she relives some of the moments of the first film. It feels that they made the film, realised that it was too short for a cinema release so added a recap on, even though there’s a recap in the film itself. It’s a silly way to start the film, especially as there isn’t an impenetrable wall of plot to understand, it’s pretty straight forward and I’m pretty sure new-commers won’t take long to catch up.
The ending of the first one is also kind of ignored, the plane puzzle that the end sets up, isn’t used in this one. Zoe doesn’t fly to New York, instead she and Ben drive. Once they get into the Big Apple they find the Minos building is abandoned and they aren’t able to get in. After Zoe’s locket is stolen by a homeless guy, they chase him down and end up stuck on a subway train. What they don’t realise is that everyone else on the train has also survived previous Escape Rooms set by the company Minos who were behind the events of the first one. It’s not long before they realise they are stuck in another series of puzzles, and again the stakes are life and death.
Tournament of Champions is a really decent sequel to the first one. Tonally it feels identical, if you liked the first one chances are you’re going to enjoy this one. The puzzles are tense and creative, the set pieces are well thought out and designed. The characters are all great, although you don’t get as much character building of the newcomers, instead it’s a story about Zoe and Ben. The pacing is great, and the film rolls along without any slow moments. It even sets up another sequel, with a better pay-off than the first film. The third film feels well deserved as the credits start to roll, let’s hope it does well enough at the pandemic box office.
Sadly, this film isn’t as tight as the first one. There are some jokes that don’t land and seem out of place. It doesn’t live up to what looks like a great set piece with the plane puzzle the first one teased us with. We still don’t know who is behind Minos, the silhouette on the screen at the end of the first one. It’s also not really explained why all the victors from the previous escape rooms are on the train, it’s not even brought up. Ben does ask how they all survived, since he was nearly killed in the first film, they don’t really explain it and try to sweep it away, thinking that acknowledging it is enough. The hangman puzzle at the beginning is also very hectic, it would be nice to get a longer look at the screen to see the puzzle to try and work it our with them.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is more of the first one. This is in no way a bad thing, because the first one is great. Sadly, it doesn’t quite live up. It’s still an exciting thrill ride and a well-made film. Hopefully the third one can keep this up.