Despite a January release date typically reserved for studio leftovers, Escape Room was a breakout hit in 2019. Even if it was a bit derivative of Saw, Escape Room’s box office numbers told a more accurate story than its critical reception. Director Adam Robitel (Insidious: The Last Key) made a fun, if not completely implausible, thriller. Given its success. a sequel was inevitable. Too bad Sony Pictures released Escape Room: Tournament of Champions amidst lingering box office uncertainty. Instead of a booming mid-July box office, Tournament of Champions came and went pretty quietly. It probably didn’t help that critics were even less enthused with the results.
After surviving the mysterious Minos Corporation’s deadly escape rooms, ‘champions’ Zoey and Ben set out to expose the shadowy organization. Before they get far, however, the pair find themselves trapped in a subway car. Minos has found them and once again the Zoey and Ben must work with several strangers to survive new, deadlier puzzles. But there’s a twist – each of the unwilling players is a former survivor. It’s a true ‘Tournament of Champions” where losing means death.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions Offers More of the Same for Fans of the Original
At face value, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. Director Adam Robitel wastes little time with table-setting. After all, audiences know exactly what they’re signing up for with the sequel. Don’t expect many lags in the action. Robitel paces things quickly, which is probably for the best. Like its predecessor, Tournament of Champions’ story won’t hold up to much scrutiny. Moreover, Robitel knows how to build and execute a suspenseful scene. With more over-the-top ‘escape rooms’, the sequel delivers as advertised. In particular, an electrified subway car and laser-wired bank vault room provide more of the original’s edge-of-your-seat thrills. But somewhere along the way, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions stops being fun.
Robitel paces things quickly, which is probably for the best. Like its predecessor, Tournament of Champions’ story won’t hold up to much scrutiny.
In part, the sequel suffers from a feeling of ‘been there, done that’. Four different screenwriters share a credit for the sequel’s screenplay. Yet none of the writers seem willing to stray far – if at all – from Escape Room’s story structure. As a result, Tournament of Champions quickly becomes exhausting and overly repetitive. And this is a movie that barely registers in at 90 minutes. By the time the climax and big twist roll around, audiences may find themselves losing interest. Whether the twist is implausible or even good isn’t the sequel’s problem. Instead, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions rarely arouses any emotional investment. Who will survive and who will not is rarely in doubt.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions Underwhelms Even With Two Versions
An alternate version to the theatrical release offers more proof to the lack of ideas in the writing room. Both versions offer their own, albeit, very different twists. There’s little disputing the superiority of the theatrical cut of Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. In addition to bringing back a popular character from the first movie, the theatrical cut offers a livelier jaunt to the inevitable tease for a sequel. Despite some retconning of things we saw happen in Escape Room, the theatrical cut’s twist feels a bit more thought out. Comparatively, the alternate cut’s different opening and conclusion make little sense and offer up an awkward, flat finale. Regardless both versions suggest that Robitel and company may want to re-consider a possible another sequel.
Comparatively, the alternate cut’s different opening and conclusion make little sense and offer up an awkward, flat finale.
Where Escape Room: Tournament of Champions works is with its cast. Both Taylor Russell and Logan Miller (We Summon the Darkness) are back as Zoey and Ben, respectively. And while we don’t get the same satisfying character arcs from the first movie, the relationship between the two characters at least give some emotional anchor to the sequel. We like the characters, we value their friendship, and we want them to survive. In a sequel with a more compelling story, there might be more suspense tied to these characters’ survival. Though the supporting cast is good, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions doesn’t create the same opportunities for these characters to shine.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions …
Beware of an inferior extended cut likely meant for a Blu-ray release. The theatrical version – despite its flaws – is absolutely superior. Unfortunately, no amount of alternate versions would make Escape Room: Tournament of Champions a good movie. While it’s a very watchable (and mostly entertaining) movie, Robitel’s sequel never comes close to matching the silly fun of the first movie. After a promising start and a couple of suspenseful set-pieces, Tournament of Champions unravels in its final act. Not even four credited screenwriters seemed to know what to do with this movie.