Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)
Director: Adam Robitel
Writers: Will Honley, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch, Oren Uziel, Christine Lavaf, and Fritz Bohm
Starring: Taylor Russell and Logan Miller
Plot: As Zoey and Ben are investigating Minos, the company tricks them into participating in yet another escape room.
Review: Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is one of those movies that you just can’t wait to complain about, because it’s that dumb. Right after seeing it alone, I went out to dinner with friends. While there, they were greeted with a 20+ minute rant about the sheer stupidity that I had just witnessed. Spoilers and all. Because, honestly, screw it. I will try to be a bit more careful here though. I’ll have my semi-professional review and then just a total spoiler filled rant. But, for those who do want to see this movie, I will mark when I get into spoiler territory.
I’m not going to lie. Back in January 2019, I was really shocked by how successful the original Escape Room was. I had absolutely no interest in seeing it, because I thought it looked really, really bad. But, it made 17 times its budget, so there’s no arguing that it was successful enough for a follow-up. With that coming up this weekend, I felt the need to go back and dive into the OG. And, honestly, it’s not the worst. For a cheesy PG-13 Saw knockoff with a touch of The Hunger Games, not bad. At least the puzzles were interesting and the characters were worth getting to know. It’s not good, but I could see someone being entertained by it on a Sunday afternoon HBO viewing. It’s like right on that border of being barely watchable. This one though… oof. It’s about as bad as I assumed the first one was.
To me, the biggest drop off between the two movies is the quality of the characters. In the original, we got to know each of them pretty well. Throughout the adventure, we learned of their strengths and weaknesses; their personal lives and their tragedies. This made it feel a bit more grown up. Every time someone died, you’d legitimately get a little sad. Despite their flaws, you wanted most of them to make it out alive. Tournament of Champions replaces all of them with generic slasher film filler with about the same level of acting ability to boot. I couldn’t really tell you anything about any of the new characters here. They were all super bland, mildly annoying stand-ins that were there to die (off screen because, you know, PG-13). And, even our two leads from the previous movie seemed less interesting here. Ben has gone from not really caring about anything and kinda being a pain to just being a full blown simp to Zoey. Meanwhile, they’ve turned Zoey into some sort of escape room messiah, who seems to constantly know what to do next. I never felt that sense of doubt she prominently displayed over and over in the previous entry. They’re all just blank slates playing their parts now. The humanity has been sucked out. And, personally, I feel like that’s what makes not only the first movie work, but the entire horror genre. You want to feel something as you watch these characters parish. Otherwise, it’s just slasher porn. And that’s a lesser horror genre. Especially at PG-13.
Also, at this point, the villains of this franchise are comically over powered. I can buy that they were able to take six random people, trick them into playing a deadly game, and then hiding the bodies. Sure. I can even (barely) buy into the elaborate sets they’ve built to take these people out. But, I can only buy it once or, at most, once a year. But, this movie makes it seem like they do this shit all the time. Like, they’ve done it often enough that they had a social media influencer round. Do you know how long it’d take to get to that gimmick? The Amazing Race was on season 28 before they did it! And Survivor was in it’s 40th season when they finally had enough former winners to play! Heck, The Hunger Games was 75 years in before they brought anyone back! Basically, the people who coordinate this event are scrapping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to ideas. To me, that means they must be doing it dozens of times. That’s a lot of replica beach, bank, and NYC street replicas to build, not to mention the death traps. And, apparently, the fact that they track these people their entire lives, as is evident by their ability to trick these players into returning. There is simply no way any corporation would ever have this kind of money or power to throw away on killing a couple random citizens. No matter how badly they wanted the entertainment.
And, finally, keeping up with this movie is just exhausting. They fly through the traps at such a rapid pace that you never get the chance to piece together the clues yourself. The camera will show something for the first time as the characters are figuring it out. There is no “can you figure it out?” element here. There are just a slew of answers flying at you constantly. It’s like if a murder mystery only showed the killer as he was being taken away in handcuffs. That’s not a satisfying payoff. It’s not how you tell a story. We have to feel like we’re along for the ride too. Then, the third act is nothing but twist after twist after twist. They don’t even give us a second to adjust before they’re changing everything up again. I think it’s supposed to blow you away with how much control this company has over everything, but, as I said, it just makes the whole thing more cartoony. They constantly suck the impact out of different character moments, earlier scenes, or even the previous movie. By the time the final misdirect came, I was so infuriated that I couldn’t wait to rant to someone about it. (More on that in a moment.) It’s just all so very frustrating. The first movie was so simple. Keep it simple, stupid.
Overall, I was not at all happy with Escape Room: Contest of Champions. It took everything that barely worked about the first one and threw it out the window. The characters are bland. The rooms are worse. And the whole concept is starting to get a little too big to be believable any more. I’m not sure I could recommend this to anyone, even if you’re a massive fan of the first. But, then again, I might be wrong. There’s probably someone out there who will enjoy the heck out of this. It ain’t me though. That’s for damn sure.
TL;DR: Everything that made the first barely work is gone here, making Escape Room: Tournament of Champions a completely unsatisfying sequel.
Score: 3/10 (Awful)
SPOILERS: Ok, so let me get into spoilers for a second here. This is your final warning. Do not read past here if you don’t want spoilers. 3…2…1… Alright. For those of you that are unfamiliar or forgot, the first Escape Room movie ends with our two leads Zoey and Ben escaping and living fairly normal lives. Zoey, getting over her fear of flying with the help of all the horrific shit they’ve been through, says that she’s ready to fly to New York to investigate Minos more. Then, we get a cliffhanger ending as we see that they’re prepared for her and have turned a plane into an escape room. THEN, cut to this movie and Zoey’s still afraid to fly. They drive to NYC instead. Only for her to then build up her confidence again through the rooms and decide she’s ready to fly back. Only for it to then be revealed that this was all part of their plan and the plane is an escape room. Then, it cuts to credits. So, basically, THIS IS THE SAME FREAKING CLIFFHANGER TWIST ENDING THAT YOU GAVE US IN THE LAST MOVIE! YOU CAN’T “SURPRISE” US WITH THAT AGAIN! IT’S THE SAME THING! WE SAW IT! WE’VE MADE NO PROGRESS! WE’RE IN THE EXACT SAME PLACE WE WERE BEFORE! WHY DIDN’T YOU MAKE THE PLANE THE START OF THE TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS? WHY CHANGE UP THE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION? IT WOULD MAKE WAY MORE SENSE THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO TRICK SIX PEOPLE INTO GETTING ONTO ONE PLAY THAN IN ONE SUBWAY CAR! YOU’RE TWO MOVIES IN AND ALREADY JUST SPINNING YOUR WHEELS! Honestly, that “twist” alone knocked the whole score down a point. Truly pathetic. God, I hope we don’t get a third one… Please.