WHAT ESCAPE ROOM’S ABOUT:
Following on immediately from the events of Escape Room (2019), our two surviving heroes, Zoe (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller), set off to find proof of the existence of the mysterious Minos, the mysterious organisation that creates deadly escape rooms for unsuspecting victims on whose survival Minos’ rich clientèle place high stakes bets. Minos’ influence is so immense, though, that it’s not long before Zoe and Ben find themselves in a new series of traps along with four other survivors of Minos’ past escape rooms.
WHAT THE SOURCE THOUGHT:
Calling to mind the original Saw, minus the gore and social commentary. Escape Room was a perfectly solid thriller revolving around a simple premise and a procession of decidedly un-simple traps for our (mostly unmemorable) heroes to puzzle their way through. It ended, though, on a more convoluted note as it started to build a mythology around Minos, the mysterious and influential organisation that’s behind it all. Worst of all, it left plenty of space for sequels and spin-offs that would no doubt take a reasonably original, self-contained little thriller and milk every last drop of value out of it. It happened with Saw, and there was little reason to believe that it wouldn’t happen here.
As was inevitably going to be the case, the micro-budgeted Escape Room was more than profitable enough to justify the quick turnaround of a sequel (strike while the iron’s hot) and just as inevitably, that sequel could hardly be more underwhelming. It’s not as ruthlessly cynical as the Saw sequels that completely abandoned what actually made the first film noteworthy for more and more gore, but it is even more unnecessary.
Aside from a slightly greater emphasis on the series’ mythology and a massive increase in stupidity (the way our champions come together this time brings new meaning to the word “contrived”), it’s pretty much just more of the same. Which, of course, means that it’s a whole lot less of the same.
It’s still fun to watch these ludicrously elaborate escape rooms play out, and, like before, Taylor Russell’s Zoe remains a solid “last girl” horror lead, but there’s just not really enough there to justify a whole new film. Especially not when the film both doubles down on the Minos nonsense and doesn’t actually go anywhere interesting with it – or even anywhere at all, really.
In many ways, this is less a sequel or even a spin-off but the cinematic equivalent of a video game expansion pack. And why not when so much of the film is all about watching others play a game? Hell, even its name sounds like a generic add-on to something like Unreal Tournament or Doom II (why yes, I am a teenager of the ’90s, however, did you know?).
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But just as expansion packs don’t really evolve the core game so much as provide some new levels or, if you’re lucky, a new weapon or enemy or two to what is still the same game, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions adds its own bunch of new levels and some new (again, largely uninteresting) characters without really expanding on what came before.
This is good news for huge fans of the original who are only really looking for a new batch of “levels” to enjoy – even if, like many an expansion pack, they’re not quite as good as the first time around – but for those of us who enjoyed the first one fine but didn’t really see the need for more, Tournament of Champions is certainly not going to change their minds. People who didn’t like the first film at all obviously wouldn’t even bother with this.
Sadly, though I thought the film was perfectly watchable, I fit pretty squarely in the second group. The first film was a solid amount of fun, but it was ultimately a shallow viewing experience with severely lacklustre world-building and not a whole lot on offer beyond a likeable lead and the escape rooms themselves. Tournament of Champions still has nothing to say, still does nothing with a mythology that always felt like an afterthought, and still has paper-thin characterisation, clunky dialogue where characters state the blindingly obvious to one another, and some amazingly groan-worthy and obvious plot “twists”.
This makes for something that is, at best, strictly for hardcore fans only. It’s not a horrible way to spend 90 minutes. It’s the sort of unwanted sequel that’s pretty much made for streaming services.
Let’s watch Zoe and Ben making their way out!