Escape Room wasted a terrific premise when it hit theaters. This time around, the sequel Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, manages to at least get one thing right. The game rooms themselves are quite good here, evoking what people actually like about escape games, minus the deadliness. Personally, I loved doing those games, pre COVID, so that made the first one all the more disappointing. Here, we still have a crummy horror sequel, one that desperately wants to be a gore-less Saw, but things are moving in the right direction. I wouldn’t say that the third installment will likely be the one to get it all right, but I’m potentially curious. If you loved the first one, this will thrill you even more. Otherwise, it’s not likely to move the needle on this now franchise.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is a definite upgrade on Escape Room, though that’s damning with very faint praise. This time, the characters are just as bland and thinly drawn, with the screenplay full of stupidity. That’s all there, but this time, the rooms and puzzles within are actually a bit clever and pretty exciting. The middle section, which is basically just one puzzle after the next, mostly works. It falls apart at the end, but for a period, the promise of the series is there.
Picking up shortly after Escape Room, this sequel again follows Zoe (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) as they set out to expose Minos, the shadowy group behind the first game. Driving to New York in search of their headquarters, the two end up, for reasons too stupid to explain, stuck on a subway car with others who have previously played the game. Soon, it becomes clear that Minos is planning a new game, a Tournament of Champions, if you will, with Ben and especially Zoe in the middle.
Caught in an even harder and deadlier game, the group must work together in order to survive. Ben and Zoe are teamed with Briana (Indya Moore), Nathan (Thomas Cocquerel), Rachel (Holland Roden), and Theo (Carlito Olivero), each of whom were winners in very specific games of their own. As they progress through the puzzles, a body count begins, but a story is also being told, one that harkens back to the original game.
Taylor Russell is overqualified for this, to be sure, but she does a good job again. Russell and Logan Miller have decently good chemistry, which helps. The newcomers, Thomas Cocquerel, Indya Moore, Carlito Olivero, and Holland Rooden, are pretty disposable, but that’s kind of the point. Supporting players include Lucy Newman-Williams as well as Deborah Ann Woll, but are you really here for the acting, in the first place?
Filmmaker Adam Robitel returns to direct here. The script, penned by Fritz Böhm, Will Honley, Christine Lavaf, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch, and Oren Uziel, is a mess. The game rooms are clever, but other than that, they write it like the second-rate Saw knock-off that it is. Robitel and company demonstrate creativity with the puzzles, alongside stupidity with just about everything else. That seems to be the Escape Room formula, for better or (mostly) worse, and it’s very much in evidence with Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. You certainly know what you’re getting yourself into.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is an improvement on Escape Room, without question. Still, it’s not good. Again, if you dug the first one, this will be a delightful horror/thriller experience. If you weren’t a fan, you’ll dislike this one less, at least. Make of that what you will. For me, this an improvement, but still nowhere near worthy of a recommendation.