Escape Room: Tournament of Champions struggles to provide a tournament worth competing in. The original film was a subpar outing at best with a unique concept that blended the Saw and Final Destination franchises into one. Unlike its predecessor, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions opts for a more implausible narrative anchored by a new set of paper-thin protagonists. There’s fun to be had but not enough to ignore its glaring flaws and obsession with absurd storytelling.
With a clear goal to surpass Fast & Furious 9 as the most ridiculous movie of the year, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions passes that bar with flying colors. Escape Room didn’t overcomplicate its situation, but this sequel goes all-in with its outlandish plot contrivances. Directed by Adam Robitel and written by Will Honley, Daniel Tuch, Oren Uziel, and Maria Melnik. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions stars Logan Miller, Taylor Russell, Holland Roden, Indya Moore, Carlito Olivero, and Thomas Cocquerel. The film follows Minos survivors Zoe (Russell) and Ben (Miller) as they travel to New York City to bring the Minos corporation responsible for these escape rooms to justice. However, Zoe and Ben must join forces with other survivors after being caught in another elaborate game set up by Minos.
Titling the film Tournament of Champions might seem peculiar while watching because outside of Zoe, these champions are questionable at best. More effort goes into establishing the new characters as clueless and confused, but viewers are told they somehow survived a previous Minos scenario. Very little information is provided to warrant caring about the fates of anyone besides Zoe and Ben. What is disclosed about them is irrelevant since it doesn’t relate to the bigger picture. One can feel no pain, one has a wife, and another has a religious background. The character development is nonexistent for the most part. Zoe has been in counseling and Ben has developed a crush on her but squanders any chance to make a move.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions becomes an unsolvable puzzle once Minos is established to be pulling several strings to ensure they get their way. If only there had been more focus on providing some new details about Minos so that this could even be remotely plausible. The film relies heavily on certain moments needing to go exactly as they should for Minos to get the upper hand, and horror fans will notice the resemblance it shares to some later Saw sequels. What’s worse is Zoe making horrific decisions towards the end of the film, but the film does manage to justify its absurdity as an elaborate scheme to put Zoe in this position. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions finds a lot of its strengths in its superb set designs and fast pacing. However, this same pacing is what holds the film back from allowing time to create interesting characters.
Robitel will have you wincing during certain shots and keeps the film very energetic as if there is some big payoff coming up, but it’s not a satisfying one. While the rapid pacing provides an edge of your seat experience, its thrills fall on deaf ears because no time is taken to make the audience care about these characters. Russell musters up a pleasing performance as Zoe, and some viewers will grow more attached to her since she feels like the only smart character during several sequences. Russell’s shy innocence that she brought to the character last time is mixed with newly found confidence in Zoe, as she works to put Minos out of business. The remaining performances are fine considering what they are given to work with, but Zoe is the most important piece to this puzzle.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions may have too many puzzle pieces that don’t fit, but it’s very entertaining to watch thanks to the elaborate set designs and humor that can be found in how bad the writing can be. Russell’s performance is enough to warrant enduring the film in its entirety, but the lack of care that goes into creating a coherent story makes this sequel very bad. It’s best to go into it prepared to get a nonsensical film and unfortunately, there seems to be an attempt to set the stage for a third entry.