The original Escape Room was a pleasant surprise back when it was released in January of 2019. Its sequel, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021), arrives to continue the story and manages to recapture some of the magic of the first whilst feeling a little bit dumber. The decision to keep some of the same characters from the first film made the “escape room” set-up feel a bit more contrived.
After surviving the events from the first film, Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) decide to take a trip to New York to try and expose Minos. However, after an event leads them onto a subway car with four other people, they find themselves trapped in another escape room – this time, with four other people who were winners in their own right. They must work through the rooms, or face death. How they all end up on the subway car – just the six of them – is one of the worst elements of the plot, especially because we see how Zoey and Ben get there. At the same time, this first of a few escape room set pieces works and successfully manages to shake off the obnoxious exposition that led us here.
While I had forgotten a lot about the first film, I was still a fan of Zoey and Ben. My hope for them to figure out the puzzles definitely makes the film work. The traps they find themselves in are interesting, and it works to instill a real sense of danger and puzzlement. That’s what really makes this a fun experience: the puzzles. Watching the characters try and solve them – even when they don’t totally make sense – still really pulls the audience in.
A strength of both films is they don’t linger. The film gets in and out and does exactly what it wants. However, I noticed that there are a number of things in this film that feel left out…probably for the sake of the runtime. Character backstories are alluded to but never returned to for closure. Some of the big, overarching story ideas feel disconnected or contradictory – as though they had a few ideas, and forgot to remove elements of them from the final script. Nathan (Thomas Cocquerel) is revealed to be a priest, and that his previous experience with Minos Escape Rooms was with all other holy men. It feels important and makes implications of some character elements that never come up again…at least in any meaningful way. There are many other examples one can point to that demonstrates the thread of an idea that goes nowhere.
Despite that, it is impossible to not have fun watching this movie. The set pieces and the momentum pulled me in, keeping me engaged until the credits rolled. While there are a plethora of flaws, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions gives us enough to walk away happy. The film earns the Decent Watch rating.