Directed by Adam Robitel and written by Will Honley, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch, and Oren Uziel, six people unwillingly find themselves locked in another series of escape rooms, slowly uncovering what they have in common to survive. Joining forces with two of the original survivors, they soon discover they’ve all played the game before. Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Indya Moore, Holland Roden, Thomas Cocquerel, and Carlito Olivero.
Creating thrilling, fun and entertaining cinema is an underserved genre today, with too many focused on attempting to be clever or overly violent. There’s always a need for films that are pure entertainment, and the Escape Room films fit nicely into that category. If you’re jumping in having not enjoyed the first, then it’s inevitable you won’t like this outing either but that’s true of almost any sequel. For those who did, it’s a fitting follow up. Adam Robitel continues his style from the original, building up a great amount of suspense, but upping the danger this time around. As with the first, it designs its rooms well to make use of both a darkness and a strong colour. The only weak point visually being some of the effects work which can be over the top or unconvincing. It’s trying too hard to step things up a notch unnecessarily, in this case less is more, natural tension over the tech.
However, what lets down their adventure is the writing. As they say, too many cooks, and this sequel has not one, not two but four writers, doubling from the original and only retaining one of them. The result is that they try to fit in too much, too fast. It starts out on the right footing but then rushes itself on an increasing scale to the end. The knock on effect is it then undercuts the sincerity of its drama, their turmoil doesn’t have time to land before they’ve moved on. It doesn’t take on the successes of the first, building on the connections to its surviving characters. Instead of introducing its new characters in the same way, it assumes their status as champions is enough, which it sadly isn’t, making them feel unfinished and disposable. The story idea and the games themselves work but it needed to pull back, slow down and let it play out more naturally rather than rushing through.
The performances hit the right note, they bring through the fatal danger they face and how inevitable they predict their deaths. It’s unusual to see such a mix of brave, smart and resilient characters all in one film and their quick jump to solving each problem is satisfying to watch. Taylor Russell and Logan Miller lead the way and steal more screen time but the moments where they work as a team are the key here. The two have a sweet friendship but it’s not enough to drive the film alone, the whole cast give their best performances working as a team. Bringing back Deborah Ann Woll’s Amanda was a nice touch but again, it feels rushed and her re-introduction to the story doesn’t land with the bang you’d hope for.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is a fitting sequel but tries too hard to push things to another level, forgetting what made the original work. It rushes through most of its story, undercutting the suspense and tension it builds in favour of excess effects. Despite those weaknesses, it still easily serves its purpose of providing fun, thrilling entertainment which is what matters most here.