Even before escape rooms became a huge hit worldwide, there were several previous incarnations of them. It started with computer games, whose goal is to manage to get out of closed spaces while solving various puzzles when the early versions appeared somewhere in the 80s of the last century. There were also several attempts in the cinema, the main one being “Cube” from 1997 which became a cult film and gave birth to some medicore sequels. Then came the recent years, in which dozens of escape rooms were opened, and the cinema responded to this.
The Escapism Of Escape Room Movies
In recent years, we have seen several films that presented a fairly simple idea, which takes the basic concept of an escape room and converts it to the big screen: a group of people enter an innocent escape room, or are forced into it. Quickly thry discover that if they do not complete the tasks within the short period – well, they will die. The form of death perhaps determining whether it is a horror movie or a thriller only (the character failed to solve the puzzle and her head was cut off? A horror movie!).
Alongside some films that took this general idea to other areas, such as “Saw” with its dozens of sequels, there are films in which the entire plot takes place in an escape room. As if to attract horror fans who also like escape rooms that go to the limit, these films don’t excel in overly creative names. “Escape Room” from 2017 featured particularly stupid characters who come to an escape room in honor of one of their birthday and are slaughtered mainly due to their stupidity, Or the TV movie “No Escape Room” from 2018 that took this idea and gave it a supernatural twist.
The most significant movie in this subcategory was given the very original name “Escape Room”, and it was a pretty big hit. The film was produced for only $9 million, grossed more than $155 million worldwide, and received decent reviews mostly. So it’s no surprise that the sequel, “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions” is supposed to be a sort of “Champions League” of the outstanding escapees.
Same Same, But Different
In “Escape Room”, six strangers – who have a common denominator that we reveal during the film – are imprisoned in a room and reach a maze of puzzles, traps, and strange deaths. At the end of the adventure, two of them manage to survive: the brilliant physics student Zoe (Taylor Russell, “Words on Bathroom Walls”) and the ambitious young man Ben (Logan Miller, “Love, Simon”). The film ended with the two finding out who is behind the conspiracy and for what purpose, a solution that may be disappointing for the simple reason that it has already appeared in more than one film. The first film pretty much hinted at an imminent sequel, and it seems like making it was an easy decision.
“Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions”, on the other hand, presents the story of six strangers (well, two of them know each other from the previous film), who have a common denominator that we reveal during the movie. They are imprisoned in a room (well – an electrifying train car this time) and reach a maze of puzzles, traps, and strange deaths. As is the best tradition, here you will find mainly cartoonish and one-dimensional characters, which we can sum up in a few words: the sturdy guy with the hearing problem, the alcoholic priest, the travel blogger, and the woman who knows no pain. On the way, they encounter a floating beach with creepy mannequins and a fake moon, a typical street in New York covered by acid rain, a bank lobby full of lasers where you would probably be happy to keep your money, huge tunnels, and other surprises.
Take a loot at “Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions” trailer below:
That’s pretty much what happens in most of the movie, but it turns out there’s a twist here. There are two versions of the film: one intended for theatres, and the other that can be associated with home viewing (in practice, you may not know which version you fell for). But the difference between the versions is much more than cutting a few scenes. We’ve already heard of people who watched the movie in the cinema, after a few months saw it again at home and went immediately to a medical diagnosis because they thought they had dementia. Almost an hour of the film is the same between the cinematic and “Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions” extended cut, but the rest? Nope. This includes the beginning and the last twenty minutes, plus or minus, in which we learn who’s behind the current rooms and why exactly he did it.
It is impossible to tell too much without committing spoilers, but it’s a completely different plot in every version. One of the versions, for example, brings back one of the characters we thought we got rid of in the previous film, and it turns out that her role in the current film is quite significant. This character does not appear at all in the other version (except for some confused flashbacks at the beginning of the film), in which a new character that does not appear in the first version receives the focus. What’s more, a third movie is expected at some point, and we don’t know what plot it will stick to. After all, “Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions” different endings should be a beginning of something.
Einstein, Behind You!
On the face of it, “Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions” manages to get the job done. It’s intense, starts in high gear, and only increases from then on. It’s very well made, visually impressive and usually presents an above-average level of acting (and in horror thrillers, it’s not obvious at all). It’s hard to say that the new characters are too interesting, or that the rather minimal description of each of them is consistent with their actions in the film. The film also doesn’t develop the characters we already know, and the attempt to hint at sexual tension between some characters is far from convincing.
The main problem is that it seems to miss the concept of scary escape rooms, or at least movies based on them. From my point of view, part of the fun challenge in these types of movies is to step into the shoes of the characters, investigate the clues, try to solve (even if only for a few seconds) the puzzles, and be disappointed that the characters are doing it in front of us, because we are bad at escape rooms after all. This element was present to some extent in the first film, but in the sequel, it’s absent almost completely.
The solutions to most puzzles are too quick, and sometimes the characters seem to get the solution randomly or simply because they’re “too smart” (Champions, after all). This is how the characters memorize the periodic table from A to Z in seconds, under terrible pressure. Or know exactly which substances react to which acids in a certain way because that’s what you learn in school. The film abandons the enigmatic challenge and sometimes the logic in favor of the fast pace, and in my opinion, not in a good manner. At times it felt like an episode of “The Masked Singer”, sorry in advance for the comparison, where you realize at a certain point that there is no point in trying to guess who the character behind the auto-tune is because the hints are too stupid.
Since we are dealing with horror, the question that arises in this “Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions” review is how graphic and gory this film manages to be. The simple answer is not really, quite similar to the previous film which held a PG-13 MPAA rating. If you were expecting “Saw” style moral dilemmas here where the characters have to cut their bodies to free themselves, or bodies dismembered into dozens of pieces after an encounter with a deadly trap, you may.. um.. be disappointed. “Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions” deaths here are mostly implied, and sometimes also happen out of frame. Therefore, this film can be defined as a thriller with fairly minimal touches of horror, and not as a horror film as such.
In the end, “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions” is like an average escape room that opens in a popular complex of rooms. It is not scary or too exciting, the puzzles are uneven, and the plot is only interesting at times. It also fails to develop the ideas or the characters from The first film or take it to another dimension, which one might have expected in a sequel. If we stick to the original name and choose the analogy from the soccer world, it felt more like a Europa league than the Champions League to me. Nevertheless, as an entertaining film, it does the job. In the cinema, like the escape rooms, sometimes an hour and a half of escapism are exactly what we need.
Where Can I Watch Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions?
You can rent it on Itunes.
“Escape Room: Tournament of Champions” (2021) – Full Details
Countries of Origin: United States, South Africa
Director: Adam Robitel
Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Thomas Cocquerel, Holland Roden, Indya Moore
Runtime: 96 minutes / 88 Minutes
Budget: $15,000,000 (estimated)
US & Canada: $25,314,753
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA): PG-13
IMDB Rating: 5.7