As a huge fan of the thriller genre and Escape Room, I was beyond excited to catch this sequel wondering what type of mischief the gamers would get in and out of and if Minos would finally be held accountable for their shenanigans.
In the first installment, audiences witness a group drawn into a game constructed by the Minos Corporation. Each room they encountered had a different visual theme with clues specific to some type of trauma each one had experienced and at the end there could only one survivor. However, Zoey (Taylor Russell) thinks outside the box, saving herself and Ben (Logan Miller). Afterwards, nobody believes their story of this torturous event they have mentally and physically survived through.
With the sequel, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, Zoey is obsessed with proving Minos is real and convinces Ben on a road trip to New York in an attempt collect evidence to prove her theory. Once they arrive and after a little digging, they find themselves in a derailing subway car sending them and a whole new group of strangers (who ironically have survived escape rooms themselves) into an insane amount of new “escape rooms” cooked up by the Minos – thus providing us with a Tournament of Champions. And that’s when the whole film goes “off the rails” for me.
Let’s start with what I liked. The production design by Edward Thomas is crazy ridiculous!!! His attention to detail in creating everything from an art deco, laser booby trapped bank lobby to an acid rain New York street to a beach laden with all types of vintage knick knacks and boiling seafood, is so completely intricate it makes the film like a carnival ride you don’t ever want to end.
What was thrilling about its predecessor, is we got a full back story and understanding as to why each and every one of the gamers were chosen. Unfortunately, this screenplay from Will Honley, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch and Oren Uziel, skims over those details in lieu of more and more action game, clue solving sequences allowing only a sliver of backstory on the former, alcoholic priest Nathan (Thomas Cocquerel), Rachel (Holland Roden) who is incapable of feeling pain due to a predisposed genetic condition, Indya Moore (Brianna) a travel writer and Carlito Olivero (Theo) is always late.
Taylor Russell (Zoey) headlines the group with gusto and verve every second and I was elated to finally see her not in a supporting role. Although the theme ‘when someone you love becomes a memory – that memory becomes a treasure’ is literally a set up for the twisty, unexpected ending, it’s not enough to make this sequel as strong as the first. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is exactly what a line for the film claims it to be ‘to a hammer everything is a nail, everything is a clue because you are so entrenched in the game world.” Entrenched in the game world audiences will be, but it would have been nice to know what made these gamers the champions of their rooms and why they were lured into this one. Directed by Adam Robitel and produced by Columbia Pictures, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions hits theaters on July 16th.