How does the old adage go? Less is more. Yes. And that has been proven again by Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. The follow up effort has some interesting ideas but ultimately loses its way by trying to explain too much about the inner workings of the sinister Minos Corporation.
Synopsis: A group of Minos escape room survivors find themselves on a runaway subway car and must act quickly and work together if they have any hope of navigating the treacherous obstacles that await.
My hangups with this sequel started almost immediately. The idea of a group of former Minos escape room champions ending up in the same subway car at the same time feels like far too big of a coincidence. And there’s never a satisfactory explanation as to why they are all there in the first place. We know why Zoey and Ben are there but the rest of the group have assembled without any real explanation as to why. That started things off on the wrong foot for me and things got worse from there.
I also had a difficult time believing these new ‘contestants’ had played the game before. Several of the characters are needlessly cavalier and foolish, making it tough to believe they would have been able to emerge victorious after a prior tangle with the Minos Corporation. The extended version of the film takes a stab at explaining that. But the theatrical version just expects the audience to accept everything at face value. I’ll touch more on the differences between the two cuts in a bit.
Another shortcoming is that the characters weren’t as likable this time around. The cast was a major selling point of the first film. But the new characters feel under-developed. I was sad to see the key players in the original fall prey to the rooms. But the characters introduced in this sequel were fairly forgettable and I never felt fully invested in their plight.
Initially, I was pleased to see the return of a character from the original film but my excitement was short-lived after the reasoning behind the reappearance was explained. The reveal fell flat and made me wish the follow up had left the viewer in the dark like the original. The less we know about the monster (in whatever form that monster may take) the more frightening and exciting it is. But in this case, the film shows us a little too much and a lot of the mystique immediately vanishes, making the twist anticlimactic.
There are a couple of other twists that don’t pay off. Namely because they were a little too predictable. This sequel sometimes feels like it was made with a Paint by Numbers template.
The extended cut of the film, which is included with the Blu-ray release, goes deeper into explaining the inner workings of the corporation behind the hazardous escape rooms. And that may appeal to viewers looking for answers. But like in most cases, the answers we are given aren’t nearly as interesting as simply not knowing the reasoning.
The extended version is bookended with scenes that make the story a little more cohesive. But neither version of the flick does justice to the original. The extended version brings the story full circle but there are so many remarkable coincidences that I couldn’t really get into it. The plus side to the theatrical cut is that it tells a slightly more plausible story.
The home video release comes with a series of featurettes. One discusses the subway, bank, beach, and city street sets. Another focuses on the characters and dives into their back stories, with each of the key players weighing in on bringing their character to life. The third featurette sees the creative team and onscreen talent speaking to attempting to up the ante the second time around. Director Adam Robitel speaks to attempting to outdo the previous film (which, for me, it did not).
If you dug the film, the bonus content should be a lot of fun to dive into. Particularly the different cuts, seeing as they really are two very different films.
I didn’t connect with this sequel but I’m certain there is an audience for it. So, if you’re keen to check it out, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital.
Wicked Rating: 4/10