Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021) — Do you have a Groupon for this?

“Guys, I figured it out. Menos is Bon Jovi.”

Justin’s rating: Escape rooms are the freshmaker!

Justin’s review: As a connoisseur of sequels, I quite appreciate one that makes every effort to be as direct a successor as possible. If the follow-up continues the storyline, lore, and character journeys from the previous flick, it feels like it holds more credibility — and my attention.

So we’ll grant Escape Room: Tournament of Champions this single kudos: It’s as direct of a sequel as you may hope. It’s just that it wasn’t needed in the first place.

Picking right up from the end of the first movie, Zoe and Ben head back to the city to look for proof that Menos exists. Since, you know, nobody believes their story that this ultra-wealthy, supremely powerful organization of entertainment seekers are creating elaborate, expensive, and lethal escape rooms for a handful of people to go through on an annual basis before quickly erasing all of the evidence that these massive structures exist.

Gee, when you put it THAT way, I can’t understand why.

The problem here is that the whole premise of these escape rooms being underwritten by a global conspiracy was the shakiest part of the first movie. It wasn’t going to hold up to increased scrutiny and further world-building — which is exactly what Tournament of Champions does.

This time around, a group of former Menos survivors (including the two from the previous film) are thrown together for another round. And… that’s pretty much all we have. Some new one-note characters, several more highly improbable escape rooms, and we’re wading through another PG-13 Saw-lite experience.

I guess all of these people should feel honored to have people spend so much money on their televised executions. However, there isn’t much tension about who’s going to die next, because the movie telegraphs that pretty hard by having a character share some sort of personal revelation before they enter a new room.

The rooms are thematically interesting — absolutely implausible (how do you get sand to bubble or electricity not to fry everyone all at the same time?) but interesting. There’s an electrified subway car, a bank full of zappy lasers, a seaside resort with Princess Bride quicksand, a street with acid rain, and more. It’s always a race to figure out the clues before the death trap activates. Like the first film, these artificially unnerving rooms are the real attention-grabbers.

Unfortunately, that sidelines the characters, most of whom only exist for you to barely care about before they die. And if I don’t care about them, I really don’t care about what Mentos or Menos or Mensa or whatever is up to. It’s all a silly fantasy anyway, so it feels like the stakes are limboing low as it is. And the ending is facepalmingly stupid. If it wasn’t at the end of the film, I can imagine everyone in the theater walking out anyway.

Not terrible but not needed in the slightest, Tournament of Champions failed to turn a suburban pasttime into a hit movie franchise. I’m oddly OK with that.

Didja notice?

  • This movie is getting a whole lot of mileage out of flashbacks
  • Zoe is downer central
  • These two are the least coordinated investigators ever
  • “It’s my wife’s birthday today” Well, you just signed your death warrant
  • “I have the lollipops!” is an Oscar-worthy line
  • Nice of the lasers to chase you as they turn on instead of all coming online at the same time
  • Hoping for land mines
  • Bubbling sand. Because that’s how sand works.
  • He dives into the quicksand, Princess Bride-style
  • Oh hello last minute nonsensical twist
  • Thank you for that report, unconvincing FBI agent
  • That ending. Ugh, that ending.

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