I vividly remember my review of Sony’s Escape Room back in early 2019. There were some really great set pieces, tense atmosphere, and decent acting throughout; however, the film completely falls apart in the last act that was clearly meant to be setup for a franchise, completely belittling everything in the first 3/4 of the film and ruins all the goodwill established up to that point. I was almost certain back then that Sony’s filthy money-grubbing scheme wasn’t going to work…..
….and two years later, they prove me wrong with “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions”.
Going into this movie, its reputation from the first film honestly made it very difficult for me stay unbiased for this one, given I’ve seen enough from Sony to know whether they do something wrong or not. With that being said, I hate to report: it’s exactly the damn same film as it’s predecessor. No exaggeration, it’s the same movie in terms of quality and plot-lines with just a bigger budget, less novelty….and a lot more stupid.
I mean, the premise is essentially exactly the same as its predecessor: a PG-13 Saw movie crossed with the Belko Experiment with multiple puzzle rooms for the protagonists to escape. Once again, the direction from Adam Robitel serves as a passable set of eyes for the viewer as he goes through the motions as well as he can but an eagle eyed viewer can see how badly his vision was stripped down.
It is rather unfortunate that the acting is still every bit as cheesy and off-putting as before and the vast majority of the writing doesn’t have this group of characters looking any better compared to the first time around, along with their generic stereotypes. At least the first film pretended to care about the identities of said characters.
The rooms themselves serve as a major downgrade from the first film; but not to say the production design is terrible. An increase of the budget led to a larger variety of rooms and trinkets to interact with, thus providing a more dense atmosphere to help bring SOME semblance of urgency to using riddles, hidden clues and attention to detail to help coordinate through and around it. While some suspension of disbelief is required to look past how easily these rooms are solved, they’re all still slickly produced and crafted and choreographed to an extent. And Brian Tyler’s score does fit said stressful proceedings well enough.
Cinematography and editing wise, I’d say the same thing.
Here is my main overarching issue with this movie, however: How ironic is it that the first film had more complex puzzles and yet they were somehow more easier to follow than this?
The intentions of these rooms are still there but they, themselves, are completely underdeveloped and fall flat which is an utter death sentence if you’re basing an entire movie around them. They don’t try to take advantage of the characters quirks or weaknesses as a major component for escaping either which MURDERS any potential the story has.
And the thing is because we didn’t know what was happening in the first film until the end, it didn’t have to try as hard to display any shreds of tension through the proceedings especially since those puzzles required a little bit of thinking outside the box. Here though, a good chunk of that horror, suspense, claustrophobia is stripped away, since the film tries way too gard to give tension to the audience without really knowing how to properly integrate that into something that actually fits. Sure, you’re likely to skip out on a simple solution when your life’s on the line but fuck me, how do you call this a tournament of champions if the ‘champions’ can’t get past baby-spleening mini-games when their LIFE depends on it?
How’d they survive the first time around?
On top of that, the tone is all wonky again. I wasn’t exactly keen on its predecessor being all tension-full while being silly and earnest but at least the pacing there gave me time to have it sink in. I like the fast-paced frenetic feeling it has here but said pacing doesn’t give the audience time to dissect anything of importance and thus, the silly and earnest shit greatly overshadows what could’ve been a nice instrument of fear amongst these everyday environments.
Also, I did finally get a lockdown on an overarching theme. All the characters have suffered a traumatic event from both films that the mastermind behind these escape rooms exploit to his advantage; Zoey and Ben got out cause they learned he doesn’t play fair and yet they got thrusted back directly to where they started. This could’ve been collective commentary on how trauma can follow you no matter how clean you’ve gotten but NONE OF THIS even remotely hinted at.
Dialogue is pretentious, CGI is glaring if you pay attention, the lack of characters or character development means the deaths have no weight and the cherry on top, it has the same flunk-out, sequel bait ending, only this time with an incredibly stupid twist that I saw coming a mile away. It only cements how hopelessly full of themselves SONY is to try and continue this; the film breaks its own rules for absolutely no reason other than to get the idiotic plot to happen in certain areas so how do you expect to draw me back for a third time if you can’t keep your own rules consistent?
This follow-up is quickly boxing this franchise and any other potential, would-be installments into a corner and highlights exactly what I was worried about while watching the first Escape Room: Sony got something that worked and made a lot of money so now they’re gonna squeeze every penny they can out of this cow until the milk curdles and lemme tell you: if this movie does just as well as it’s predecessor…….BOY, is it gonna curdle!