Director Adam Robitel follows up his surprisingly successful hit movie with this sequel, which believe it or not, is even grander in scale.
The movie begins as Zoey and Ben are still dealing with the aftermath of the events depicted in Escape Room. There’s a five-minute sequence which sets the scene well, but does pack an awful lot in, so you’d be forgiven for missing at this point, that the duo never got on the ill-fated flight teased at the end of the first film, due to Zoey’s crippling panic attacks. Instead of flying, they drive to New York to follow-up on research into the evil Minos Corporation and before you know it, the pair finds themselves trapped in another game with new characters, who we quickly discover have all previously survived other rooms. Can our protagonists survive through a Tournament of Champions?
With a slightly shorter running time, Robitel wastes no time in immersing the audience in the world of the new game and for the most part, he succeeds. I felt that the movie kicked off at break neck speed, so I had barely caught my breath and settled into my seat before the first character was dead.
The new characters are probably the best thing about the movie, besides the elaborate puzzle rooms of course, but in constantly driving the story forward at such an electrifying pace, we don’t get to know them as well as we did first time around. Where Escape Room made excellent use of flashbacks to flesh out it’s character’s backgrounds, Tournament of Champions doesn’t really have time for that, so it frequently bucks the screenwriting trend of show it, don’t say it (although strangely, it redeems itself later by following another rule of screenwriting 101 – arrive late, leave early). This is where casting helps the film A LOT, as Holland Roden and Indya Moore come with an existing fanbase.
Although I liked the idea of world building, I also felt quite frustrated by the fact that we would learn snippets of information regarding previous games, but I got the feeling we’ll never actually get to see any of these events taking place. I also thought this element was strangely similar to The Hunger Games.
The film does take a turn in the third act which stretches credibility and you could pick plenty of holes in the plot if you really wanted to, but you’ll likely be too busy simply enjoying the wild ride.
In the end, Tournament of Champions is a solid continuation of the first film, which is nothing less than good entertainment throughout. There is definitely franchise potential here, and I had hoped this one would have legs and become a sort of thinking man’s Saw (long after that series gave up its philosophical elements in favour of grue), with a new film every couple of years. Only time will tell if it has the staying power to match the legacy of Jigsaw.