Deus ex cinema
Director: Adam Robitel
Writers: Will Honley (screenplay), Maria Melnik (screenplay), Daniel Tuch (screenplay), Oren Uziel (screenplay), Christine Lavaf (story), Fritz Böhm (story)
Release Date: July 16, 2021
Run Time: 88 minutes
Rating: PG-13 horror/ thriller
I really enjoyed this dumb movie. Ok? I said it. I liked it, and I think that other escape room fans will as well.
The escape rooms scattered throughout this film were freaking cool, and they felt as though the folks behind this movie had played enough to know how to capture the right feel. The player dialog felt authentic. The interactions felt right. They got the “escape room” stuff right, and it filled my heart with gratitude… because it would have been easy to make an ignorant film. Plenty have done it.
I’ll add that while this is a horror movie, using all manner of horror tropes, it wasn’t gory, gross, or hard to watch. I’m not bothered by horror, but Lisa generally is, and she had a great time as well.
Here’s part of a scene (it is edited a little strangely):
Alright, praise time is over.
The characters in Tournament of Champions were all developed, but felt hollow. Or rather, they made me feel hollow. It was hard to care about any of them when they ultimately died… which was kind of fine, because I can’t say that this was a movie that I was watching to feel feelings.
The plot was silly, with a lot of needless windup to tie this into the last movie. (This one was a sequel.) I think that the last few minutes of the first movie were ignored, and sort of rewritten by the second movie. I don’t know, but I have no desire to delve into the lore of this series anyway. I just want to see crazy escape rooms do weird murder-y, semi-supernatural things… and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions delivered that.
Go and watch it. Turn off the part of your brain that cares about plot or characters that you care about and have fun.
- Crazy murder escape rooms that feel grounded in actual escape room tradition
- Gameplay that feels escape roomy
- Cool effects
- It’s more of a thriller than horror – lots of deaths, but no gore
Picking up almost where the first movie left off, our two survivors from Escape Room (2019) were trying to figure out who was behind the death trap that they had survived… when they found themselves in another death trap accompanied by 4 new people.
All 6 of them had something in common: they had all survived previous murder escape rooms.
Like the last film in this series, many of the puzzles were sort of playable for the viewer. I solved some of the puzzles alongside the characters, but it didn’t feel like I was playing along.
➕ The escape rooms were cool. Most of them felt rooted in games that we have actually played, and the interactions felt escape roomy (with a dollop of murder).
❓ Almost all of the escape rooms in Tournament of Champions felt like there was a supernatural component; the technology was impossible. It was kind of neat and also kind of confusing because neither the characters nor the movie made any attempt to justify any of this. It’s best to just go in suspending your disbelief.
➕ The characters were distinct, and each had an identifiable motivation… even if they weren’t all that compelling.
❓ Like Escape Room (2019), Tournament of Champions wasn’t gory or gross. The death scenes weren’t graphic and generally ended quickly. I’m not really into gore, so this was fine. Lisa hates gore and was happy for fast and clean death scenes.
➖ While the characters were distinct and had personalities, my reaction to any given death was indifference. Most of the deaths were unceremonious and hollow.
🤣 One of the characters was an ex-influencer who had to retire because her experience in the last escape room left her with a small scar on her face… and apparently it was a career ending injury:
➖ The overarching story was incredibly clunky, and really only served to demonstrate how silly ideas of grand conspiracies are.
➖ Narratively, the writers tied themselves in knots to bind this sequel into the dumpster fire of an ending from the last film. They went miles out of their way to create a universe for all of this, and I can’t help but feel like there were simpler ways to accomplish this.
➕ The effects were rad, and it felt like they did a lot with their $15 million budget.
➕ Escape Room: Tournament of Champions wasn’t a good movie, but it was a fun movie, especially for escape room fans.
Tips For Watching
- Accept that this isn’t a masterpiece and embrace the fun.
- Solve along with the movie when you can.
Book your viewing of Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Watching this made me wish there was a way to translate the Zero Escape series to film even more. I know it’s next to impossible because of all the multiple timeline tomfoolery and having to experience every single one in order to get the complete picture, but that series is a shining example of how you mix escape rooms, horror, and the supernatural together PROPERLY.
Yeah, I feel that. When I write a review, I try not to review what I wish something was… but I found myself imagining how cool it would be if The Room series (Fireproof) was adapted from the games.
I feel like there is a lot of potential to tell an incredible story rooted in escape room style interactions that isn’t yet another SAW variant.