*. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is a sequel that follows directly after the events of Escape Room, re-introducing us to the two survivors from the Game of Death in that film: Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller). I was relieved when they started off here with some flashbacks because even though it had only been a couple of years I’d forgotten the first movie completely.
*. Not that there’s much need to bring you up to speed. A bunch of strangers find themselves having to survive a series of wicked challenges or die. The difference here is that they are all survivors of previous “games.” This, however, doesn’t mean they have a clue what’s going on. But they are good at solving puzzles.
*. So basically we’re in Saw territory here, only without the gore. Also, if you found the death traps in the Saw franchise to be absurdly over-the-top and contrived, and couldn’t figure out how Jigsaw managed to build some of them in the first place, well they can’t hold a candle to what the Minos Corporation has come up with here. Minos has an unlimited budget, and their sets are so elaborate that it seems at times like the unhappy and unwilling contestants are trying to escape not from a room but from Alex Proyas’s Dark City.
*. It’s all kind of silly and PG, but I have to admit that it held my attention for 88 minutes. That’s for the theatrical release version. There’s also an “extended cut” that is six minutes longer but which has a different ending. I’m not talking about an alternative ending, but one that goes in a completely new direction, introducing new characters and a new plotline. In other words, they didn’t know what they were doing.
*. Personally, I prefer the theatrical version because I thought the back story provided in the extended cut was a bit lame. Both endings are stupid, but I like the slightly more open-ended one. And when I say open-ended I mean yes, there’s going to be (at least) another one of these.
*. Russell and Miller make an engaging couple. Director Adam Robitel is able to pace the trap sequences well enough to raise one’s pulse. I’m inclined to think that this genre has run its course though. We’ve been stuck in these rooms so many times now there’s nothing new to show us, and the mysterious genius puzzlemaster is past being a cliché. In short, it’s not a sequel we needed, but unless the box office finally dies we’re going to be stuck with more.