If you walk into a movie called Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, your enjoyment level will likely hinge on a question. How much reality is necessary? Suspension of disbelief must be on another level. It’s like an ultimatum. You either enjoy it or you don’t because of the premise it’s built on and there’s no wiggle room. But even in its own little corridor, Escape Room 2 still struggles on a few levels.
The first few minutes are a compilation of scenes from the original movie cut together to resemble a weekly released show. We’re reminded that a company called Minos kidnaps and tricks people into playing a series of games with vague clues and time limits. If you fail, you die. The two survivors of the original movie, Zoey and Ben (Taylor Russel and Logan Miller) return, travelling to New York to find and expose the evil group of scientists and sadists responsible for putting them through hell. Surprise, surprise, they became entangled in a game for survival once again, with a group of other survivors, all of whom are trapped underground in a series of rooms designed to zap, slice, and engulf them.
This is where the film shines. The production design is sleek and some of the traps are rather clever if you can keep up. Since all of the players are experienced in these situations, they often race through the set pieces, talking rapidly, but showing more competence than normal horror fodder. However, with this breakneck pace, the film never knows when to stop, when to pause. I don’t expect great character development from a film like this. That being said, one of the most interesting parts is when the first casualty occurs and the others realize they never knew that person’s name. On a technical level, the film is quite nice, even if its PG-13 rating keeps it from reaching more horrific depths.
There are requirements for a sequel and this film meets about half of them. It is a continuation of the first one and our two leads are clearly struggling from PTSD that is adequately handled with the usual therapist and dream sequences. There are more traps and scenes of peril. But what about Minos? I don’t expect the film to explain how its antagonists can uncouple a subway car or construct a bank underground. I would like it if the film had paused long enough to show more about this organization as the first film teased. There are many questions left unanswered, and while some teasing is fun, don’t expect much of a payoff. The pacing again is a factor, as is at least one twist that most fans can see coming a mile away.
The actors do what they can and director Adam Robitel is doing his darndest to give us a fun speedy ride. The problem is, it feels like the same ride we took in the last film with just new paint, and a producer is holding a donation box we all can donate to. Is the film enjoyable? Yes, in a passable sense. It at least delivers on the promise of there being more rooms to escape from and with theater-goers trying to step back into the auditoriums after a long hiatus, perhaps that’s all we can ask for.
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