'Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions' Review: Stuck in its own narrative trap

Adam Robitel's 'Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions' delivers another round of imaginative deathtraps but grinds its storytelling gears dull to do so.

The game is afoot once again in 'Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions.'
(Image: © Sony)

What to Watch Verdict

'Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions' architects another extravagant game from a production standpoint but fails the original's cliffhanger ending with its distractingly narrow minded storytelling continuation.


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    🗽 The rooms all rock.

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    🗽 No hesitation diving back into the fray.

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    🗽 A favorably quick pace.


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    🗽 Lacks any mystery.

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    🗽 Rarely cares about its new supporting cast.

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    🗽 Becomes less and less clever.

Does Adam Robitel's Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions crack the code a second time and deliver perilous puzzlement that once took this critic by surprise? The short answer is no. The longer answer requires digging into a continuation that ponders itself in sequel circles. I truthfully value Escape Room as an underrated horror success that could spawn the next Saw franchise—Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions feels like it jumps ahead to Saw IV in comparison. Traps embellish scenic grandeur, the narrative aggressively lacks suspense, and neither balances the other out when a new batch of contestants become pawns in Minos' next gauntlet.

Only weeks after escaping Minos' invite-only labyrinth, Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) waste no time traveling to New York City in hopes of blowing the company's cover. What happens instead? The two survivors find themselves locked in a subway car with previous escape room winners, forced into another playthrough. That's only "Stage 1" in Minos' evolution of gladiatorial combat, as another collection of elaborate chambers filled with dangerous clues require solutions to avoid death—again.

If you're here to gawk at escape room themes and Minos' limitless imaginative tortures, maybe Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions will be enough. A marbled bank prime for heists, wave-beaten coastal beach scene, and bustling New York City intersection deliver on expected fabrications that open sinkholes or rain acid or trigger security lasers. Neither Minos nor production designers spare any expense when taking advantage of the virtual display options that allow for complete transplantation from room to room, and the puzzles are no doubt thrilling in their blueprints. It's the same reason I felt sucked into the artifice of Escape Room, and Robitel flaunts the franchise's appeal as contestants dwindle.

Where Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions loses points is a scripted jumble of sequelitis entanglement that focuses on Zoey's obsession with defeating Minos—which, frankly, spins the same wheels until closing credits. There are overt lines of dialogue only two minutes into the film during Zoey's PTSD therapy session that blatantly reveal information this supposed unbeatable problem solver ignores. The overcomplication of Zoey's arc distracts from this "Tournament" that boasts all-around weaker supporting players and rather emotionless demises that are three rungs below the original's shockingly heartbreaking twists. Stakes read as weightless once we realize the driving priorities—relatively early, with unfortunate consequences.

For the record? It takes four screenwriters (Will Honley, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch, Oren Uziel) and two credited story creators (Christine Lavaf, Fritz Böhm) to answer a cliffhanger by adding even more spinning plates to the routine. Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions loses the core advantages of the previous film's more focal competitive urges. Look no further than Holland Roden's feel-no-pain player whose genetic malfunction makes her unable to feel the sensation of "hurt." She never benefits from interest around her borderline superhuman trait. Roden, Thomas Cocquerel, and Indya Moore are just there—a joke made about not knowing the first deceased player's name is an unintentional self-roast, as the film inhibits any newcomers from making an impact with their performances.

I'm torn over Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions because in terms of that sweet, anxious escape room action, complexity endures. The physical pain is genuine, the tension is barbed, and characters earn their momentary sighs of relief. My belly is half-full with what I craved from Robitel, and yet there's still an emptiness left by the continued choice to pretend like noticeable Zoey-related advancement isn't all that obvious. Moments unfold as if they should carry significance, except the inopportune strive to center on Zoey's chase for justice derails what could have been another cyclical romp that differentiates from Escape Room only in captive personalities and customized entrapments. It's hard to fault a movie for doing too much, but that overindulgence is toxic when concerning Zoey's trajectory and related exposition.

Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions speeds through its ninetyish minutes rapidly enough where the total measurement of dead narrative weight doesn't hit until it's all over. Again, maybe you'll feel differently if an adrenaline high is all you're seeking—something to spike a little excitement on a Friday night. Adam Robitel succeeds when countdowns and consequences commence, but I can't appropriately stress how distracting the script's on-the-nose excuse for suspense becomes before the first trap even electrifies. Minos' top Puzzle Masters put on another showcase—unfortunately, the six heads conceptualizing storytelling beats can't outthink or enhance the far superior Escape Room.

Matt Donato

Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.