When I hit the end of 2019’s Escape Room, I wanted a sequel now, now, now. Not only did director Adam Robitel craft some exceptionally tense set pieces while bringing the escape room concept to screen, but he also started building the foundation of a fascinating evil operation via Minos Escape Rooms. That essentially left him with many promising routes to pursue in a sequel. You could opt for the anthology format and show us a new series of rooms with entirely different players, or you could go with what Robitel and co. wound up doing and continue Ben (Logan Miller) and Zoey’s (Taylor Russell) story.
In Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, Zoey is hellbent on stopping Minos from trapping anyone else in their deadly puzzles. With Ben by her side, she travels to New York to dig deeper into the mystery of this nefarious organization, but while there, they unknowingly walk right into another string of rooms, but this time, they’re playing with other Minos Escape Room survivors.
With the movie hitting theaters on Friday, July 16th, I got the chance to catch up with Robitel and revisit the development process behind the sequel. Here’s what Robitel said when asked if the anthology approach was every an option of if the plan was always to continue Ben and Zoey’s journey:
“I wanted to do something radically different, to be honest, initially. I wanted to do a villain origin story. I knew that I wanted to do a Zoey/Ben revenge story, but I wanted to do sort of like a behind the scenes father/daughter puzzle maker story. The problem is, what I found was splitting that into two different storylines was just too much content, too much story to tell. It would have to be its own one-off as an anthology. It was pushing a boulder uphill, you know what I mean? To try to get that done. Look, maybe down the line! What I also should say is, as much as the audience wants to know behind the scenes and who Minos is, the more you dramatize them, even if you had Anthony Hopkins, it still lessens their mystique and it’s better to keep them veiled and I think I had to learn that a bit the hard way.”
A fair point right there! Plus, having Ben, Zoey and the other champions unknowingly sucked into yet another escape room also creates terror via the loss of free will. Here’s how Robitel put it:
“With this movie, I think the cool thing is we expand the world, the idea that it’s not just that one game in Chicago that we saw in the first movie. It’s happening all over the world – that your entire life is unreliable. That maybe you don’t have agency over the choices you make. I think after the pandemic in particular, we all feel that maybe there’s a supernatural force influencing our lives and taking things away from us. So I think that’s what I’m hoping the audience will take away from it, this idea of free will and do we really have agency over our lives?”
Robitel also took a moment to address a challenge that carried over from the first film – figuring out whether viewers would rather watch these characters try to solve the puzzles or get the opportunity to participate themselves:
“Look, I’ll be completely candid. This was really rushed and I would have loved more time. Because one of the things that we got from market research is that people really enjoy participating in the game. The problem with that premise is the pacing of a movie really suffers. If I’m cutting to a close-up of a clue and you’re looking, ‘No, no. Go over there! Go over there,’ you’re ahead of the characters, right? And so it’s that fine line of you want that breakneck pace, but you also want to give these easter eggs. I don’t know that I completely nailed it because it was definitely a fast and furious process, but it’s tricky.”
Eager to hear more from Robitel? We’ve got you covered in that department! This right here is only half of our Escape Room: Tournament of Champions conversation. We’ll have the spoiler heavy portion of our chat for you soon.
Walk in the sunlight with Nandor the Relentless.
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