(This article contains spoilers for both the theatrical and “extended” versions of “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions”)
The new version of “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions” is billed as an “extended cut,” but another term probably would have been more accurate. The press release for it claimed 25 minutes of new footage, which was certainly exciting — but when I pulled up the new cut to watch it, I saw the running time was a mere six minutes longer than the theatrical version.
There are a lot of terms that movie studios can use when they release a new version of a movie on home video, with “extended cut” and “director’s cut” being the ones we’re most familiar with. If they aren’t calling it a director’s cut then it probably isn’t director Adam Robitel’s ideal cut, and “extended cut” usually fits when “director’s cut” does not. But when a cut isn’t a director’s cut and it actually removes scenes that were in the other version and replaces them with new ones — which is what happened here — then some other term is almost certainly more accurate.
Anyway. The differences between the two cuts of “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions” are stark and fundamentally change the movie’s story. The extended cut almost entirely replaces the frame of the movie. In the theatrical, we learned basically nothing tangible about Minos, the folks behind the deadly puzzles, other than that they seem even scarier than we realized before.
What’s different in the “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions” Extended Cut
The ending of the theatrical version revealed that the thing was all a con to finally get Zoey (Taylor Russell) on that escape room airplane from the end of the first movie, which made the whole thing feel beautifully paranoid to me. Bringing in Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll) to sell the con was a great touch that makes it all feel so much more insidious. Was this entire game even real? Were the other contestants actually Minos employees? Was Amanda a Minos plant the whole time?
The extended cut, which leaves Woll out completely, creates a similar concern about the game being for show, but for completely new reasons — even while the game itself is, as far as I can tell, exactly the same as it was in the theatrical.
The new framing here involves the guy who’s directly in charge of the games, Henry (James Frain), and his daughter Claire (Isabelle Fuhrman) who designs them. Henry has locked Claire in a basement prison, and she’s using the game to make a power move.
The scenes we get with these characters at the beginning are cryptic — in 2003, Claire’s mother is killed in their mansion home in a surprise sauna escape room, with the implication being that Henry was responsible. But the real impact comes at the end. From the point where Zoey escapes from the room with the acid rain to the end of the film (about a 12-minute span), we get a 100% new sequence of events from the theatrical version.
Instead of being taken to a new room in which Amanda pitches her on making new puzzles, Zoey ends up at Henry’s house — this is Claire’s power move. Henry has provided Claire with a means of escape in the form of an impossible puzzle that will unlock her door, and Claire wants Zoey’s help with it. All while Ben (Logan Miller), who survived being sucked into the sand here just as he did in the theatrical, is trapped in the sauna that Claire’s mom died in.
Zoey solves Claire’s door puzzle, traps Henry in Claire’s prison and saves Ben. With Claire’s help, Minos is defeated, and the story is over. But, like in the theatrical cut, it’s all a ruse. Claire is actually a psycho — the sauna was her doing both with her mother and Ben — and this whole movie was her coup against her father. And Claire even goes so far as to imply that BOTH games that Zoey was forced into were a part of this coup.
Claire straight up says they were letting people win the games because they needed to make sure there actually was a winner. But she does specify that they didn’t let Zoey win, though, at least not in the first one. In fact, Zoey didn’t actually win the game in the first movie, because she subverted the game and found her own way out of it — Ben was the winner that time.
But for Claire, the games were about finding somebody smart enough to solve her prison puzzle — she was using them to recruit. So it’s likely that she actually designed alternate ways out of the game, like the one Zoey used last time, for that reason. But since Claire needed somebody actually smart enough to figure out her own puzzle, she wouldn’t have rigged that in her favor.
The game in “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions,” however, probably was fixed in Zoey’s favor. There’s no other good explanation for why the game shut the car door on Brianna and Rachel in the acid rain puzzle, a move that doesn’t really fit with the spirit of the game. Though beyond that one detail it would be tough to point out specific places where Zoey was given an unfair advantage. It could simply be that Claire designed the puzzles for the way Zoey thinks.
Whatever the case, it’s fun to look at this and compare it with the much-more-cryptic theatrical cut. We went from a version that had no info about Minos to a version that gave us an intimate look at some of its inner workings. Suffice to say these two cuts are completely incompatible with each other. So if we get a third “Escape Room” movie, which cut will it continue from? That’s a question for another day.