Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle poster Rating: N/A/10 (N/A votes)
Director: Jake Kasdan
Writer: Chris McKenna (screen story by), Chris McKenna (screenplay), Jeff Pinkner (screenplay), Scott Rosenberg (screenplay), Erik Sommers (screenplay), Chris Van Allsburg (book)
Stars: Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson, Missi Pyle, Bobby Cannavale
Runtime: N/A
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Released: 20 Dec 2017
Plot: Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game's jungle setting becoming the adult avatars they chose.

How dare they make a sequel/remake/reboot of Jumanji?  I mean that film was a classic.  Admittedly a very average classic that doesn’t really live up to your childhood memory of it, but still.  And, yeah, Zathura was a kind of remake given it was adapted from a book by the same writer and explored the same themes, but nobody watched that, so how dare they do a new Jumanji film?  I mean it’s only 22 years since the original came out!

Do you find yourself agreeing with any of that little rant?  If you do, then I have a few things to say.  First, accept that for thousands of years similar tales have been retold to new generations to keep the spirit of a story alive.  Second, why not actually wait to see what the new film has to offer before casting judgement as Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle actually serves well as a sequel to the first film, whilst doing something new with the idea.

Starting in the mid-90s, and the board game is unearthed on a beach.  Given to a teenage kid by his father, the kid isn’t impressed as ‘nobody plays board games these days’, and he gets back to playing on his console.  Overnight, reacting to the changes in gaming culture the box works some magic, and the next day the game has morphed to a video game format, to entice a new generation.  Jump forward to present day and a group of unlikely teenagers are cast together in detention when they happen upon the abandoned game console.  Taking a break from their junk-room sorting, they fire up the game and find themselves pulled into the game -world, each taking on the avatar of the character template they chose on load up.  Presented with a quest in true video-game fashion, they set off to find a way to escape, whilst learning something about themselves in the process.

By transitioning to a video-game setting, the story allows for a great deal of fun to be had poking at the contrivances and conventions of the format, especially for games of the era in which the game was inspired.  The characters all have strengths and weaknesses, the spawning of lives by dropping from the sky is so reminiscent of many a side-scrolling platform shooter of yesteryear.  Even the behaviour of the NPC – I mean support cast – is perfectly drawn upon the mannerisms that game characters act, being there to spout random exposition to move you on your quest.  As for the quests – yep, they are pointlessly complicated, filled with traps and red herrings.

But such pokes at video game culture would be wasted if the casting was wrong, but in the four main stars they have cast the perfect personae for each archetype.  The heroic, strong and smouldering hero, who is being played by a soft heated geek – The Rock of course.  You want a ‘Lara Croft’ style action heroine, albeit played by a socially awkward teen girl – enter Karen Gillan.  Weak sidekick who is only there to carry equipment, but being played by a high school jock who thinks he can do anything – Kevin Hart is your man.  Round that off with a studious professor type, being played by a female – that kind of comic role works well for Jack Black.  Each of the stars cast has a lot of fun playing with there archetypes, and the film does them all justice to allow them to each have their moments to shine.  Gillan, in particular, does a great job at looking entirely awkward yet confident at the same time, and her nerdy seduction scene showcases a comic timing ability equal to her action talents showcased in the GotG films.

The action is thrilling, the humour well placed, and the direction solid enough to bring this video game movie to life.  In fact, this is one of the best video game movies to date, even though it isn’t even adapted from a real video game.  A few nods to the original Jumanji are present, but without awkwardly placed.  The end result is a fun family adventure with some great action set pieces and a wry humour, much like the original was.  Don’t let nostalgia for the original put you off exploring the world of Jumanji once more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *