We’re all in agreement, right? The new Jumanji, subtitled Welcome to the Jungle, looks like a pretty terrible way to renew this classic franchise.
Essentially, the name Jumanji has been taken from a classic Robin Williams movie, and glued onto a vehicle for The Rock and Amy Pond to look cool in, while Jack Black plays a teenage girl for some ridiculous reason.
Seriously, how is it even possible that in 2017, movie studios are actually on board with hiring Jack Tenacious D Black to play one of the film’s two female leads? That’s weird.
What’s clear, though, is that the name Jumanji is completely perfunctory. Nobody here cares about making a solid successor to the original movie; they just have an idea for a vaguely similar premise, and they’re using the classic title in order to drum up extra attention for what otherwise might be an overlooked movie.
It’s essentially the same logic that gave us Baywatch – what if we make a tongue-in-cheek action comedy starring The Rock that borrows its name from an unrelated nostalgia property?
Regardless of how we got here, though, there is some fun to be had with the idea of a video game that comes to life. This is a fantasy that’s existed for years, and it’s the driving force behind plenty of similar ostensibly funny movies, such as Scott Pilgrim (genuinely great) and Pixels (genuinely an Adam Sandler movie).
It looks like Welcome to the Jungle is actually going to try and explore the ideas that exist at the core of this “entering a video game world” concept. For example, there’s a scene in the trailer where Jack Black is being eaten alive by a giant, angry hippo.
You might wonder “How’s he going to get out of that situation?”, and if you think that, you’ve overlooked the convenience of writing a movie about a video game.
Jack Black is going to die.
It’s a video game.
“That first meeting we had, I said, ‘We have this gift of these three lives. What are the most fun, awesome, crazy ways that we can die and audiences are going to love? That just opened up a new level of creativity. That means all of us, you know, um, well, we’re going to go to meet our maker.”
Okay, this is actually a fun idea.
Everyone knows that perhaps the most frustrating, immersion-breaking moment in playing a video game – especially the tough-as-nails oldschool platformers or shooters that this movie is attempting to pay homage to – is the annoying split second where you misjudge a jump, or get hit by a stray bullet, and find yourself having to play the level over again because you’ve “died”.
It really breaks up the flow of a game, and kills the illusion within your head that you’re actually the hero of the story that’s unfolding as you mash the controller.
Scott Pilgrim has already explored this concept to a certain degree, with its titular hero literally “getting a life” as he grows and learns as a person.
Now, it seems, Jumanji is going to use the same premise, not as a metaphor for adulthood, but in order to show Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and the movie’s two less annoying (and decidedly more beautiful) characters being brutally murdered in the most ridiculous, hilarious ways possible.
It’s a smart move, and it gives the film an opportunity to do something that the original Jumanji couldn’t. In the first film, there was no real risk of death to any of the main character; no permanent state of failure.
In this new movie, though, characters can suffer horribly, die in ingenious ways, and pop back to life, with a rapidly dwindling supply of lives that hints at an eventual removal from the movie’s final act.
It’s worth assuming that Jack Black and Kevin Hart – and possibly Karen Gillan – won’t be around for the movie’s climax. We all run out of lives eventually, especially in oldschool video games. This’ll no doubt be used to pare down the cast to the core lead, played by Dwayne Johnson (because he’s the biggest, toughest, strongest of the heroes), as he does something heroic to save the day.
Sure, this film is covering a lot of ground we’ve already seen done better elsewhere. Sure, it’s not exactly the first movie to offer up the “what if video games were real” concept.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle isn’t going to win any awards for being a phenomenal movie. It will, however, showcase the many deaths of its core four actors, and for that, it’s probably going to win over more than a few fans.