Initial Word on “Jumanji: Welcome To the Jungle” Is Weirdly Positive, But Can it Be Trusted?

Matthew Loffhagen
Sony Pictures
(Photo: Sony Pictures)

So here’s something that nobody expected: “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is actually earning positive praise from the few early viewers who’ve expressed their opinion on Twitter.

(Okay, maybe somebody saw this coming, but it seems petty to brag too much about it.)

From the sounds of things, this certainly isn’t the Original Generation “Jumanji”, but actually does a pretty awesome job of making something distinct and inventive without boring the audience with sequelbait and worldbuilding in an attempt to set up an ongoing Jumanjiverse of future movies.

In a modern movie landscape that forces audiences to suffer through endless reboots, sequels, and “The Mummy” style Dark Universe teaser films, it’s pretty refreshing to hear some of the positive stuff that people have to say about “Welcome to the Jungle”.

Apparently, there are a few deliberate nods to the original Robin Williams “Jumanji”, but other than that, this movie does its own thing based on the same premise without trying too hard to copy what came before, or set up some big new universe.

Perhaps the most problematic issue of this movie is the female characters. It’s great in theory that this movie has two female leads, but when one is played by Karen Gillan’s midriff and the other is played by Jack Black, this doesn’t look all that good for the film’s representation and diversity in general.

Indeed, we’re probably still likely to see some very important ongoing discussions about whether or not a 2017 movie should feature jokes built around a woman being trapped in a man’s body, but from all reports thus far, something in this movie works.

It remains to be seen whether this means that this movie carries will do anything progressive or meaningful with its obvious transsexual undertones, but apparently Jack Black does a good job of playing a teenage girl, which is pretty astounding.

Herein lies the issue, though: early reviews on Twitter are almost always this positive.

The general policy for social media movie marketing in the modern era is that movie studios should grab a bunch of people who will definitely like their movie, show it to them nice and early, and then set them loose on Twitter.

The result is a wave of positivity that often over-represents how enjoyable the film will actually be for people who aren’t easily swayed by free tickets to see a sequel to one of their beloved childhood movies.

Movies like “Batman v Superman” and “Fantastic Four” enjoyed a lot of positivity when they were shown to early audiences, and this ultimately proved to say more about the people watching the films than anything else.

That said, we’re not just dealing with uberfans here – legitimate reviewers (check those all-important blue ticks by their names in these tweets) are the ones getting behind this movie.

This feels strange, but it could also exist within a bubble. There’s no way of knowing if wider audiences will care for this as much as these early critics do.

Don’t necessarily expect “Welcome to the Jungle” to be as fantastic as people on Twitter might claim, as you might well not have the same reaction. Definitely don’t go into this expecting Jack Black to provide a nuanced, thoughtful portrayal of the trans experience.

Heck, there’s a reason why Sony has decided to bury this thing by pitting it in direct competition with “The Last Jedi” – even the studio doesn’t seem to have a lot of faith in this particular film if they’re releasing it on December 20.

But, heck, if you’re a fan of Jumanji, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan’s tummy button, this might just be the movie for you!

What an odd world we live in that this movie exists, and isn’t being universally panned. 2017 has been a weird year, guys.0