Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle rode into theatres in 2017, converting the beloved 1995 board game fantasy thriller into a video game fantasy that most people weren’t sure was going to be a hit or a miss but somehow did so well at the box office that we are now getting a sequel 2 years later.
The four high school students who got sucked into the video game and braved its rough and dangerous terrain smashed the console by the end of the movie and have all started different lives. Spencer (Alex Wolff) is in New York City and comes back home for the holidays, having ended his long-distance relationship with Martha (Morgan Turner). The four friends have been in touch over social media which during its first 20 minutes hints very well at how technology affects the insecurity of millennials around the world. In Spencer’s case, the social media impact and the fear of real social interaction are so bad that he ends up going back inside a game that perpetually sends all sorts of events, creatures and obstacles that will kill you eventually after exhausting three of your lives. Perhaps dying twice last time wasn’t enough of an eye-opener for this particular millennial but anyways, when he does not turn up to their meeting, his friends Martha, Bethany (Madison Iseman) and Fridge (SerDarious Blain) go back in to rescue Spencer.
Also getting involuntarily sucked inside the game are Spencer’s grandad Eddie played by Danny Devito and his former business partner Milo (Danny Glover). Once inside, only Martha finds herself in the body of her former avatar, Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). The game switches up the rest with Eddie taking over the avatar of Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) and Fridge inhabiting Dr. Shelly Oberon (Jack Black) while Milo is trapped inside Kevin Hart’s Mouse Finbar. What ensues is hilariocity mixed with a similar action adventure template as the previous installment but what sets this apart is the characters. The avatar switch makes way for more interesting dynamics; Bravestone last time exhibited an adolescent’s transition into adulthood whereas this time, an old man inheriting Dwayne Johnson’s body ends up flexing his joints due to the sudden youth and vigor he ends up with. When you’re someone who sees nothing but the sadness of ageing, being thrust into a situation as such results in a hysterical yet delightful depiction of contrasts. Hart does an amazing job toning down his usual rapid jabber and adopting the slow pacing of Glover. Additionally, Awkwafina is presented as Spencer’s new avatar, Ming Fleetfoot. Her and Jack Black’s avatars get to play more than one character throughout the movie and this distinction is so clearly depicted through their mannerisms and vocabulary. Additionally, Nick Jonas reprises his role of Alex and his Jumanji avatar Seaplane who once again dives back into the game upon Bethany’s request.
While the odds stacked against our heroes seem stronger than the previous time, the villain they go up against - Jurgan the Brutal played by Game of Throne’s Rory McCann does not really pose that much of a threat in terms of story and he is underutilized.
I was pleasantly surprised and moreover entertained when I saw Welcome to the Jungle and went in with higher expectations for The Next Level and while I’m still working on being ok with the video game concept, the result was still hell of a lot entertaining than the former despite its flaws. I mean, there’s always the Robbin Williams original which set the standard more than two decades ago and while the Rock and co. do a great job at modernizing the material, the original still retains its freshness even after all this time. Fans of the original Jumanji would notice the subtle hints that pay homage to Williams’ version and if you haven’t yet seen either that or Welcome to the Jungle, I’d recommend a marathon of those two films before you go in to see this one.
Courtesy of Akash SK