|The lit path is probably a trap.|
Oh crap. With this turn of events, most members of the team are down to their last life. Spencer panics and takes Fridge aside to tell him how afraid he is to face the dangers, now that he has only one life, but Fridge reassures him. The two return to the group, and with his knowledge of football and team strategies, Fridge devises a plan that should allow the team to fight both the jaguars on the path and Van Pelt’s men, who are coming.
|Martha is just killing mooks left and right!|
That's okay, they're just programmed code.
Her bio says “dance fighting”, but really Martha is just really good at fighting while there’s music playing, she’s not fighting while dancing. This game is bad at explaining things! 3/10!
|"Give me the stone, or Professor..."|
"...Bethany? ...Really??? ....of the Professor gets a bullet!"
|Abusing the game's system to win?|
Yes. All of the yes.
Gee, what a narcissist, this game.
Also, they manage to do that just as the sun rises on the island. The shockwave caused from this victory makes Van Pelt explode into rats (somehow) and brings back the jungle to its original lush state. On the morning, when the team is back together, Nigel arrives in his jeep and thanks the group for saving Jumanji. Yeah, they did the job that you seemed perfectly able to do in the first place, Nigel.
|"It's good to be home; it's good to have hair again."|
|Of course he remembers them 20 years later. You don't just forget an|
adventure like that one. ...all those hours of therapy...
Okay, this is something that has bugged me about the first movie, and bugs me about this one. It’s been theorized that Jumanji seeks kids who need to learn things about themselves. It puts them through these trials so that they can learn the lessons they need. And both times, it either sucked in one or multiple people, or brought things out into reality, endangering these kids – and sometimes others. And both times, someone gets sucked in for two decades or longer (Alan Parrish in the first film was stuck in Jumanji for 26 years). So, let’s see… This game with reality-warping powers puts people through mortal danger, rewrites time and space over decades, not to mention its big ol' reset button, all to teach a handful of kids a lesson? Worst. Teacher. Ever.
Also, in the original Jumanji, the introduction lets us know that Alan had issues with his father and was afraid of facing his problems, traits that he both worked on throughout the film. The other characters also had issues they worked on when the board game resurfaced 26 years later. And the four teenagers in the sequel, in 2016, all had issues to work through and managed to do so while adventuring in the Jumanji video game. We get time to know them before Jumanji ropes them in. We don’t actually get that with Alex, at the start of this film. We don’t spend enough time with him to see why he had to be sucked in. Which is especially bad, considering the consequences of that disappearance.
|And it's the teenagers who get to do the big Hollywood kiss.|
Roll credits, cue… Ah, there it is! Guns’n’Roses, I was worried you’d never show up!
Well! That’s the movie. It’s a lot better than I make it sound, really. It’s certainly a well-made movie, with great acting, great special effects and a nice soundtrack. On the topic of the actors, the “teenagers” of the movie play their roles quite well. I put that word between quotes because, while the actors for Spencer, Martha and Bethany really were teenagers, Ser’Darius Blain, Fridge’s actor, was 29 during production – actually older than Karen Gillan, who plays Martha within Jumanji. Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Nick Jonas offer very good performances not as the characters they appear to be, but as the teenagers embodying those characters as avatars. Dwayne acts all shy and scared, Jack Black had the tone and mannerisms of a teenage girl at the ready… you get the idea.
The special effects are almost absent from the film for most of the real world scenes, which almost gives the film a made-for-TV feel up until the four teenagers are taken into the game. I like the little touches, such as the teenagers getting detention for valid reasons (I saw too many high school stories where that isn’t the case). When the special effects kick in, they’re very well-done. I like that the characters figure out the details of their adventure as they go, such as how their lives work, how they use their abilities, and how to progress. Although for a gamer, it sure takes Spencer a lot of time to figure those things out for the rest of the team.
It’s also great that each member of the team grows into a complete badass by the end. Spencer and Martha already had the abilities, but use their smarts and wisely utilize the game mechanics to their advantage. Fridge takes full advantage of his zoology skill, even taming an elephant. Badass. Bethany is the first to lose a life, and is in the least physically-fit body of the group, yet she doesn’t lose another life for the whole duration of the game, merely gives one of them to Alex later. Speaking of, Alex becomes a badass too when he chooses to help the team, and does so spectacularly even though he only has one life.
As much as I do enjoy the story, I have slight gripes with it. Like I said, this Jumanji adventure doesn’t feel quite as crazy as the original Jumanji, in part because the original was so creative and had so many different threats for the heroes to overcome. Here, it feels a tad bland as the main threat is a psychopath, his henchmen, and whichever animals he has control of. It’s also pretty different in that this time around, the kids facing the game are given talents and abilities, along with extra lives to fight off the threats. These characters have obtained from the video game the talents to be awesome, while the characters of the original had no such advantage, which dramatically increased the stakes.
The story does take a chance at highlighting and mocking multiple video game tropes, but even there the jokes remain fairly tame. It pokes fun at the limited and often silly information players get, at the lack of responses from NPCs, and so on. It also notes the tendency for games to do fanservice, but doesn’t really expand on that commentary. Multiple missed opportunies, in my opinion. It does have moments of brilliance, such as the path Alex uses to bring the others away from the Bazaar leading into an empty area, like a secret place. And of course, it’s great when the characters get a hold of their abilities and use the situation to their advantage, in the climax mostly. By the way, this game would be terrible to play. Jumanji is a bad dev.
And like I mentioned earlier, what was it that Alex had to learn through his experience in Jumanji, which led to him getting stuck there for twenty years? The prologue isn’t long enough to explain this. The other four teenagers get a reasonable amount of screen time showcasing the flaws and character traits they need to work on, before getting sucked into the game.
But overall, I did enjoy the film. I recommend it. Arguably, the original film is not a necessary watch to understand this one, but it does help a lot in setting up the extent of the board game’s abilities, what it can do. Is it better than the first? Honestly, I don’t know, because they are so different. As a sequel, this film expands on the “mythos” of Jumanji, by doing its own thing rather than copying what we saw in the original. Perhaps not every change is perfect, but it’s a good attempt at putting a new spin on the formula, as a sequel doing exactly what the original did would not be seen as very creative. Good work there.
And hey… who knows, maybe this means we can have a Zathura sequel now! Give me this, Hollywood.
Next week… something else.
Meanwhile, join the Planned All Along Discord!