Stepping away from Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book Jumanji, Jake Kasdan instead reimagines the magic board realm into a videogame. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” has already topped 500 million dollars in the Worldwide Box Office, and is poised to take a top position in the box office this winter.
Four stereotypical high school teenagers—the nerd, the jock, the outcast, the social media princess—transform into four adult avatars in the Jumanji videogame: Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Franklin Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black). As each of the teenagers now represents each avatar after being absorbed into the videogame, they must carry on the quest to bring back the jewel of the jungle to its resting place in order to lift the curse and escape the game. In other words, completing the game is the only way home.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” serves as a satisfying sequel to its original 1995_ prequel. Putting aside the captivating action sequences, bits of wit, and high quality CG, humor is one powerful tool that highlighted the characters distinctly and played into the overall success of the movie. The four teenagers unintentionally swap into avatars that are complete opposite of who they are in reality. For instance, the jock becomes the sidekick of Dr. Bravestone, whom the nerd in reality has turned into while the social media princess swaps into a stout, middle-aged man. Such character change brings not only comedic elements that come within the swap itself but also the theme of social standards that a typical high school sketches.
Moreover, the setting of a videogame instead of a board game has largely helped twist the original plot and add fresh features to the movie that can only exist under the circumstance of a “videogame”. Primarily, the main characters that have all switched into avatars are given three lives each before they perish eternally just like running out of lives would signify game over when playing a videogame. If they do die in the middle of the game, they reappear from the sky and earn a new life until the counting runs out. In addition to this element of counting lives, each avatar is given strengths and weaknesses that they must use to finish the game just as videogame characters do as well. For instance, Finbar is assigned to have cake as his weakness: if he consumes any cake while doing his mission, he may explode. Lastly, the Jumanji game is divided into levels just like any videogames. The avatars must complete each level in order to move onto the next and finish the final quest, which spices up the plot that could have been similar to the prior series if set in the context of a board game again.
Although both the characterization and adoption of new setting have quenched the thirst for humorous approach to the audience, the general storyline is lacking in originality. Though the video game element allowed the story to take on a different path, the plot is somewhat expectable, especially towards the end. Obvious actions and schemes, such as confronting the villain at the last stage and calling out “Jumanji”, drags down the fast-paced atmosphere from the previous parts.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, however, should not be ignored in the sense of never-ending humor and the fresh twist of embracing a new setting, along with well-drawn characterizations. Despite such minor flaws with originality towards the conclusion, the movie was a satisfactory watch: it not only had charming comedic scenes and dazzling actors, but a well planned out motive. Released in the midst of great public attention, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is expected to gain more attention internationally.