Movie Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Spoilers!)

When I first heard that they were going to make a sequel of sorts to the 1995 classic “Jumanji”, I didn’t know what to make of it. At first, I thought that it would be a bad idea and that it wouldn’t work out. However, I quickly changed my tune after being surprisingly entertained by the first few trailers they released. After that, I found myself waiting in anticipation for it to come, and finally, it did. In the US, the movie was released on December 20, 2017, but over here, as the Christmas week is always reserved for the Metro Manila Film Festival, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” came out in my country on January 8, 2018. Thankfully, the movie was much better than I expected- it was utterly enjoyable, a great ride, and was a pleasant surprise from start to finish.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is more of a sequel to the original movie as compared to “Zathura”, which was more of a spiritual sequel than a direct one.

Here, four high school students in detention end up getting sucked into the game of Jumanji, which has been transformed into a video game. Now with the appearance of the characters they chose, the foursome are forced to team up together to beat the game and to be able to return home.

The film stars Alex Wollf as the geeky Spencer Gilpin, Madison Iseman as the popular and phone obsessed Bethany Walker, Ser’Darius Blain as the football player Anthony “Fridge” Johnson, and Morgan Turner as the smart and studious Martha Kaply. In the game, they end up turning into their avatars of choice. Spencer ends up being Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Fridge becomes Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), Martha becomes Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Bethany ends up becoming Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberton (Jack Black). It aslo stars Nick Jonas as Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough, Bobby Cannavale as Russel Van Pelt, and Rhys Darby as Nigel Billingsley.

The rest of the film plays out like an actual video game, with our protagonists having to go through dangerous side quests in order to reach their ultimate goal, to defeat Van Pelt and save Jumanji by putting an emerald into the eye socket of the sacred Jaguar statue. Along the way, they discover their game character’s weaknesses and strengths, they learn how to work together as a team, and they also discover and re-discover themselves as people and as friends in the process.

The script itself isn’t the best, and the film isn’t the best film ever, but what it does is that it puts a new spin on “Jumanji”, and it plays up to the strengths of all of the actors involved and in particular, with Johnson, Hart, Gillan and Black.

It was also interesting on how this movie, while having interesting and small callbacks to the original movie, was also able to be an interesting way to talk about video games, from the number of lives they had, to their weaknesses and strengths, all the way to having a backpack that conveniently had whatever weapon they needed at the moment.

I loved how Johnson portrayed the scaredy cat Spencer, and how Black was able to connect with his feminine side in portraying this particular role. Hart was good, as usual, which actually now makes me want to watch other films in which he co-starred with Johnson, as their dynamic was great with each other. I am glad that Gillan is getting more attention and that she has come quite far since her days as Amelia “Amy” Pond in “Doctor Who”. Jonas, Darby and Cannavale were just alright for their roles, and their acting was generally okay.

I loved all the action sequences that this movie had, and to be honest, I had fun just reacting to this fun movie.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is definitely a fun movie to watch that puts an interesting spin to “Jumanji” without dishonoring or ruining what “Jumanji” is all about.  It’s definitely an enjoyable ride, and its plain to see that many thought the same way as it has performed surprisingly well at the box office.

From here on out, there will be spoilers!

 

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I love how they decided to make the Jumanji game a video game instead of a board game, and I loved that the very first person who tried the video game did it in 1996. I think that it was a logical progression and a great creative choice, as many today can relate more to video games to board games, and because both “Jumanji” and “Zathura” were board games. It was a smart move as they were able to make a movie that also was an interesting commentary on video games themselves, up to having that controversial costume choice for Gillan to wear. Having watched the movie, I do now know that her wardrobe was a creative choice as her in game persona was supposed to be a Lara Croft type of character.

As for the characters themselves, I’m glad to see that they all had character arcs, and that they ended up becoming friends in the process.

For Spencer, his journey into the game made him realize that he can be brave, and he was able to rekindle his friendship with Fridge. Fridge, on the other hand, aside from rekindling his friendship with Spencer, I believe, was able to be confident with the knowledge he has, especially as his in game persona was a zoologist, and was able to become a good leader when the time came. For Martha, I believe that her arc had to do with being a little bit more confident in herself, to see that not all feminine things are that bad, that she sometimes looks down on people and judges them right away so that she wouldn’t be judged, and her blooming friendship with Bethany. Bethany learned that there is more to life than social media, discovered a friendship with Martha, learned how to become self-sacrificing, and discovered that without having a filter on herself that she is actually a very interesting person.

The new Alan Parrish (Robin Williams) of the film was Alex Vreeke (Colin Hanks), whose in game persona was McDonough. I love that he was also the one who showed off one of the original film Easter Eggs, as it turns out that the treehouse he was living in was originally  made by Alan. For him, his arc was more about trusting his team, and he had to rebuild his self confidence. I also like that even though Bethany and McDonough were romantically paired up, that in the end, Alex was whisked back to 1996, and didn’t end up with Bethany as that would have been too convenient.

Another Easter Egg are those White Rhinos, which actually scared me as much as the winged monkeys did in the original movie.

Again, the script wasn’t that great, and at a certain point, the pacing got a little bit slow, but it didn’t take away anything from the enjoyment of the entire film.

In the end, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” was definitely a pleasant surprise, and an enjoyable ride; with enough Easter Eggs from the original film to satiate long time fans, while adding an interesting new spin to the game itself.

Have you seen “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”? What did you think of it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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