Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
The video game culture has not really been captured on screen well since Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. World, and even that was an unconventional fable; other films have shied away since they see video games as competition rather than a compliment to their industry. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle decided to take a stab at this culture and it turned out to pay off.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is the sequel to the 1995 movie where a board game would wreak mayhem on a small town in New Hampshire (releasing rhinos and murderous hunters). The sequel sees the board game adapt to a new generation of youngsters, and thus the board game transforms itself into a video game cassette. When four unlikely high schoolers (the loser, the nerd, the athlete, and the popular girl) get put in detention, they get sucked into the game becoming their chosen avatars. It is here that the ingenuity of this new film begins: the loser ends up becoming the buff Dwayne Johnson, while the athlete becomes the small Kevin Hart, the nerd becomes a badass heroine played by Karen Gillan (who is embarrassingly objectified), and the popular girl becomes a round Jack Black.
The main attraction in this film is seeing such big actors pretending to be teenagers with their social angst; Jack Black in particular has a blast with his role. But the film itself is also able to capture the video game culture of going through levels and having multiple lives and strengths and weaknesses something so simply that has managed to foil film studios in the past. Maybe this is why the film has become such a financial success: it has tapped into a zeitgeist that has been previously unexplored and yet had been touching millions of people for decades.
As a film itself Jumanji is a conventional blockbuster, but it’s much more fun than the usual fare. It might be pitted as a sequel, but this film is largely in it’s own terrain, and maybe that’s why it’s able to feel so fresh to audiences. While there are main fun aspects in the film that you can let yourself be driven by, there are also nevertheless some flaws. There’s a conventional villain (played by Bobby Cannavale), who is pitched to be that way, but he’s never able to up the stakes on our characters’ journey. And then there’s the objectification of Karen Gillan, who’s forced to wear an extremely exposed outfit; the film directly addresses that this costuming is extremely inconvenient, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the poor actress has been stripped just to sell the film.
In the end Jumanji is an overall fun blockbuster. There are drawbacks, but most important of all there’s a refreshing take on a culture previously ignored, and this gives this particular film a unique spice.