To the blazing tune of Guns 'n' Roses 'Welcome to the Jungle', Jumanji returned to our lives. Any nineties kid worth their salt knows and loves this movie. It was a staple of many of our childhoods, and, for others still, it was one of their first introductions to the filmography of the late Robin Williams. Following the story of a sinister board game whose gameplay affects real-life, it featured rhinos, monkeys, melting floors, Victorian game-hunters, and a young Kirsten Dunst. A minor classic in its time, and a nostalgic favorite for many, the flick has been updated and revitalized for the 21st Century, and the trailer landed just days ago.
In it we see four high schoolers of varying social backgrounds being thrown into detention. Whilst cleaning out the school's basement they find an old Nintendo-style console. When plugged into a television, it pulls them into the game, and turns them into the avatars they chose. All of them wildly different from the people they are in real-life. Inside the game they face many of the things we loved about the first movie: charging natives, wild animals, and hyper-aggressive nature. Also seen is: running and jumping off cliffs, motorcycles, and a Nick Jonas powered helicopter pursuit.
So this definitely looks to be more of a flat-out action-adventure than the original. Is that a bad thing? Well, not necessarily. Given that they're playing the action comedy angle, this could work. It certainly seems to have a sense of humor about itself. Many of the jokes seen so far revolve around the juxtaposition of awkward teenagers in the bodies of people who are their polar opposite. The nerdy guy is now a beefcake. The awkward girl is now a foxy ass-kicker. The attractive popular girl is now a fat guy. The cool tall black kid is now, well… Kevin Hart. This could get old fast, but right now it's kind of fun to see The Rock talking about missing his clarinet.
Of course, this feels like a radical departure from the original. In the original, the Jumanji world came in to ours, in this, we enter the world of Jumanji. This does feel like an efficient way to avoid a point-by-point re-tread of the original, but does it also compromise the spirit of the first that we all loved? We know that a sci-fi retread of the subject matter didn't leave a lasting impression in 2005's Zathura. That said, these changes seem to be making the film more like a cross between The Matrix, Ready Player One, eXistentZ, and Gunmen of the Apocalypse. Like with most things, it remains to be seen whether these changes will work.
One thing is certain, the cast looks good. Duane Johnson is consistently fun to watch, Jack Black looks like he's back on safe comic ground, and Karen Gillan seems like she's ready to kick some butt. I've never been the biggest Kevin Hart fan myself, but he looks like he may be more fun in this.
All in all, while their seems to be a concerted effort to make this "Not your dad's Jumanji", there does seem like there is something fun going on here. I think we can all admit to being, at the very least, curious, about what they are doing here.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle hits cinemas December 20, 2017