Welcome to the jungle…really? Is that the best they could come up with? How many movies have used that in one way or another now?
So at the end of the first movie (in 1969) the board game Jumanji was thrown into a river by Alan Parrish; 26 years later (1995) its somehow ended up in France apparently. Fast forward to 1996 and the board game has once again been discovered…but back in America? (I trust that wasn’t supposed to be the same beach from the first movie). Anyway the game has somehow evolved with the times and is now a videogame console; and once again it lures another unsuspecting youth into its jungle themed clutches. Fast forward again to 2016 and four students will also discover the board game which will trigger the same things that happened before. And round and round we go.
So I gotta admit that I liked the idea that this mysterious game can somehow evolve with the times. Back in the first movie (1969) it was a board game to blend in with the era. Now its a videogame console which of course is perfect for this era. The whole idea of the protagonists choosing a game avatar to play as which then turns out to be their live action avatar once inside the game is pretty cool (although Red Dwarf did it first). This does inevitably lead to very stereotypical characters which is deliberate…but doesn’t excuse the stereotypical teenage protagonists which wasn’t deliberate I’m guessing.
Yeah so the teenagers, they’re a straight ‘Breakfast Club’ type bunch for sure. You’ve got the jock, the nerd, the princess, and the weirdo. So yeah its a complete rip-off. I really felt like they could of done better with these characters despite the movie being full of deliberate cliches and stereotypes. As for the avatars they are also rather cliche, naturally. The Rock is of course just playing the same character he always does, basically himself. Jack Black is the squat, spectacled, old fashioned looking professor type. Kevin Hart is the goofy sidekick type. And Karen Gillian is Lara Croft essentially.
One thing that did get me thinking was the in-game characters, the baddies and the in-game guide. The in-game guide and various baddie henchmen all seemed to act like actual videogame characters on rails. In other words they don’t interact with the protagonists on a personal level, they just do and say what they were programmed. But some henchmen and the main villain (Bobby Cannavale as Professor Van Pelt, same name as the big game hunter from the first movie) seemed to not do this. It did seem like Van Pelt behaved differently and not in a programmed way like the others, almost as if he were a real person.
Now in the original movie we never saw the jungle in the game, obviously this time we do. Alas its not really been visualised that well in my opinion. I always had the impression the jungle was set in an old fashioned British colonial type era mixed with a bit of Tarzan type fantasy. Like the exterior of the board game indicates. Of course as the game evolved so did the interior jungle it seems. This unfortunately has led to all sorts of modern crap turning up like military choppers, motorbikes, modern guns and weapons, ridiculous chase sequences, and lots of explosions. Now I’m sure some people will have liked these elements but for me it totally ruined the entire feel of the movie, or at least the look and feel I was hoping for.
Gone is the possibility of quaintness and charm, enter vast CGI chase sequences on-board a military chopper (being chased by man eating CGI rhinos. Why didn’t they just shoot them?). Stupid chase sequences with hordes of motorbike riding bad guys. Lots of gunfire, explosions and of course the obligatory martial arts sequences from Ruby Roundhouse. I might add that Ruby Roundhouse spends lots of time trying to learn how to flirt and act sexy to distract some bad guys, but ends up just kicking the crap out of them. Her entire character is utterly pointless, why did we need all that shit when she can just beat them up. Its like one sequence where The Rock’s character says he knows CPR but doesn’t actually do it when its required. He just stands there and gives instructions to another character, eh??
Its really such a shame that this movie went down the route it did. Obviously there was gonna be CGI involved, obviously there was gonna be greenscreen involved, but Jesus Christ could they not do any better than this?! Most of the CGI is bad, real bad. Most of the greenscreen is obvious, real obvious. In fact it gets noticeably worse towards the end in my opinion. There are barely any practical effects which the first movie did incorporate in places. This movie is just ugly from top to bottom and its not helped by all the ludicrous action sequences. Its like half the movie wants to be like The Phantom, and the other half like Rambo. Its such a clash of genres and tone.
There is also a large plot hole in the way this story works, I think, unless I missed something. In the original Alan Parrish goes back to the point where he started playing the game in 1969 and changes time. This is obviously meant that Judith and Peter would never have played (in 1995) and wouldn’t know anything about the game or Alan (having never met him). In this new movie the protagonists meet up with the kid (Alex) who got trapped in the game from 1996. When they all leave Alex goes back to the point he started playing in 1996 and changes time. So if he changed time, how come the four main protagonists still remember everything when they get back to their present day of 2016? Surely there’s a chance they would never have ended up playing the game, or the game wouldn’t have ended up in the school (?).
Anyway once again I find myself completely mystified by a modern movies success. How on earth did this pile of crap make so much money? How on earth did people find this enjoyable?? I could maybe understand it if this was an original movie and the first had never existed, but it does exist! I simply cannot fathom how anyone can accept this utter garbage after the excellent original movie (complete with a terrific Robin Williams) which came out back in 1995. There are some neat little touches here and there, I like the evolution and mystery of the game, and Jack Black is always a pleasure. But apart from that, this was yet another cookie cutter Dwayne Johnson flick. CGI laden trash of the highest order.