2018 in Cinema:
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, 2017
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillen, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale
In 1996 the Jumanji board game was discovered but shelved as ‘who plays board games anymore?’ only for it to soon fuse itself with a nearby games console, turning the Jumanji board game into a video game, where it claimed the life of one player. 20 years later and a group of four teenagers from different social groups find the Jumanji game and its console during detention and all decide to play it, and it sucks them into the Jumanji world where they are forced to return a green gem to its resting place (while someone wants to steal it and have control over Jumanji world). Once they complete their mission, they can return home. The one major difference, though, is that they are no longer inside their own bodies, instead they are transformed into the very avatars they chose when loading up the game.
This film was actually quite a lot of fun, which is the best compliment that can be offered to it because it seems that that was its intention. The inclusion of avatars was a nice touch, allowing for character humour in scenarios such as Bethany (Madison Iseman), a narcissistic and self-centred girl to be transformed into Shelly Oberon (Jack Black), a middle-aged, slightly chubby man. And they play this for laughs throughout, with three of the four becoming quite contrasting avatars to who they were in reality (aside from her attitude, not as much changes in the transformation from Martha (Morgan Turner) to Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillen)). And the visuals were really nice; the CG for the animals wasn’t too bad, the forests and the lands they were in were rather beautiful; it was a pleasant film to look at. And looking at its cast it’s not surprising to see it was well acted; Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Kart and Jack Black are all veteran actors and Karen Gillen is quickly becoming a very solid actor, and they all play off each other rather well.
However what was disappointing about this film was its script. Yes, there were jokes and I did laugh (thus it being saved from the one-star rating), but all the characters, eight if you include real-life and virtual, are stereotypes. The nerdy girl, the popular sports guy, his geeky sidekick and the beauty queen, then in the virtual world you have the muscle-clad superhero, the lady-fighter, the superhero’s sidekick and the joker. Each character simply fills a stereotypical trait and doesn’t feel authentic; we’ve seen hundreds upon hundreds of Bethany characters before, or Fridge characters (Ser’Darius Blain). And even them being forced together, despite coming from different school groups, is, again, nothing we haven’t even seen in the last year (Power Rangers did the exact same thing). It all feels so lazy, like they put so much focus in them being there that nobody cared to think about why.
And the dialogue is pretty terrible, too; they’re in a video game, and Spencer/Smolder Bravestone (Alex Wolff/Dwayne Johnson) feels the need to inform them of video game rules at almost every stop: these are our life counters, these guys are NPCs (non-playable characters), these are our strengths and weaknesses. They couldn’t write a logical way of them working these out, instead they just added a Mr. Exposition to run over everything in the laziest way possible. I know the writing for the first film wasn’t great, as they rely a lot on the board game and its rhymes to tell them what to do, and Alex’s (Robin Williams, Jumanji) exposition (as he had been living in the board game for decades after starting a game but not having enough people to play using all available characters until many years later when more people discovered the game and filled up the remainder of the slots and they were all introduced . . . sounds familiar), but from him we at least got the feeling it was more from life experience rather than ‘I play computer games, I know what to do’. I was also regularly confused about Smolder’s personality as he often swayed back-and-forth between Spencer’s cowardice and Smolder’s bravery, which can be used quite well but there’s a heart-warming scene of him confessing his cowardice before driving a motorcycle up a large and dangerous cliff.
The humour they added saved them from a one-star writing result, but that still does not excuse this film for having a very, very poor script. But, aside from that, it was still an enjoyable action-adventure film with a decent cast and great visuals and jokes spread throughout.
Plot: * * Acting: * * * Writing: * * Presentation: * * *