Dmitry Makeev (Wikimedia Commons)
Jumanji: The Next Level continues the story of the latest Jumanji movie (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, 2017) in which four characters are transported into the world of the video game: Jumanji. In the last movie, we were introduced to the main characters Spencer, Bethany, Martha and Anthony (more commonly known as “Fridge”). The characters each selected a character in the game they would play as, but unbeknownst to them, they would be physically thrown into the life-and-death game and be forced to beat the game in order to escape. At the end of the movie, they destroy the game to prevent anyone from ever entering Jumanji again.
In the sequel, the video game was shown as being salvageable to some degree. Unfortunately for the characters, the game still works, but not all the way. This immediately creates a new conflict for the movie and establishes two new characters to the audience: Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie, and his old restaurant partner, Milo. Played by Danny Devito and later portrayed by Dwayne Johnson, Eddie is a stubborn, loud old man recovering from hip surgery. Milo, played by Danny Glover and later portrayed by Kevin Hart, is a slow speaking, casual, old man who dropped by Spencer’s house to see Eddie.
The original four were supposed to meet up for brunch, but Spencer could not be found by Martha, Bethany, or Fridge and after investigating, they discover he has been pulled back into Jumanji. The trio decide to reprise their previous characters in order to save their friend. However, instead of taking the remaining original three, the malfunctioning game absorbs Martha, Fridge, Eddie and Milo, leaving Bethany behind.
Jumanji: The Next Level had an increased budget of $125 million, compared to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’s $90 million. Although I am sure that the cast received their fair share, it is evident that a good portion of the budget went into the scenery, design and effects in the movie. Unlike the previous movie, The Next Level featured a greater array of settings that varied from sand dunes to snowy mountain tops instead of remaining in only the jungle. Each new backdrop felt completely different from the last and remained true to its video game style of levels. The effects employed throughout work in favor of the fantasy world that Jumanji creates.
Welcome to the Jungle depicted a typical villain that felt almost cartoonish. While the villain of The Next Level is not a layered character, the bubbly exterior that coats a fake character is much thinner. This villain is brutish, cruel and reminded me of Game of Thrones not only in his costume design but his graphic violence. I would argue that while he is a darker character, it was an improvement on the writers’ behalf to create a villain that had some intimidation value even if the plot seemed directly copied from the previous.
The character dynamics were greatly affected due to the addition of the two elderly men in Jumanji. Although it was great the first time around, I can see the jokes getting old after more viewings. It was entertaining to see the cast play teenagers and it is entertaining to see them play elders. The jokes copied Welcome to the Jungle’s format and it came off as slightly lazy writing.
There were many things that Jumanji: The Next Level did especially well: improvement of their main villain, more intriguing backgrounds, entertaining characters and creation of different emotions for the audience to experience. However, it felt incredibly close to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle in both plot and jokes. I would recommend seeing this movie once, enjoying it and then never rewatching it in order to keep the movie’s initial attractiveness.