In an age of reboots, remakes and reimaginings, a slightly more understated trend is emerging: the Reboot Sequel. That is, of course, the attempt to reboot a franchise (or solo film) by continuing on where the originals left off.
Where traditional reboots are met with a balanced amount of celebration and negativity, the reboot sequel has, for the most part, been a resounding success. The 2012 film Men in Black 3 was out on its own for a little while, but the precedent it set has gathered speed over the last year or two, with the likes of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) and Mary Poppins Returns (2018), and it doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon with Bad Boys For Life, Ghostbusters 3, Coming 2 America and Bill & Ted 3 all set for a 2020 release.
The real question though, is once these films have successfully reinvigorated our interest in the franchises, what are they going to do to keep our interests? Cinema goers are a fickle lot and the studios are not going to be able to rest on their laurels. On that note, I went into the screening of Jumanji: The Next Level with a massive amount of expectation, optimism and hope.
The story picks up three years after it left off, with Spencer (Alex Wolff), Bethany (Madison Iseman), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) all travelling back home from their respective colleges/travels for a good old fashioned catch up. Whilst the others appear to be thriving in their respective life choices, Spencer is despondent, dissatisfied and insecure. So much so, that he attempts to fix the game and return to the strength and confidence that he felt as the character, Dr Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson).
When his friends discover what he has done, they are understandably angry and confused, but, having beat the game once before, they decide to jump back in and save their friend. However, when it comes to Jumanji nothing is ever straight forward or even the same, and the unwitting inclusion of Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his old business partner, Milo (Danny Glover) throws an additional spanner in the works.
Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Nick Jonas all return for their roles as the in-game avatars, but are also joined by Awkwafina as the master cat burglar, Ming.
Whilst the performances were all good and likeable enough, with particular credit going to Hart and Johnson’s portrayals of Glover and DeVito respectively, I felt that the new characters slowed the story down far too much, almost literally from a Hart/Glover perspective and just rehashed the ‘omg, we’re characters in a video game, let’s see what our strengths and weaknesses are…’ element from Welcome to the Jungle.
In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the inclusion of these new characters are only there to detract from the fact that in terms of plot, The Next Level is exactly the same as the first film and did not add anything new or exciting to the franchise.
Given that this is a fantasy adventure film, taking place in the virtual universe of a game that is broken, the writers have the scope to go way outside the realms of possibility. The idea of chaos in hinted at in the trailer when a lone ostrich glitches into a stampede of them but plays out differently in the actual film. The villain, Jurgen the Brutal (played Game of Thrones favourite Rory McCann), is pretty much exactly the same as Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) from the first film, just with a different jewel.
In fact, the only thing that the broken game seems to have had any effect on is the character selection which, as I’ve mentioned above, does nothing to move the story forward or differentiate it from Welcome to the Jungle but instead just turns the film into a Johnson-Hart special with some guest appearances from Jack Black and Karen Gillan.
Overall, I would say this film suffers from the unexpected success of the first film and they need to pull their fingers out next time if they want to win me back.