I attended a Sony-sponsored #WelcometotheJunket press trip which inspired my 7 reasons to see Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle. All opinions are my own.
What if games could come to life? After reading the book Jumanji to his son’s classroom , it was that question and the sense of wonder that went with it that inspired producer Matt Tolmach to create the new Jumanji movie, and it really took shape when he reached out to director Jake Kasdan.
After interviewing the producer and director on the press trip and screening the movie, I found plenty of reasons to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and I encourage you to see it when it arrives in theaters December 20, 2017.
It’s totally different from the original film.
The original has become a well-loved classic so a retread would be a mistake. Welcome to the Jungle isn’t a remake, reboot or anything other than a new Jumanji adventure. In the words of director Jake McKenna, “The way to update it would be to take it a long way away from the original movie that we all loved so we’re not just doing what they did again… in a lesser, new version. The original had its own magnitude and resonance… and what Robin did in that movie was so important to so many people. We wanted to honor that but do something different.”
Out with the old, in with the new.
In the original movie, the characters come out of a board game, but in this inverted twist, the characters go into a video game, and it’s done brilliantly. The players turn into their avatars and have to stay within the parameters and rules of the video game, but the world is real, not digital.
It’s a video game, but it’s reality.
The reasoning behind making the movie as a video game according to Matt Tolmach was that “video games give kids the ability to be anybody through their avatars… someone you might not have the courage to be in a normal day”. This gave the movie some emotional power yet was ripe with comedic possibilities.
In order to make the whole concept work, the world needed to feel tactile, not digital, so director Jake Kasdan told us it was important that the vast majority of the film was real, not CGI. Audiences see and feel the intense environment the characters are experiencing.
Because the movie is grounded in emotion, the stakes are all the more real. The characters discover they only have three lives each and if anybody loses all three, they’ll be stuck in the game, a point that is really driven home when they meet Nick Jonas’s character.
Female characters are empowered.
The quieter character comes out of her shell and discovers her inner badass, but both female characters experience growth on diametrically opposed arcs. How they represented the female characters and what their journey would be was extremely important to both director and producer.
It’s funny as hell. (Pardon my language, but it is.)
From the moment the characters enter the game as their avatars and discover their new physical selves, you’ll be cracking up. Jack Black’s portrayal of teenage Bethany is especially hysterical, and when director Matt Tolmach was asked about choosing Jack for the part, he summed it up perfectly, “He’s so clearly the perfect person for this. It wasn’t even an idea you had to have.”
At its heart, it’s a story about friendship and self-discovery.
The movie’s overarching idea is: “What would you learn about yourself if you could spend a day in someone else’s skin?” It’s a concept that makes for a funny, interesting movie with emotional impact.
The four main characters aren’t friends when they find themselves together in the video game, but they come to trust and rely on each other over time, each of them making sacrifices as the bonds begin to cement. According to Tolmach, “The video game was really just a mechanism to explore the story of four kids who had to find each other in order to get through high school.”
That teenage angst tho. So relatable.
Director Jake Kasdan was really drawn to and connected deeply with the movie’s idea of “How would you live if you thought you didn’t have anything to be afraid of? And how is that different from how you live anyway? And how do you close the gap between those things? For teenagers, fear is one of the main things driving them… what you’re afraid of can be all different things, sometimes not the right things.”
There really are so many reasons to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Go see it in theaters December 20th!