HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 09: Dwayne Johnson attends the premiere of Sony Pictures' "Jumanji: The Next Level" on December 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images,)

Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images,

Light spoilers ahead. Read at your own discretion!

I remember when the Jumanji reboot was first announced how everyone had the same thought, “it’s not going to be the same without Robin Williams.” Everyone was right, of course, but I think all those who are involved with the movie knew that and took it into consideration. Since Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black took the lead in Jumani, there is something that they’ve managed to keep that made the original Jumanji as successful as it was. It’s something Robin Williams brought to nearly every movie he was in and that’s magic. Magic is at the center of everything that makes Jumanji what it is. I mean magic in a few ways, yes, the mystical and unexplained energy that can change things in an instant and the way we use the word to describe how we feel about something that can’t be described any other way.

The first part of what makes Jumanji successful is that it’s honoring the original. With Robin Williams, Jumanji was a magical board game that affected the real world. Everyone had context for board games and this was a movie that brought families together the same way family game nights do. There were quite a few people who were cautious about the new Jumanji movies when they found out they would be taking a ‘video game’ spin on things. Historically, Video Game movies do not turn out very well, even when commercially successful they’re often criticized by gamers at large. Jumanji taking this turn made a lot of sense as the mainstream acceptance of video games has increased. You can’t walk more than 10 feet without seeing someone playing on their phone, or go shopping and not see toddler on a tablet or a kid playing their switch. The Jumanji game sensed this when the characters in the last one didn’t want to play with a board game and it changed to survive.

In both Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: The Next Level, the characters are teleported to Jumanji itself. The jungle doesn’t invade our world the same way it did in the original with Robin Williams. It was a big risk but one I think that needed to be taken to establish itself separate from the original. It obviously worked as Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a success and now we’re all enjoying Jumanji: The Next Level.

So how does it stack up as a sequel? It’s common knowledge that sequels are never as good as the original. Jumanji manages to sidestep this based on the fact that Welcome to the Jungle is technically the sequel. We give it a pass because we know it’s not trying to measure up to the original and it’s attempting to do its own thing. The Next Level builds on the world and lore of Welcome to the Jungle while also introducing us to more characters both inside and out of the game. The addition of Danny DeVito as Grandpa Eddie and Danny Glover as Milo added a new layer to the story. No one wanted to come back and see the same group of kids from Welcome to the Jungle struggling to get along again. We see that their bonds are just as strong as we had left them, though Martha and Spencer are having some issues. As Martha and Spencer work those out, Eddie and Milo also work out their own issues. It’s a similar message from the first film that the challenges and hardships they face bring them closer together. What I really appreciate about bringing in older characters is that the movie is telling us that it’s not just kids that can benefit from video games. The experiences and adventures we encounter when playing games or living life is applicable to all ages. We even get a cute scene at the end of the movie with Spencer showing his Grandpa Eddie how to play Street Fighter V on the PlayStation.

What excites me most about Jumanji: The Next Level is that the post-credit scene sets us up for the trilogy. Both Welcome to the Jungle and The Next Level are complete stories that can stand on their own and easily be the end of this story, but still make sense as when put together. The post credit scene starts with Spencer’s mom showing the Furnace Repairman that she had been waiting for downstairs to the furnace. The kids left the Jumanji game out on a table and the repairman comments that he’s a big gamer and goes up to touch it. Cut to the kids along with Grandpa Eddie eating at a diner. As they’re getting ready to leave a herd of Ostriches that they encountered within Jumanji storm past the diner. Finally after two movies we get a clue that perhaps the third iteration of Jumanji will once bring the magic back to the real world. I cannot wait.

On a final note; Dwatne Johnson and Awkwafina absolutely KILL it as Danny DeVito’s Grandpa Eddie.

Jumanji is currently in theaters now starring Dwayne John, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover and Awkwafina.

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