The arrival of Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is getting close, so it's time for fans of the first movie to know how this new adventure actually connects. The simple answer is to say that since the first movie's stars got the game though sheer luck, it may be the game itself who's the real hero of the Jumanji series. And if that's the case, then the board game has gotten a serious upgrade to the digital world of video games. The most important detail, however, is that unlike the people living in the real world, the young heroes of the new Jumanji don't even have the original Robin Williams movie to compare it to.
It's for that reason that Welcome To The Jungle has faced an uphill battle from the start, as devoted fans feared the worst. But after our visit to the set of the new Jumanji adventure, we had a much better grasp on what the studio, director Jake Kasdan, and the producers were seeking. Not just a property people love, embrace, and value as a truly heartwarming story of children, first and foremost... but one that can stretch to new limits. Limits like a new cast, new story, new game, and new rules.
Just to be clear: the rule that says sequels or reboots to films like Jumanji always come up short may still stand. Fortunately for the cast and crew... that may not be what they've created here.
Not a Sequel, Not a Reboot, Just 'Another Adventure'
When the word first broke of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson starring in a brand new movie bearing the "Jumanji" name, many assumed the worst. In an age of property re-imaginings, sequels, prequel trilogies, and even 'spiritual sequels' or reboot/remakes, it was seen as the obvious explanation (and since the first film was based on Chris Van Allsburg's book, it's more fair game than most). But soon after that message began to take root, Johnson personally clarified that the new Jumanji movie was NOT a reboot.
When we asked producer Matt Tolmach about how fans should position this new movie in relation to the original, he promoted a much broader vision of the movie's universe - part of the pitch that got this movie into production, and perfectly in keeping with the original version of the story:
It's a... honestly, and I know this is going to sound like a 'positioning statement' but it's true, we've always looked at it as like another Jumanji adventure. The idea is Jumanji is this game-- I mean that idea comes from the original movie. Comes from the book, you know? That there is this game, and the game sort of travels. Through time, certainly in the first movie, and around the world. So the idea is: the game is the thing that is the legacy... It doesn't involve any of the specific characters - although, perhaps - but not literally those people. It's another Jumanji adventure using a lot of the same mythology.
And I love that idea, not in a clever like, 'ahh there's a lot of movies to be made here,' although that's not terrible either. But the idea that Jumanji travels... If you happen to find it on a beach, crazy s*** will happen, you know what I mean? So it's a completely different adventure than that, but borrows from the fundamental mythology of the game.
So there you have it: a continuation of the story from the first movie... so not a reboot or remake. But not following the same characters, or even the same form of the game... so not a sequel, either. Fortunately for those who feared there would be almost no actual mention of Alan Parrish's time with the game, we know that won't be the case, either. Even now, Robin Williams stands as a giant in the Jumanji story.
It Fills In The Gap in Alan's First Jumanji Story
There are sure to be purists who oppose any continuation of the Jumanji story on principle, and there are many who will support their case. But some fans may feel differently: like actress Karen Gillan, who didn't take much convincing to join the next chapter of one of her favorite movies of all time. Understandably, she told us that makes her a harsher critic than some. But it also means she's more interested than most to know just what Alan Parrish did while he was "waiting" for a new player to roll a five or eight...
What's really clever about it is-- Well I always wondered where Robin Williams' character went for all of that time in the first one, and it was sort of left to the imagination a little. And that's where this film comes in, and we get to see exactly where he went, and what it feels like, and what it looks like. That's the biggest difference.
And when Gillan says "exactly" where Alan went, she may mean that... exactly. The fact that traces of Alan and evidence of his stay in the jungle would be found had already been confirmed by Jumanji actor Jack Black, though it's hard to know how his inventions or ingenuity will be as useful in a video game made real.
Two Movies, Two Stories, Same Game
On the same set visit, Dwayne Johnson gave a slightly spoilery-tease of Alan Parrish's REAL Jumanji role, discovering much more than just the rules of his own game. It sounds like a massive, planned twist on the mythology, and it may prove to be just that. But as director Jake Kasdan explains it, the inclusion and expansion of Alan Parrish still serves this standalone story first - and the original is not required viewing to understand the new film (although Kasdan recommends it, since the movie is fantastic). The Alan Parrish impact on the story is there, but perhaps only because... there was no way it couldn't be:
I don't want to say too much about it, but I also don't want to mislead you into thinking there's some massive reveal, you know? I think we've laced it in in a way that I hope is clever. I certainly think [Robin Williams'] performance and the character are incredibly resonant, so we were very conscious of acknowledging his place at the top of Jumanji mountain.
How's that for intriguing? We're still not sure whether Jumanji will remain a story with Alan Parrish at its heart, or what cameos, Easter Eggs, or hints may show a stronger link between both movies than anyone is letting on for now. Until we get some solid answers, we welcome any and all theories in the comments.
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) release date: Dec 20, 2017