In 1995 Tristar produced “Jumanji,” a movie about a board game in which jungle characters come to life and interact with theplayers. the movie stared Robin Williams and was mildly successful. In 2018 “jumanji welcome to the jungle” was released and quickly became a box office smash. While the 2018 version was built as a sequel, and the basic premise (i.e. survival in the jungle) is similar, the two movies have significant differences. These differences go beyond technical advancements and actually involve plot and character involvement.
To be sure, the original jumanjiis not as technically advanced as the sequel. The differences in graphics and computer generated images are especially obvious when looking at the two movies side by side. But the differences go far beyond that. Intentionally or not although, built as a “family movie” Jumanji is in fact a much darker movie than its sequel. The main character (Alan Perish) is shown both as a teenager and an adult. The teenage Alan is depicted as a child bullied by his classmates and
seemingly unable to gain the approval of his father. When he reappears as an adult (via the game) he is someone who has been hardened by years of isolation and abandonment. His friend Sara is an adult who has isolated herself and become bitter as a result of what she experienced in playing the original game. The two younger children (Judy and Peter) are dealing with the untimely death of there parents. Finally all four characters are essentially playing themselves throughout the movie.
While the charters in welcome to the jungle (WTJ) have issues of there own, they are more in line with the “teen angst” typical of todays high school teens. The main, though not in significant, issue they have to deal with is that when they are drawn into the game they become not just older versions of themselves but essentially different people. They therefor are required to adapt not just to the circumstances of the game but to the people they have now become. That also requires a need to learn how to cope with each other as well as the changes within themselves.
This aspect plays into another important difference between the two films. In Jumanji the characters are comfortable within themselves and are in familiar surroundings (i.e. the ‘jungle” via the game comes to them. Difficult as it may be, their soul goal is to survive and complete the game. While that is essentially true of WTJ, those charters are equally confronted with dealing with their new personas as well as foreign surroundings (i.e. they are thrown into the jungle)
Additionally, as previously stated the original movie has a much darker tone than its sequel. This goes beyond the character backgrounds previously mentioned. With few exceptions the jungle characters in jumaji are not just dangerous but have an evil aura surrounding them. The mosquitoes are shown to have caused paralysis in unsuspecting citizens. The monkey’s are shown to be destructivewith clearly malicious intent. The hunters intent is to kill and his character has no comedic over tones what so ever. Game players are clearly frightened. They’re few light hearted aspects introduced in there attempt to survive the game.
This is not to say that the characters in welcome to the jungle (WTJ) do not have obstacles. But in there case throughout themovie their is a comedic aspect to everything they deal with. This begins with their initial introduction into the jungle and especially how they react to their added age and new physics. Throughout the movie each character is humorously confronted with challenges brought on not just by the changes within themselves but upon others as well. The challenges presented by the game (jungle) are potentially just as deadly as well. But the manor in which the two movies present these challenges is completely different. As an example, in WTJ Bethany is “killed” when eaten by a Hippo but magically reappears because the game allows for multiple lives. The reaction of the characters to what accused is humorous. In the original Jumanji however, when Judy is struck by a poison plant she genuinely suffers and their is legitimate uncertainty as to whether the character will survive or not. While there are exceptions, these separate treatments remain fairly consistent throughout each movie.
Finally theirs the obvious difference between the two movies and the game itself. The original Jumanji is a board game where pieces are moved and dice are rolled. Welcome the the jungle is essentially a late 90’s video game that is adapted to current gaming systems. Obviously much of this is done to accommodate the technological advances made in film production over the last 20 years. But also acknowledges the simple changes in society where it is unlikely that a simple board game would create curiosity in the youth of today.
Non of this is to say that one movie is automatically better than the other, as that is purely a matter of personal taste. Also, pointing out the differences is not intended as a blanket opinion on one movie or the other. Reviews of the original Jumanji, both positive and negative often point out that the film is overly dark, especially for a “family” movie. At the same time as positive as the reviews of WTJ are. It is said that it is typical of current movies today. That is to say that it relies heavily on special effects to get to beginning to end with little emphasis on plot or character development. Neither of these generalizations are entirely accurate, nor is it really appropriate to simply label WTJ as a rebut or sequel. While some of the differences can be contributed to the change in generations (1995-2018) the fact remains that the basic premise of both movies is the same.That premise, aside from the financial success of welcome to the jungle means that assertional movies will almost certainly be made because the premise allows for unlimited possibilities. Which is to say “What happens when a board game comes to life?”