Saturday, May 16, 2020

Jumanji returns!

by Ben Soton

Jumanji The Next Level (2019). Dir: Jake Kasdan. Star: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan. 123 mins, 12A, General Release.

One of the effects of this lockdown, along with reductions in shoplifting, football hooliganism, school bullying, bar brawls and road rage, is the closure of cinemas making the job of an entertainment correspondent more difficult. But we will survive as long as there are DVDs and streaming!
Jumanji The Next Level is the sequel to Jumanji Welcome to The Jungle and we see the same four US high school students a year later from where we left off.
They find themselves on gap years in Costa Rica, working in convenience stores and trying to find themselves as young folk do. Soon, out of a mixture of bad luck and stupidity, they find themselves back in a 1990s computer game. Good directing makes use of music to show that we are about to re-enter this alternate reality consisting of jungle, mountain ranges, frozen wasteland and strange Third-World like cites. This time they are joined by two senior citizens who need to be reminded continuously that they are in a computer game and not New Hampshire or dead; I’m not sure if there is a similarity.
Our elderly gamers, who include one of the original player’s grandfathers Eddie (played by Danny DeVito) and his friend Milo (played by Danny Glover), turn out to be an asset when they finally realise they are in a game. Meanwhile the younger players look like experienced veterans, a form of role reversal. Another form of reversal is that players on entering the game are given characters with different genders to themselves.
When reviewing the original film this column argued that the game represents the USA’s adventures outside its own borders. This is something referred to by those of us on the real left as imperialism, a system far worse than any phobia. The villains resemble Russians with a hint of Game of Throne characters, whilst the wild animals that impede their progress, ostriches, hippos, anacondas and hyenas are not native to the USA. Even worse, the ostriches are taller than the players and hippos eat people whole. After all, it is only a game.
We have a non-player character intended to resemble a Latin American beauty with an abusive husband – and we all know that USA has been saving Latin American women from evil men since the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. Another non-player character resembles an upper-class Brit, often, but not always, willing allies of US imperialism.
The gang’s back. The game has changed. But it’s still the same old song...
Jumanji The Next Level was released in the UK last year, and is now out on DVD and available on Amazon Prime.         

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