This week sees the release of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the follow-up to the 1995 film about a pair of kids who play a board game and end up having their lives invaded by a sinister hunter and giant spiders.
When the new Jumanji film was first announced, there was a concern that it was basically just going to rehash the original, or even just flat-out remake it. As it turns out, Welcome to the Jungle is an evolution of the original premise. Instead of a board game, the film features a video game in which each character (all high school students) gets sucked in and is personified by an avatar, played by the likes of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan. It's a clever premise, but according to screenwriter Jeff Pinkner, it was also part of a simple mission: Remaking the original Jumanji would just be wrong.
"This is a very specific movie, based on a beloved book, with a wildly beloved actor, Robin Williams. Nobody was interested in remaking this movie," Pinkner told CBR. "That would have been wildly disrespectful and a waste of everybody’s time and energy. So, there was such a great idea of the characters and animals from this game coming out into this world. This was really an instance of, 'How can we take the spirit and inspiration of that and tell an entirely different story?'"
The original film became a cultural touchstone thanks to Robin Williams' performance, and in the wake of his tragic passing, trying to do anything that treads on that story would have been a risky proposition. Taking the concept in an entirely new direction looks to have been a good decision all around, as the film has scored great reviews and is expected to be a solid box office hit for the holidays.
Hopefully Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle does what Pinkner intended. It's in theaters now.