Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a welcome and surprising hit back in 2017, making a cool $960 million at the box office and ensuring that the world of Jumanji was alive and well.
Thought at first to be a reboot of the 1995 Robin Williams vehicle, Welcome to the Jungle was in actual fact a sequel and, thanks to that huge financial victory, threequel Jumanji: The Next Level, is set for release later this year.
But, what do we know about our next foray into the depths of the mysterious console game? Well, here’s everything you need to know...
What happened in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle?
To recap, the movie focused on a group of high schoolers placed in detention. During the course of their punishment, they discover an old games console and the game Jumanji.
Firing it up, they’re sucked into Jumanji’s jungly world, and are replaced by avatars in the process. Our foursome must make their way through the various levels of the game in order to complete it and return to their real lives.
Who is behind the scenes?
Jumanji: The Next Level has gone with an ‘if it ain’t broke’ approach to production and sees the return of Welcome to the Jungle writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg, alongside returning director Jake Kasdan.
This writer and director team proved themselves to be more than capable of crafting a funny, exciting, crowd-pleasing adventure and their return bodes very well for this sequel.
The avatars are back...
A large part of Welcome to the Jungle’s success was down to the fantastic ensemble cast, so thank the video game gods because they’re all back.
Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black will once again be our avatars traversing Jumanji, running headfirst into danger and trying to avoid eating cake.
To recap these wonderful video game archetypes, we have Johnson as Dr Smolder Bravestone, an action hero archaeologist and our team’s intrepid leader, and Kevin Hart as Franklin ‘Mouse’ Finbar, the small-statured zoologist and weapons expert.
Alongside them is Karen Gillan as Ruby Roundhouse, a commando and martial arts expert who specialises in dance-fighting, and finally Jack Black’s Professor Sheldon ‘Shelly’ Oberon, a bookish type and master in the fields of cartography, archaeology and paleontology.
So, the squad is back, but who has their hands on the controls?
... But the players have changed
Holding onto the joysticks of our familiar team is a slightly different bunch to those in the previous film, and these changes are sure to have hilarious consequences.
In The Next Level we have a couple of returning gamers with Martha Kaply (Morgan Turner) once again inhabiting Ruby Roundhouse, and Anthony ‘Fridge’ Johnson (Ser’Darius Blain) this time donning the spectacles and bow tie of Jack Black’s blustery professor.
Where the real change takes place, however, is with the other two players, who this time are far removed from the high-school age of their teammates. Taking on the guise of team leader Bravestone is an even more unlikely candidate than the previous movie’s geeky Spencer (Alex Wolff).
This time, the ageing Eddie Gilpin (Danny DeVito) is the master of the smoulder, and if that doesn’t already bring a smile to your face then you’re beyond help.
Eddie is Spencer’s cranky grandfather, who is also bringing his equally aged friend Milo along for the ride, played by Lethal Weapon legend Danny Glover. Milo in turn will become Kevin Hart’s zoologist, Mouse, upon entering the game.
Adding these two eccentric elders (not mention silver screen acting icons) to the fray is surely a genius move and will certainly add a different flavour to this follow-up.
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Where is Spencer?
His grandfather may be entering proceedings, but our hero from Welcome to the Jungle is missing in action. Well, avid gamer and all-round dork Spencer has apparently fixed the Jumanji games console and gone in alone for reasons known only to him.
Spencer’s absence is actually the event that draws our familiar heroes and their elderly comrades back into the world of the game. Clearly no longer playing as Bravestone, it is possible that Spencer has now been cast as Nick Jonas’ Jefferson "Seaplane" McDonough, which, if so, means we’re in for some dynamite margaritas.
It’s a game-changer
You’d be forgiven for thinking that, due to the video game basis of Jumanji, The Next Level may be a little repetitive, but fear not, for the game has drastically changed.
The latest movie sends our gamers into the burning heat of the desert as well as the freezing cold of the mountains, with a vast array of dangerous animals and faceless A.I. bad guys giving chase along the way.
The cast of characters has also been extended and now includes a mystery role for Crazy Rich Asians star Awkwafina. Will she be friend or foe? Perhaps she may be able to explain what has happened to Spencer...
It’s released this Christmas
Jon Fuge is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.