Friday, June 30, 2017

Jumanji or How Video Game Popularity is Holding Us Back

Today we're not going to do a Weekly Link Round Up. Instead, we're going to talk about Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Not the movie with Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst. I'm talking about the re-imagining, or the sequel. I actually don't know what this movie is, other then a very far cry from it's predecessor. The trailer dropped yesterday with some mixed reactions. With it, came a better understanding of the plot:

Four teenagers are serving detention. Instead of freaking out about health code violations or safety, the principal sends the teenagers to the basement to clean it out. They find a video game console (Atari, how retro), and a game called 'Jumanji.' So they plug in all the cords and use the television conveniently located there. They pick their characters and then they are all transported into the game, where they become the adult avatars that they have selected. Now they have to find a way to "beat the game" and get out alive.

This premise is why I'm talking about the movie. It's another twist on the "game" concept to use it as a plot device.

Full disclosure: I dislike the trailer. It was too predictable and contained so many cliché's I was losing count. The 4 teens were every amalgamation of stereotype possible: the thin, frail nerdy guy. The black athlete. The pissy, pretty popular girl. The loner, shy girl. 'The Breakfast Club' has already been done, and better then this. Stop trying, Hollywood. Then they all warp into the game, ala 'Tron' but not even a fraction as cool as 'Tron.' It was every kid show knock-off that we've seen for decades - name any television show from 1990 to present and you will find that most have used an episode about the kids trapped inside a video game.

And then there were the "game characters." The nerdy guys of course becomes Dwayne Johnson, because 'Doom' wasn't enough for his career. The popular girl of course becomes Jack Black. The shy girl, of course becomes the hot woman with half a shirt and short-shorts. The black athlete, of course becomes the funny black guy. Every step of this trailer you could call shot for shot exactly what was going to happen.

It's not original. It's not unique. It's mashing up a lot of existing concepts and doing the same thing over and over again. And I'm not trying to compare it to 'Jumanji.' As it's own entity, 'Welcome to the Jungle' looks like everything else already on the market.

Nothing about this film screams video game yet, so I'll reserve judgment for when the movie releases...on Netflix. I'm not paying to see this, unless I already have a monthly subscription service. I'm not even sure how a video game fits in with this premise, other then being another trope to move the story along.

I'm disappointed in Hollywood that this is the best that we're getting. After so many failed attempts at video game movies, the best we're going to get is original ideas like 'Wreck It Ralph.' And that's a great animated movie (even with it's odd flaws and need to "princess" everything). Shoehorning in a video game plot device is not how we elevate the medium. It just looks, and feels dumb. As though the writers felt they had to add in gaming to entice a younger audience to see the film.

You are welcome to disagree with me. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I find this to be another movie cashing in on nostalgia and half-ass clichés that should be long dead.

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