For most of its runtime, Jumanji: The Next Level isn’t a groundbreaking movie. It’s kind of the same movie as 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, except with Dwayne Johnson making a very weird attempt at a Danny DeVito impression. But a studio-mandated after-credits scene actually suggests a semi-bold idea in franchise filmmaking: The “de-boot.”
Here’s how Jumanji: The Next Level sets up Jumanji 3 in an intriguing new way.
Warning: Spoilers for Jumanji: The Next Level ahead.
In The Next Level, two years have passed since a misfit group of teenagers — Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner), and Bethany (Madison Iseman) — became best friends after surviving the challenges of the mystical board video game, Jumanji.
After most of the group gets sucked back into the game, including Spencer’s cranky grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his estranged friend Milo (Danny Glover) with them, the kids must survive another round of Jumanji or else perish in the digital world.
At the end of The Next Level, the heroes succeed and return home to the real world, once again changed by their experiences. (Milo, facing death in the physical world, stays behind in the game to enjoy eternal life as a flying horse.) They regroup in Nora’s Diner, which we learn was once Eddie and Milo’s own business before a personal rift tore them apart.
Meanwhile, back in Spencer’s basement, the repairman (New Girl’s Lamorne Morris in a surprise cameo) finally arrives, only to become fascinated by Spencer’s Jumanji console. Cutting back to the diner, a horde of ostriches begin rampaging in the middle of the street. That’s when our heroes discover the ruckus, and learn that Jumanji has been unleashed IRL.
Is Jumanji 3 a “de-boot”
If rampaging wildlife feels familiar, that’s because it happened over two decades ago in the original 1995 film Jumanji starring Robin Williams. In the original film from director Joe Johnston, the characters play Jumanji as a board game and unwittingly unleash zebras, rhinos, elephants, monkeys, and more into their sleepy New Hampshire town.
The sequel films, 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: The Next Level, modernized the concept and remade Jumanji into a retro video game, which means all the jungle mayhem kept itself to the digital world. But the credits for The Next Level strongly suggest it’s game over. and Jumanji will spill back into the world of living. This problem can easily serve as the central conflict in the third movie.
Should there be a third Jumanji that borrows the same central conflict of the 1995 original, the current series could do something relatively fresh and uncommon in modern franchise filmmaking: A “de-boot.”
It’s not a reboot, because 1) these films are set in the same continuity as the 1995 original, and 2) this third movie isn’t recycling the 1995 film’s plot, story, and characters wholesale. Nor is it strictly remaking the other two movies either. But it is clearly inspired by the 1995 film with its unleashed wildlife. Yet we’re still dealing with the new films’ characters and, hopefully, get to see them explore their relationship further.
So, whatever Jumanji 3 is titled, we at least know its surprising take on reboots and sequels. It’s neither. And that may actually be a game-changer.
Jumanji: The Next Level is in theaters now.