It’s just too bad that films about videogames suck more often than not. The latest victim of the trend was Assassin’s Creed which they say was just as terrible as Fant4Stic, so I didn’t bother. Despite the whitewashing of Prince of Persia, I kind of liked it. There’s just not a lot of known Arabic actors in Hollywood. Resident Evil ended on a low note despite making us wait for six installments to a conclusion. It wasn’t a good ride to begin with though. But do films about video games only suck if they’re based on real ones? Perhaps. Here are a few films about video games that are actually good. Because the games they’re based on aren’t real: War Games, The Last Starfighter, Wreck-it Ralph and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is not your father’s Jumanji, and the film makes a point of it. If it were titled differently, without mention of Jumanji, it could stand out on its own and could be a good video game movie since Wreck-it Ralph. I’ve seen the first Jumanji film starring Robin Williams a couple of dozen times, and it still doesn’t fail to entertain. I’ve even seen the animated series with such ugly stylized artwork before Uncle Grampa. I tolerated it as a kid because of some actually good stories. The first Jumanji is a classic though some of the CGI no longer holds up. It could probably still be remastered with new CGI and resold with the new one. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is quite different from the first. It doesn’t seem as fantastical nor as dangerous than the first one. In the first film, basically everything attacks you while the environment in the second seems much friendlier.
Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen the film. It’s still running in theaters and doing well. The film has so far grossed over 670 million dollars and could give way for a sequel which hopefully doesn’t arrive too soon, or at all to ruin the experience. So basically, Jumanji the board game morphs into a video game console to catch up with the times and lure players in. The game will not be ignored and will changes over time. What will it be in the future? Probably a VR headset. What could it have been in the past? A deck of cards? That’s what the sequel would probably be. A prequel since Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has a satisfying ending. Pretty sure Bethany and Fridge wouldn’t want to reprise their video game avatars again.
This film is quite relatable as people often play characters that are the opposite of what they are in real life. In most games, I choose the female fighter because they’re well-balanced, fast and dexterous. But no, my non-game internet avatars are as close to myself as possible. The characters Spencer, Bethany, Fridge, and Martha ironically choose avatars that are opposite their characters thinking that they’re choosing the best. Though the more they chose, the fewer options for everyone else. In the case of Bethany, the film makes fun the internet legend that some overweight middle-aged men pretend to be pretty young girls. When Spencer hits Start, they all get sucked into the game. The Jumanji video game is basically a multi-player co-op game which I suck at. I have enough problems watching out for myself.
What’s fun is how the adult actors playing the avatars act like the kids. Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black are standouts. This is something I want to see again as soon as it hits home video.
Much like the first Jumanji, the game progresses as the players solve cryptic messages. The game acts much like modern games with the exception of each player having three lives—another homage to classic games. That little plot element adds much to the danger and excitement of the film, especially now that the environment isn’t as hostile as in the first film. The baddies here are mostly a lot of men with guns and motorbikes. I’m left to wonder what happened to the old hunter in the first film. The only explanation is that the game world changes with respect to the game’s prospective victims. What stayed is the homage to Robin Williams’ character Alan Parrish. If Robin Williams was still alive, this film could have turned out differently.
What didn’t feel good about this film is that the villain Russel Van Pelt despite having magical powers, felt flat. He just didn’t feel menacing at all. What’s fun is just seeing the characters succeed in finishing the game and in the end, become better versions of themselves in the real world, kind of like the first film. As a Jumanji film, it’s totally not the same. But as a videogame film, it’s quite good. The next pseudo-videogame film will be Ready Player One, like Wreck-it Ralph will have many classic game references and can’t wait for Wreck-it Ralph Breaks the Internet.