‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ Does Have Some Surprising Connections to the Original ‘Jumanji’

Reinventing a classic franchise is like stepping on shards of glass, especially when childhood memories are at stake. Mentioning Star Wars in the same breath is probably obvious, even if the new trilogy managed to find new fans. In the case of the Jumanji franchise, it’s been a lucky break.

Those who grew up with the original 1995 Jumanji (starring Robin Williams) likely bristled initially when the first reboot came out in 2017. Outside of Zathura: A Space Adventure being a relational movie in 2005, the official sequel is considered to be Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

As with the first film, the sequel received mixed reviews, yet managed to clean up at the box office thanks to devoted fans of the first film. If there were a few allusions to the original in that, The Next Level goes slightly further.

They’ve wisely kept an emotional connection to the original movie

Dwayne Johnson on the red carpet
Dwayne Johnson | Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/WireImage

If one has to compare the Jumanji franchise to Star Wars, it’s in both managing to stay tangentially connected to their original sources. The Rise of Skywalker managed to take everything full circle in its final scene and connect back to A New Hope. Even The Mandalorian has ties to the Skywalker world without necessarily making any direct references.

This is a perfect way to keep popular franchises in the good graces of fans who don’t want their memories disrupted by something overly pedestrian and non-connective. Even if one could argue bringing an all-new cast into the Jumanji franchise was playing major risk, it was an A-list actor’s list nobody could deny.

What could ever go wrong with a cast of Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Nick Jonas? Well, possibly plenty if the writing was one giant poop emoji. It turned out Johnson can make virtually anything work, and ditto for Black who’s usually cited as being hilarious in the new films.

References to the original film were subtle, however, outside of little reminders of the previous events of the first really did happen.

The director of the new franchise mentions all of the Easter Eggs

Jake Kasdan, the director of the new franchise, recently mentioned in an interview that there was the intention all along to make sly references to the classic 1995 movie. He notes they had to tread carefully because it’s clear the events in the first film were reset.

Little events occurring in Welcome to the Jungle and The Next Level still make references to those events being real. For instance, the Jumanji game is seen washing up on a beach at the beginning of the first sequel, which is exactly where it’s found at the end of the first movie. Plus, it’s kind of hinted Robin Williams’ Alan Parrish was still involved in helping the new cast in the game without being seen using the elephant tokens.

Now with The Next Level, the director has gone even further on adding original references, not including a reach back to Welcome to the Jungle. A reference to a specific cake is seen in TNL, not including the return of an original character: Nora Shepherd (Bebe Neuwirth).

Latter character isn’t quite the same as seen in the first, yet the name is the same. Having her there gives some validity to making the entire franchise connect from the beginning, something potentially going full circle in future films.

Expect more ‘Jumanji’ films to come

No doubt more films in this franchise will be made since they keep making money at the box office. During Christmas week, The Next Level almost beat The Rise of Skywalker for #1, but not quite.

As the references continue to grow in each subsequent film, will a future sequel be able to go full circle and bring back more direct references to Alan Parrish and his family?

In an age where CGI is starting to revive departed stars, don’t be surprised to see Robin Williams’ Alan show up (perhaps in a cameo) in a future Jumanji movie.

Although let’s hope Jake Kasdan is against such ideas. His father, Lawrence, certainly improved Star Wars in numerous ways as a writer. One has to hope that philosophy holds true if Jake Kasdan takes on other fabled franchises.