These days, cries of ruined childhoods punctuate every announcement of a new approach to an existing property. However, news of a Jumanji remake seemed to cause an even greater commotion than most, due in part to the announcement not too long after the tragic death of original star Robin Williams.
Director Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher) is ready to direct Dwayne Johnson — who seems to be boarding every project these days — in the new film. As its summer 2017 release date draws ever nearer, details about the production itself are beginning to be released.
Although fans who hold the 1995 original film close to their hearts may resist any project that dares to encroach on its legacy, some recent details from Johnson himself indicate that perhaps the new Jumanji isn’t determined to eclipse the pop cultural relevance of its predecessor.
And the #JUMANJI magic begins. Excellent meeting with our director Jake Kasdan, producer Matt Tolmach, and our @SevenBucksProd team to work on our new re-imagining of this amazing story. I felt like in order to craft something cool we should begin where it all started. Award winning writer Chris Van Allsburg's source material of JUMANJI. Chris also wrote THE POLAR EXPRESS (later adapted by Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks) and has a very special & magical way of storytelling. I'm feelin' good and confident stepping into these shoes as a producer as well as actor to bring you something great that you and your entire fam can enjoy. An important thing that I want to be honest and bring up is Robin Williams. The love and respect I have for this man is boundless. You have my word, we will honor his name and the character of "Alan Parrish" will stand alone and be forever immortalized in the world of JUMANJI in an earnest and cool way. I have an idea of what to do and I think his family will be proud. I also think Robin is somewhere lookin' down and laughing, remembering the first time we met backstage and I (for the first time ever) was a star struck bumbling idiot that couldn't even get my words out. Idiot. He literally calmed me down w/ that smile and laugh. But that's for another fun story down the road. We got a great team assembled already over at our home base of SONY and now we build from here. Here's another fun part… in the original movie there were three big roles. In our new story there's now FIVE. Been so damn cool to see all my actor buddies push their projects aside so hopefully they can come play in our world. Should have cool casting announcements this week. Will keep you posted. #TheMagicBegins #JustPressStart #JUMANJI
The actor took to Instagram to post the above notice to fans.
Looking at Johnson’s message a bit closer, there is some indication that the new film will take a fresh take on Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book. While the fact that Johnson refers to his Jumanji as a “re-imagining” doesn’t give much away in terms of the approach at hand — at this point, the term “re-imagining” has become a meaningless buzz word — his reveal that the team involved is going back to the source material and fleshing out the main cast to include five main parts is interesting.
Fans of Van Allsburg’s book may recall that the original film itself similarly built out the basic premise of the source material to include adult characters and a backstory that lent emotional stakes to the idea of a board game that literally comes to life.
The character of Alan Parrish, who Williams played, wasn’t even present in the book. Johnson’s assertion that this role “will stand alone and be forever immortalized… in an earnest and cool way” seems to be confirmation that the new film will only share the title and general concept with the first film. In this regard, the new Jumanji may be no more a remake than 2005 release Zathura, another adaptation of a Van Allsburg book centering on a board game that sucks its players into the game.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Johnson’s message, however, comes at the end. By tacking “#JustPressStart” onto his post, Johnson provided an early hint as to how his project would adjust Van Allsburg’s story for modern audiences.
Considering that the concept of a start button ties in with video games rather than board games, Johnson’s message was, in hindsight, a clue that the new Jumanji will, in fact, leave the idea of a physical board game behind and create something entirely new around the core premise of a video game. After all, board games themselves have largely been usurped by video games, mobile apps, and other digital gaming platforms.
Right now, we don’t even know if the world of Johnson’s Jumanji will serve as a straight-up reboot or if it will acknowledge the existence of the Jumanji board game itself. Nowadays, it’s commonplace for classic games to be reinvented on consoles or for mobile devices.
Imagine a film that honors the story told in the 1995 film — including a nod to Alan Parrish himself (perhaps the new characters could come across Alan’s home within the game world itself or something to that effect?) — and updates its premise for the smart phone generation.
Regardless of whether or not the final film lives up to fan expectations, it certainly distinguishes itself as a different beast altogether and opens up the possibility for several different characters to be sucked into the game via a Wi-Fi connection or something similar. Just our off-the-cuff speculation.
With Johnson serving as both star and producer on the new Jumanji, perhaps there’s even a chance that his passion for the property and Williams in general will translate into a fun, exciting film when next year rolls around. If nothing else, fans of the original film should wait until we know more about the project before sharpening their pitchforks.
Between the Jumanji reaction and the overblown backlash against Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters film, moviegoers need to learn to wait and see what the finished product has to offer before cutting ties with a project that could actually serve to reinvigorate the franchise they claim to cherish so much.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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