In a world of unlikely franchises, the success of Jumanji stands out as especially bizarre. The original children’s book about animals escaping from a board game was first adapted into a ’90s movie about a kid getting sucked into the same board game and turning into Robin Williams, followed by a book and movie in the same universe about space. An obvious moneymaker, of course.
Except that Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, a sequel-slash-reboot released in 2017, some 22 years after the first Jumanji movie, absolutely owns. The movie posits that Jumanji has transformed itself from a board game into an old Atari cartridge, the better to lure four teens — Spencer, Fridge, Martha, and Bethany — into the jungle for both fun and games.
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle might not have been as scary as the original, but it was delightful, if only because it was obvious that everyone involved was having an excellent time doing whatever came to mind. Have Jack Black do surprisingly empathetic comedy about being a hot teen girl while playing Bethany’s in-game avatar? Great! Cast Nick Jonas as an embittered pilot stuck in the game making plastic pitchers of margaritas? Go for it. Bobby Cannavale as a poacher literally named “John Hardin Van Pelt”? Yes, please.
That sense of genial, anything-goes goofiness seems like it will define the upcoming sequel Jumanji: The Next Level, in which the teens return to Jumanji as different characters (for example, Jack Black is now playing Fridge’s avatar instead of Bethany’s). Also, Danny DeVito is there as Spencer’s cantankerous grandfather, and this time he’s playing The Rock.
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This is excellent news. If current Hollywood trends hold, there will be at least three more Jumanji movies. With that in mind, where does Jumanji go after making Kevin Hart pretend to be Danny Glover (who is, for some reason, playing Danny DeVito’s friend) for an entire film?
The answer is Jumanji: 4tnite.
Please, Step Into My Jungle Office
Imagine you’re sitting in theaters in 2024. In the newest iteration of the Jumanji franchise, the demonic gaming entity known alternately as either Jumanji or “The Pharaoh From Yu-Gi-Oh!” gets hooked up to the internet, transforming a popular battle royale game into the jungles of Jumanji. Large numbers of Twitch streamers, teens, and bleary-eyed depressives are completely unable to discern what is happening, and are helpless to protect themselves from Jumanji’s ferocious onslaught of loot crates full of monkeys. Mass societal chaos ensues. Our heroes have to go back into the game — and this time, that game is Fortnite.
This presents a few problems. The Jumanji gang has never had to do PVP Jumanji gameplay before (Welcome To The Jungle is extremely co-op), and at first they think they might accidentally be killing a bunch of people. Unfortunately when a game ends, instead of dying, the Spencer, Fridge, Martha, and Bethany find something worse — an endless series of loading lobbies. There is no release from the hell that is Jumanji: 4tnite.
They’re also forced to lean on their own creativity to build big structures that will let them survive as the world shrinks over the course of the movie’s endless battle royale sequences, animated by the team behind The Emoji Movie. They have no idea how to escape, or save the rest of humanity. And most dangerously, the Jumanji heroes are in their early 20s by now… which means they know nothing about Fortnite.
Instead, Spencer, Fridge, Martha, and Bethany are forced to call on a teen to guide them, someone who is not Justin Long’s character in Galaxy Quest but is not not Justin Long’s character in Galaxy Quest. This character, who will be named WEEDLORD42069 or some bullshit, will walk the heroes (and the audience) through the basics of battle royale games, guiding the clueless adults through the “circle” and teaching them how to W key.
Eventually, our heroes (and also Danny DeVito, who is now in the game as himself for some reason) manage to git gud, and spend the middle third of the movie customizing their characters until they are totally satisfied winning a match. In the process, however, Spencer kills a bunch of kids and sends them spiraling into the bureaucratic hell of the loading lobbies. Worst of all, they win a battle royale and don’t get sent back to the real world. WEEDLORD42069 or whatever informs them that the global world order has started to break down.
Pondering his actions in Lonely Lodge, which is also in the Jumanji map, Spencer decides to sacrifice himself by giving WEEDLORD42069 or something his credit number, miring himself in an extraordinary quantity of debt as he buys every possible loot crate. Eventually, martyred like a modern day Christ, Spencer finds the magical object that will give him the power to let everyone out of the Fortnite Jumanji map: a Robin Williams skin.
Please Give Me The Money To Make Jumanji 4tnite
So, you’re a producer interested in hearing more? Smart decision. There are a lot of opportunities for good gags here. Some of the players the heroes encounter are using custom skins, which means they can appear as like, John Wick, Thanos, or Jude Law’s Leto II from the hugely successful, billion-dollar 2022 God Emperor Of Dune movie. They get camped several times, eventually trying in vain to spend an entire battle royale in one spot only to be destroyed by the storm. And midway through the movie, The Rock stops and turns to the camera to deliver a heartfelt speech about the dangers of gambling in freemium games.
Of course, Jumanji 4tnite will make a ridiculous amount of money, provided people still care about Fortnite in five years. And yes, the script will be absolutely spotless, taught in screenwriting classes for years to come.
A Mea Culpa From The Screenwriting Team
Thanks for reading this far, and thanks for your $25 million investment in our movie. We appreciate your faith in our vision for the future of the Jumanji franchise. But we need to come clean about something: Nothing in the plan for Jumanji: 4tnite compares to the extremely real original plan for Jumanji 2: a sequel in which the president of the United States plays Jumanji with his depressed son who “just wants a dad not a President for a father.”
Not only is this within striking distance of the premise of nearly every other late ’90s and early ’00s movie, President John Cooper getting sucked into a board game also paves the way for his evil vice president (literally Steven Buscemi) to take over the world. Yes, I promise you, this is 100% a real thing that was going to happen. And in this unproduced version, the president would eventually team up with CGI hybrid animals like the crocodile-ostrich blend “crostrich.”
Look: there’s only so much we can do with current levels of Jumanji technology. If — sorry, when we make it to Jumanji 5, it will be time to invest heavily in a research and development department to see if we can get Danny DeVito to play a crostrich and if so, what the Danny DeVito crostrich would look and sound like. If that happens, it’s game over. We’ve won.