Thursday, March 8, 2018

Psychological Terror in the World of "Jumanji"

Before I go any further, I must warn that there will be SPOILERS regarding Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle in this article.  I watched it for the first time last night with my kids and, after thinking about it for a while (yes, I had deep thought regarding what could be labeled a "Kids" movie), the ending really bothered me.  Not because it was cheap, bad or lazy, like most "Kids" movies are.  It truly bothered me.  Remeber those SPOILERS I talked about earlier?  Well, here they come.  Last chance.......

Here we go!

The cold open of the movie starts in 1996 in what I assume is a nod to the stinger ending of the first film.  A jogger on a California beach hears drums and finds the game in the sand.  He brings it home to his teenage son Alex, who opens it up, sees that it's a board game and immediately puts it on a shelf in his bedroom.  He then proceeds to play his Sony Playstation.  Late that night, the board game transforms itself into a cartridge based console, which leads to Alex plugging it in, playing it and you can guess what happens.  Alex's father becomes a recluse, fencing up his house and leaving it to rot on the outside.  All of the kids in town (including the four teens we follow) believe the house to be haunted or something, they never really say.

So, I'm going to jump midway into the movie and tell you that when The Rock & Company (NOTE TO SELF: Pitch a sitcom titled The Rock & Company) get sucked into Jumanji, they find Alex.  His avatar looks like Nick Jonas and he's been waiting for a party to come join him in the game for 20 years.  The only thing is, Alex doesn't know it's been that long. 

Ok, here is where everything gets super disturbing.  Every one gets out of the game safely, but the teens don't see Alex.  They decide to go to the creepy old house to see if he is there, but it isn't creepy anymore.  No fence and a fresh coat of paint, with Alex's dad looking much better than in the beginning of the film.  Alex pulls into the drive in a minivan with his wife and two kids.  Alex is noteably in his midthirties.  He sees the teens in the distance and approaches them, knowing who they are and explaining that when the game sent him home, it took him back to where he started the game.  It was 1996 again, he was a teen again and no one knew the wiser that he had had this grand adventure that spanned twenty years.  

Except here's the thing.  The Jumanji game console was in the basement of the high school in a box marked "DONATE".  Which means that Alex's father would've had to clear out his son's bedroom over the course of twenty years and that's how the game wound up at the school.  Okay, makes sense.  I'll give you that one, movie.  But let's think about that a little longer.  By helping Alex complete the game and sending him back to 1996, the kids NEVER HAD TO PLAY. Why doesn't Alex destroy the console immediately?  He remembered the teens twenty years later, so you'd have to think that he'd remember not to let the thing go into the donate box.  Alex, by allowing the game to stick around for twenty more years, had to have the knowledge that those kids were eventually going to play that game.  Since the game sent him home, he could've destroyed it and thus prevented them from even having contact with it.  But he didn't.  That is terrifying.  Sure, you could argue that if the kids didn't play, he'd still be stuck and him destroying it could rip a hole in the space/time continuum.  But that's another argument.  

The other thing is Alex had that game in his possession for a least a decade, given as how it didn't get outside of his hometown at all.  Alex most likely went to that same high school.  Do you think he ever played it again?  Or maybe he broke it out on special occasions for friends.  Or enemies?  Was he trapping people inside the game to die?  This kid had to be sick in the head.  Did he just take that donate box and put it in the school basement himself?  Because I'm pretty sure schools look through donated materials before passing them off.  They wouldn't have left a video game system laying around.  If they kept it at all, they'd have sold it at a school bazaar or a fundraiser.  I've seen weirder stuff at silent auctions before.  And the PTA of any school ain't above squeezing a nickel out of anything.  Alex knew what year he would be rescued.  Did he lie in wait and make sure the game was in the basement of the school by the time 2016 rolled around?  I can't even wrap my head around this kind of psychological torment.  Not to say Alex is all bad.  Maybe he just bided his time to make sure the kids got into the game (still, not letting that one go, movie).  But the fact that he got twenty bonus years on his life without any biological wear and tear has to do something to your brain, right?  When he got back to '96, was he mentally 36 years old?  Since he didn't know he had been inside the game that long, did any of that growth matter?  Let's say it did affect the age of his brain.  By the time he sees those teens again, he looks 36, but his brain is pushing 60.  Is his brain turning to mush by the time he's able to draw Social Security?  Where is the line in the sand with this movie?  To quote Jack Black in this movie "I can't even with this place".

Not to say this isn't a fun movie.  I'll watch it again before I die, I'm sure of it.  My kids, at the time of writing this article, are nearly 4 and 7.  It's guaranteed I'll come back to Jumanji.  Not to mention if they make more sequels.  I'll just have a hard time getting past the psychological angle.  Especially since Colin Hanks play adult Alex.  Colin played a serial killer on Dexter that was mentally disturbed, so I already had that image in my head to boot.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go take something for this headache.  I thought too hard about this one.

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