Welcome to the Jungle

A series of unfortunate events had kept me from seeing Black Panther until last Tuesday. I was attempting to coordinate four tickets and discovered the nigh impossibility of getting two people on the same sheet of music, much less four, but eventually the planets aligned…for three of us, at least.  And since I had gone through all the trouble of getting three of us there and was feeling all jungle-y, I and son decided to go see Jumanji, too.

Yes, Jumanji, still in the theaters despite the Black Panther onslaught. I think that had more to do with February/March being sucky release months than anything. Verdict?

Go see Jumanji. It’s the much better movie.

Like everyone else with a pulse, I walked into Black Panther sporting great expectations. I mean, this was the greatest movie ever made, the greatest Marvel ever, 1000% ratings on all the sites, the movie that’s going to change all movies forever and ever, world without end. Golly. This should be good.

It wasn’t. It downright sucked.

The Amazing Lucas here does a much better job than I ever could expressing our mutual dismay, but I will add my two cents. First, the Black Panther from Civil War was the Black Panther I expected: a complete and total bad ass. Took on Cap and Winter Soldier and damn near did both of them in. Guy who can do that is no slouch. But the T’Challa of this movie wasn’t at the same level of badassery. Far from it. He was a vacillating, simpering, hesitant naif with a fraction of the combat prowess previously displayed. I guess he got a bad batch of purple flowers or something. He should have dispatched Man Ape

and Killmonger

on his way to breakfast. Yeah, yeah, they made him take the blue pill before the fights and maybe it’s a bit unfair to have a guy with the DTs defend his kingship. But that’s the way they do things in Wakanda.

Again, Lucas has done a much better job that I ever could criticizing the Wakandan Rules of Succession but, really? Really? One-on-one armed combat to the death? Not exactly a stellar means of government transition, is it? I mean, you can’t expect to wield supreme authority just because some watery tart threw a sword at you. How long has this been going on, three-or-four hundred years? No way. After oh, say, a week, the biggest and meanest Wakandan would have gathered up a few of his friends and taken the place over and spent centuries killing any other Wakandan who even blinked at him sideways. How do you think the English aristocracy got started?

Second, Wakandans are dicks.

Here they are, sitting on some of the most amazing tech and science in the universe, and they’re hiding it underneath a jungle holograph. What dicks. They have anti-gravity, cures for paralysis, can basically bring back the dead, and don’t forget, got those purple flowers, all of which they’re hoarding for themselves. What a dick move. This made me very sympathetic towards Killmonger’s political platform, although his methods seemed a bit excessive.

And they killed Klaw.

One of the most entertaining villains in a while, and they bagged and tagged him.

Dick move, Marvel.

So I was not in the best of moods when I walked out, but there was Jumanji next screen over, escapist light mindless fare, deliberately so, instead of the purposely mindless fare I had just watched. Okay, let’s go.

I am not a big fan of the original movie, nor of The Rock.

The first movie was fun but it’s a one-trick pony and exactly how many times can we watch the monkeys do something vicious to a townie and yeah, yeah, let’s get to the end of the game, shall we? The Rock is like Schwarzenegger; both are there to draw the crowds but don’t expect a lot. I can safely say I had not watched a single Rock movie up to this point. Unlike Ahnold, Rock’s movies sounded boring. That’s why they threw him in those, to get some ticket sales. But, I gotta say, both movie and Rock were pleasant surprises.

This Jumanji is not a remake or a reboot; it is a salute to a kids’ movie the director obviously loved. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and has as much fun with the original movie and the whole 90s video game scene as possible. You’ve seen enough of the trailers to get the gist of the plot, but it’s a lot more fun than even those indicated. Wait until you see Jack Black trying to teach a 14-year-old girl how to flirt, with disastrous results. Better, the worst first kiss in history, as interpreted by the Rock.

And the most refreshing aspect? It’s not about Jumanji, not at all. That’s merely the vehicle for teenage awkwardness and nerdiness and cliques and the hell that is high school. As for the Rock, the guy can actually act. And he doesn’t take himself seriously. It’s obvious he was having a ball, and you know how much fun it is when the actors are in on the joke, like George Clooney in O Brother Where Art Thou?

So, choose your jungle wisely.

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