When Sony announced a sequel to 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, there was a million-dollar question: How and why would the characters get back into the cursed video game? They’d just escaped being trapped (and possibly really dying) in a video game forever by successfully completing a level; why in the world would they ever go back?
Jumanji: The Next Level solves that problem by giving one of its characters separation anxiety. Spencer returns to the game because he felt isolated from the friends he’d made within it, thinking that once again inhabiting Dr. Smolder Bravestone would restore a little of the confidence he lost in the transition from high school to college.
With The Next Level expected to make over $45 million in its first weekend, moviegoers should probably expect a third Jumanji movie in the next few years. But going back into the video game a third time seems like a hard bargain to drive. Handily, The Next Level gives us a clear look at what might come next — and it’s a weird throwback to the very first Jumanji movie.
[Ed. note: spoilers for Jumanji: The Next Level follow.]
Though The Next Level sees Spencer, Fridge, Martha, and Bethany agree to leave the cursed video game alone once and for all, it’s Spencer’s mother and a handyman hired to fix the house’s heating system who inadvertently unleash Jumanji again. The handyman, played by New Girl’s Lamone Morris, sees the broken console and, as he tells Spencer’s mother about his interest in video games, reaches out to touch it. No green light sucks the two of them into the game, but as the four teenagers head off into the night, they’re interrupted by a stampede of ostriches. This time, they’re not going into the game; the game is coming to them.
The return to the formula that made the 1995 Jumanji so fun, and also serves as a reminder that The Next Level is actually the third Jumanji movie, rather than the second of a new Jumanji series. In the original film, the jungle creatures of the game sprung out into the real world, requiring the characters to keep playing the game until one of them won, thereby putting the game back in its box. Now, the game is once again unleashed into the real world.
But The Next Level’s connections to the original film don’t end there. The restaurant that Milo and Eddie used to own is renamed Nora’s. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Nora was a character in the 1995 film, the aunt of Judy and Peter. She reappears here in a cameo from Bebe Neuwirth, who reprises her role.
The direction the next Jumanji will go in (if we get one) may be obvious — let’s return to the roots of the franchise! — but there are still a few questions that remain to be answered. Given that we saw the original board game version of Jumanji morph into a video game in Welcome to the Jungle, will the game morph yet again now that it’s been brought into the real world? And how do the rules of a video game apply in real life? Will the game avatars somehow be brought into the real world, too? Will they try to work a CGI Robin Williams into it somehow? Give us Jumanji 4, please!