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Thursday, January 11, 2018, 12:08
It's back to the jungle with new Jumanji film
By Li Yingxue
Thursday, January 11, 2018, 12:08 By Li Yingxue

From left: Director Jake Kasdan, lead actor Dwayne Johnson and actress Karen Gillan promote Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle in Beijing. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Around 23 years ago, Robin William's film Jumanji ended on a beach, with the last scene showing the Jumanji board game half-buried in the sand.

The same box was picked up at the end of 2017 at the opening of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the second installment of the Jumanji franchise directed by Jake Kasdan.

Released in the United States in 3D on Dec 20, 2017, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has collected US$514 million in worldwide box office takings after a blockbuster $70 million weekend. The film will come to screens in China on Friday.

Unlike the first film in the Jumanji series that sees animals from the game enter the real world, in the new film four high school students are sucked into a jungle, the game of Jumanji, and transformed into their game avatars.

Each of the avatars has special skills and weaknesses with three lives, and the teenagers have to finish the game against the villain to escape and return to real life.

Kasdan is a huge fan of the first film and he wanted to make the new one to honor Robin Williams. "We did not want to repeat the story, so we created a new journey and added more comedy elements," he says.

Dwayne Johnson, also known as The Rock, plays Doctor Smolder Bravestone, an archaeologist and explorer, whose strengths are fearlessness, climbing, speed, boomerang-throwing and smoldering intensity.

Bravestone is the avatar of Spencer Gilpin, a nerdy gamer at Brantford High School.

In the film, Johnson plays both an insecure 16-year-old boy and a superhero.

Explaining why he chose the film, he says: "I thought the body-change role was interesting and challenging.

"I've been an actor for 17 years, but never had the chance to play a 16-year-old.

"What's more fun is that in this film all the characters are body-changing."

Meanwhile, Johnson says he told the director to add "smoldering intensity" to Bravestone's special skills to have more fun, a suggestion which was accepted by Kasdan.

"This role is different from my other tough-guy roles, because he has no weakness," says Johnson.

As for the other roles, Jack Black plays Professor Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon, a chubby middle-aged cartographer, cryptographer, archaeologist and paleontologist who has a pretty and popular teenage girl's avatar, which brings a lot of laughs.

And then there is Karen Gillan, who is known for portraying Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films Guardians of the Galaxy.

She plays Ruby Roundhouse, a commando, martial artist and dance fighter who is Martha's avatar.

Gillan is no dancer or fighter, so it took her several weeks of practicing dancing and fighting to be ready for the role.

"I'm basically acting as myself in the whole movie, as I was kind of nerdy and tall with red hair at high school," says Gillan.

"I hope I can present girl power in the film because the role is of someone who is not confident and good at social contact at first. But then she gradually finds her inner power through the avatar's body."

The film was shot in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In the movie, Kasdan tries to use real shots as much as possible and all the animal scenes were created using computer-generated technology.

Describing how the filming was done, Kasdan says: "There is one scene where the characters are in a helicopter trying to escape from a bunch of rhinoceros. But actually when we were shooting there were no rhinoceros, and the actors had to perform using their imagination.

"But it took us a whole year to add the rhinoceros through CGI to that scene."

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