Since it was first announced many months back, I've been hesitant about the Jumanji reboot. As an supreme fan of the 1995 original, the phrase "In the jungle you must wait, until the dice read 5 or 8" still sends a shiver up my spine. So, when I got my first gander at from the set of the 2017 version, my heart sank. Deep. The most blatant issue, as it stands right now, is Karen Gillan, namely Gillan's Jumanji costume. Don't get me wrong: I love Gillan's involvement in the project and firmly believe her work in Doctor Who and Guardians of the Galaxy will be foundational in this adventure flick.
As Bustle's Amy Roberts wrote a few days ago: "...[H]inting at there being some deliberate reasoning behind Gillan's child-sized costume is all well and good, but it also feels like a bit of a convenient excuse..." Roberts, weighing the pros and cons of Gillan's costume, was keeping her fingers crossed that if Gillan was approving of the costume, then there is reason to believe the costume may actually become a focal point for smart commentary. But those hopes quickly faded when Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson released a new piece of casting information and with it, a better picture of what we can expect from the newest Jumanji.
You see, with the announcement of the four teens who, in the film, would be playing the quartet who were playing the game, we learned that Gillan and Co. were going to act as the teens' avatars in the game. This leads me to believe that Gillan will be dressed like Lara Croft from the beginning of the film, which denotes intention. If this bit of casting and plot development is what Gillan and Johnson were referring to when they said that all would become clear soon, then I think there is still a lot of questions to be answered.
Nowadays, our culture is hyper-aware when it comes to recognizing a blatant issue. Gillan's costume sparked the ire of many fans, especially because the nature of Gillan's celebrity and her previous roles imply she would never have OK'ed something like this outfit. So to imply that all is acceptable and well in the new Jumanji because Gillan is simply an avatar for a teen player and thus, her pre-packaged look should just be accepted with our suspended disbelief is disheartening and frankly, perplexing. If anything, Gillan will have to work that much harder in the film to give us a reason to look past the costume —avatar or not—and still keep us on her side. Who wants to have that kind of work thrust upon them.
Furthermore, unburdening yourself of scrutiny by simply saying, "There's a good reason," "Trust me," and "It will all make sense," and then putting that sense on someone else's shoulders feels like a pithy excuse. The "trust" here being that this issue would all be cleared up with a real explanation, e.g. did Gillan's character get sucked into the game as a child and, unlike Alan Parrish in the original, never escape? Instead, what we get with this casting announcement and plot elaboration is the sense that this extra layer of gameplay should cover up any flaws within the game itself and should be lumped in with viewers' implicit acceptance of the fantasy elements of the film. Nope, I'm not buying it.
Ostensibly, the teen in the film who gets Gillan as their avatar will have little to no say in how she is clothed. Even if the film set up Jumanji as a Wii-esque game wherein the teens could select clothing from pre-selected options (adding a bit of modernity to the plot and changing the nature of the game), the implication that those clothing options were the best for avatar-Gillan is still incredibly problematic.
I'll by no means immediately cross this film off my "2017 Must See" list because I'm still hopeful that this new Jumanji can pull out all the stops and deliver. It already has the weight of greatness upon it with the original; the stakes are higher than ever. But overcoming this very blatant and contentious point only adds to the pressure and, as much as I hate to say it, it was totally avoidable.