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In the months after Jumanji: The Next Level was first announced, there were many legitimate questions swirling around among fans. After all, while the project itself inspired excitement, it wasn’t entirely clear how the story would actually work. Because of the rules established in the previous movie, as well as the way things ended, it seemed like the choices were limited when it came to creating an experience both in-continuity and also completely different than what Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle had to offer.
Now, fortunately, we have some answers, courtesy of the brand new trailer that was released this morning. We’ve learned that while basically the entire main cast is back reprising their respective roles, things are going to be switched up from last time – primarily thanks to the addition of both Danny Glover and Danny DeVito, as well as a broken game cartridge. We’re not only going to see desert and tundra in addition to jungle, but the avatars played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black will also get to mix things up personality-wise, with all of them being “played” by a much different character than in the previous Jumanji.
The way the movie is going about things seems smart, and it looks like a good deal of fun… but there is one thing that produces that annoying gnawing feeing. Specifically, it looks like Karen Gillan is going to be on the outside looking in when it comes to all this new and different material in Jumanji: The Next Level, and isn’t going to be able to showcase her acting skills like her co-stars. While everyone else is playing to a different comedic extreme than in the 2017 film, it would appear that Gillan’s Ruby Roundhouse is once again going to be the avatar of Morgan Turner's Martha Kaply – and while it certainly won’t be impossible to generate an interesting new character arc from that circumstance, one is still left hoping that there is a some kind of twist to it that is being kept out of the marketing.
In Breakfast Club terms, Martha was the Ally Sheedy/Allison Reynolds of the young Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle ensemble, as fans will remember that she started that film as the cynical loner type before being literally sucked into the titular game. The experience wound up being an immensely positive one for her, as she both earned a new feeling of confidence helping the group narrowly avoid death, and sparked up a romantic relationship with Alex Wolff's Spencer Gilpin (who had Dwayne Johnson's Smolder Bravestone as his avatar).
In the Jumanji: The Next Level trailer, it’s in the way that Ruby approaches Smolder (with a romantic comfortability) that suggests she is still Martha instead of, say, Madison Iseman’s Bethany Walker – and it’s from that point that the aforementioned gnawing feeling starts. It’s after that approach that we get to see all of the big alterations made to the rest of the cast cascade on screen, the performers clearly having a lot of fun with the fresh material, and all while you’re acknowledging that Karen Gillan appears to be forced into the straight man role in the group. You can watch it all again here:
All by itself, this seems like an unfortunate use of the Scottish actress’ abilities, as she has not only shown herself to possess impressive comedic timing, but also some very real range. She crafted some very memorable and funny scenes in Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, and, in this particular context, it’s notable just how different Ruby Roundhouse is as a character compared to Amy Pond from Doctor Who or Nebula from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One could easily imagine Gillan knocking it out of the park with some extremely out-of-her-wheelhouse material, but the trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level suggests it won’t be the movie to supply it for her.
And adding insult to injury? Karen Gillan specifically requested the opportunity to play an “old man” in a Jumanji sequel last year, and instead the new movie has given those parts to Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, who are channeling Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, respectively.
Again, it’s entirely possible that there is much more to Karen Gillan’s Jumanji: The Next Level part, and Sony is actually doing the smart thing by hiding a fun surprise for the theatrical experience. If there isn’t more to it than what’s featured, however, that’s going to be a pretty disappointing realization come December 13th.