Two massive Hollywood films involving all-star ensemble casts playing characters with special abilities have been released in the past couple of months: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Justice League. While these movies weren’t in direct competition with each other, many people were surprised when the Jumanji sequel ended up out-grossing the spiritual sequel to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. So far, the former has earned $666.17 million at the worldwide box office, while the latter finished its run at $654.4 million.
But while Justice League did have an underwhelming and somewhat-disappointing performance in the box office, fans should have expected Jumanji to have beaten it all along. While the latest entry into the DC Extended Universe sounds like the bigger draw at first, there are several key reasons why Jumanji has performed strongly, and Justice League, well, hasn’t.
First, the two films were following up very different movies. The original Jumanji, released in 1995 starring the beloved Robin Williams, is deemed a classic by many fans. Justice League, on the other hand, is the follow up to Batman v Superman, a movie that resulted in an incredibly poor reception from critics, a mixed reaction from fans, and a poor performance at the box office. In fact, the studio claims BvS ultimately didn’t actually turn a profit.
Justice League also suffered from its fair share of controversy. From rumors of Ben Affleck’s impending exit from the role of Batman, to Zack Snyder stepping down from the movie far into production, there was a regular stream of negative news surrounding the project leading up to its release. When aggregate rating site Rotten Tomatoes experimented with the unveiling of the score for Justice League days ahead of its release, the resulting news stories only fueled the already existing negativity toward the project.
Welcome to the Jungle was met with skepticism as well, particularly when it was first announced, particularly due to Robin Williams’ passing meaning there was no way he could be involved in the sequel. But wile it’s difficult to get every single person’s approval on an ensemble cast, actors don’t get much more popular than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan. Sure enough, the trailers for the movie made it look like a bundle of fun, and people have flocked to theaters to see it.
Movie-goers will watch movies for different reasons. Most want to be entertained, some want to learn about the world around them, and sometimes it’s simply to pass a couple of hours, but one thing’s for sure, everybody loves a having a good time. This could well factor into the performance of these two movies. Jumanji was always marketed as a fun, action-comedy with a bunch of lovable actors tackling silly, surprising roles.
Justice League, however, had some big problems to confront. Aside from Wonder Woman, the DCEU has been a very dark and unhappy place. A big deal was made that this film would be a change from its predecessors. Ben Affleck promised that the use of characters like The Flash added a humorous dynamic to the movie, one that would lighten up the tone of the movie – directly addressing one of the main criticisms of the universe it’s set in.
Although Justice League did include some lighthearted touches, widely attributed to Joss Whedon, its tone was otherwise … pretty much what fans have come to expect from a Zack Snyder film. Director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman stands as the only undisputed success of the DCEU, both critically and commercially, having escaped the “grimdark” sepia haze that’s otherwise enveloped the superhero movie slate. While that approach (arguably) worked for Snyder’s early DC film, it clearly no longer appeals to the wider audience that it once did.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, on the other hand, gauged its market accurately, and provided a movie that struck a chord.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is still in theaters. Justice League arrives on Digital Download Feb. 13 and Blu-ray on March 13.
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