'Jumanji: The Next Level' preview: Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart have a new secret weapon - Karen Gillan with nunchucks

Action-adventure sequel will feature even more action scenes; Awkwafina joins the fun as new avatar Ming

Veronica Lin |

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The whole gang is back in 'Jumanji: The Next Level'.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is back, as the Jumanji action-adventure franchise returns to the big screen this festive season.

Jumanji: The Next Level reunites Spencer, Martha, Fridge and Bethany, the four teens who survived the trials of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle as they return home from their universities for the holiday break.

Spencer’s gone missing. And after working out that he’s re-entered the game, the others team up for a daring rescue mission to bring him home.

Everything they know about the game is about to change, as they discover there’s more to the world of Jumanji than just a jungle; it’s bigger, more dangerous, and holds more thrilling obstacles to overcome.

It’s not only Johnson who reprises his role (he plays Dr Smolder Bravestone); also back in play are Jack Black as Dr Shelly Oberon, Kevin Hart as Mouse Finbar, Karen Gillan as Ruby Roundhouse, and Nick Jonas as Seaplane, plus Awkwafina as a new avatar, Ming and new players (and Hollywood veterans) Danny Glover as Milo, Danny DeVito as Grandpa Eddie.

The action franchise relies heavily on stunts and visual effects; according to producers, the sequel is all about taking everything to the, ahem, next level – especially in terms of action sequences and stunts.

“When you are fortunate enough to work on a sequel, you naturally want to do things bigger,” explains producer Hiram Garcia.

Stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood, who has previously worked on Men In Black and Mission Impossible, is a self-proclaimed avid gamer, and was eager to create complex action sequences by playing around with the avatars’ super human powers and skills.

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Known for choreographing spectacular stunts, Eastwood was mindful of keeping the action true to the characters and the story.

“I don’t shoot action just for the sake of action. Anyone can shoot action, make it look like it’s explosive and fantastic, but it’s very important to me to make the characters believable through the action,” he explains.

To come up with the dune buggy chase sequence, Eastwood and his team trekked to the Glamis Dunes of California. However, the stunning location did not come without its share of logistical challenges.

“With dunes, you can shoot one day and then if you have a heavy wind overnight, the dunes are completely different,” explains Eastwood.

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Sure to delight audiences is the return of Ruby Roundhouse’s dance fighting, which is taken even more impressive this time round, thanks to the incorporation of her new weapon: nunchucks.

Eastwood and his team had Gillan and her stunt double train with the martial arts weapon made in a variety of different lengths and styles, and various materials.

“Every time you see her, she’s flicking nunchucks, she’s doing drills – she’s phenomenal,” Eastwood says of Gillan’s diligence to master her new tool.

“Every day I’m working with nunchucks. There are about five pairs of nunchucks in my trailer and even some in my hotel room. I’m lethal with them and I drop them a lot, which is quite worrying for people,” confesses Gillan.

“But, I’ve perfected this whole routine where I take out like five guys in a row with these nunchucks ... and it’s something I love so much.”

The actress is thrilled at the return of her character’s unique form of defence.

“The dance fight for Martha is the best strength out of all of them because it’s so unique. This time, it’s more brutal and way more deadly,” says Gillan.

“It’s something that I think younger girls have really connected with ... feeling like they can be empowered when they watch her.”

Opens December 12