Jungle Cruise to Jumanji: Dwayne â€˜The Rockâ€™ Johnsonâ€™s Jungle Universe
Dwayne â€œThe Rockâ€ Johnsonâ€™sÂ Jungle CruiseÂ is a breezy swashbuckling adventure that delivers audiences an enjoyable dose ofÂ Indiana JonesÂ Lite crossed with The Mummy 2.0. But we really shouldnâ€™t be surprised by that. Johnson, Hollywoodâ€™s best rendition of a throwback butts-in-seats populist movie star, has quietly turned the wilderness into his big screen bread and butter. To date, heâ€™s starred in five films where he does battle with the forces of otherworldly nature, all primarily set within jungles: The RundownÂ (2003),Â Journey 2: The Mysterious IslandÂ (2012),Â Jumanji: Welcome to the JungleÂ (2017),Â Jumanji: The Next Level (2019), andÂ Jungle Cruise (2021).
In an age where shared cinematic universes are all the rage (see: MCU, Star Wars, DCEU, SPUMC, Fast & Furious,Â The Conjuring, etc.), Johnson has committed a lot of time, energy and resources into this successful sub-genre. Even though these five films belong to various studios, weâ€™ve come up with an in-depth explanation that links them all in the same continuity. (Shoutout to Jon Negroniâ€™s The Pixar TheoryÂ for the inspiration.)
The aim of this theory is twofold: 1) unearth unique connections between The Rockâ€™s jungle-themed resume whether through overt associations or a bit of imaginative mental gymnastics and 2) have fun.
Warning: The following contains spoilers
Frank Wolff: The Rainforest Soldier
Jungle CruiseÂ takes place in 1916 at the height of World War I. The film follows Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) as she travels to South America to scour the Amazon river (which just so happens to run through Brazil, more on that later) for the Tears of the Moon, a mythical tree whose petals are rumored to cure all diseases and heal all injuries.
Throughout the course of the film, we learn that Frank Wolff (Johnson) was actually born Francisco Lopez de Heredia and is one of the cursed conquistadors unable to die or leave the river. Heâ€™s been alive for more than 400 years, putting his birth likely sometime in the early 1500s. His immortality is the first step to The Rockâ€™s Jungle Cinematic Universe.
But wait, you shout, wasnâ€™t Frankâ€™s curse lifted at the end of the movie? Yes, youâ€™re correct. You win a digital cookie: .
We know that the Tears of the Moon can be accessed again during a blood moon (lunar eclipse) and we know that there are surviving members of the local tribe whose descendants carry knowledge of the mythical tree.
We believe that Frank lived out a happy life with Lily that restored his connection to humanity and his desire to experience all it has to offer. After her peaceful passing at an old age, Frank went back to the Amazon to become immortal again (without the geographic restrictions this time) and help to watch over this world. He is the hero, after all.
The Board Awakens
In the original 1995Â Jumanji, we learn in the opening scene that the board game was buried in 1869, 100 years before Alan Parrish (Robin Williams) found it.
We know from Franciscoâ€™s cartography, sketches and news clippings in Jungle Cruise that he was a talented, creative and intellectually curious man with a whole lot of downtime. (I get antsy on my morning commute. How was this guy not driven insane from centuries of boredom?) Who better to create the Jumanji board game at some point in his earthly purgatory during the 16th-19th centuries than a nigh-immortal being who possesses intimate experience with the mystical beasts of the Amazon and residual magic coursing through his veins?
This is where the Jumanji board game draws its power from, particularly since weâ€™re assuming he created it during a blood moon when the Tree is in full bloom. Its ability to manifest creations in the real world stems from Franciscoâ€™s original curse. Weâ€™ll come back to this soon.
Beck v Stiffler: Dawn of the Gato
The RundownÂ follows Beck (Johnson), a retrieval expert, which is really just a polite way of saying bounty hunter. Tired of this identity, he agrees to one last job before getting out: retrieving his bossâ€™ son Travis (Sean William Scott) from the small mining town of, wait for it, El Dorado in Brazil.
El Dorado is the legendary city of gold sought after by 16th century Spanish explorers, which aligns with Franciscoâ€™s background. Travis is after a missing golden artifact called â€œO Gato do Diaboâ€ (The Devilâ€™s Cat). Coincidence? I think not.
It makes perfect sense that Johnsonâ€™s character would accept this last job, believing his intimate familiarity with the region from his Jungle CruiseÂ life would make for an easy final gig. (Leave it to Stiffler to throw a wrench in that plan.)
After procuring the artifact, rebel leader Mariana (Rosario Dawson) warns Beck not to â€œflirt with El Gato do Diaboâ€™s eyes.â€ She speaks of the legends connected to the Gato and its innate magical powers, including the myth that once restored to its rightful owners â€œthe rivers will run deepâ€ (more on that later). Mariana doesnâ€™t believe in any of that hocus pocus, but what if itâ€™s real?
My theory is that when Beck looked into the eyes of Gato, it imbued him with the magic of a catâ€™s nine lives. But since he was already immortal, the magic enabled him to exist in multiple planes of reality simultaneously, which explains some of the time overlap between the Jungle Cinematic Universeâ€™s major nexus points.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Hank: A Side Story
The RundownÂ takes place in 2003 whileÂ Journey 2: The Mysterious IslandÂ takes place roughly one decade later. In his new life as Hank, a former Navy codebreaker, our hero has finally gotten out of the bounty hunter world and is living with a wife and step son.
Itâ€™s more than possible that Francisco spent time as a Navy codebreaker during the 20th Century, which helps to explain how the Jumanji board game is able to magically turn itself into a video game in 1996. The game itself shares a psychic link with its creator. Weâ€™ll cover this more in a bit.
Our theory can also help explain Hankâ€™s uncanny ability to deal with exotic locations and strange beasts, such as giant frilled lizards and massive bees as well as submerged landmasses and wild jungles. Hank is just another of Franciscoâ€™s many aliases. Centuries of adventures have turned this seemingly normal step-dad into the ultimate adaptable badass. Screw PTA meetings and soccer practice, this dude is outrunning volcanic eruptions in his spare time. I donâ€™t think your friendly neighborhood dentist dad could pull that off.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Xander: Age of Bravestone
In 1996, teenager Alex Vreeke is given the Jumanji board game, which was previously buried by Alan Parrish and Sarah Whittle (Bonnie Hunt) after the original film, and rediscovered at the beach by Alexâ€™s father.
The board game mysteriously transforms into a video game cartridge overnight, which we have now explained via Franciscoâ€™s increasing technological prowess and his magical connection to Jumanji after modeling it on his own adventures through the Amazon. This would also help explain why thereâ€™s an avatar of Francisco within the video game model. Jumanji canâ€™t help but project its origins even as it develops and evolves through the years. Its cast of colorful characters is likely based on the friends and enemies Francisco encountered throughout his long life. But, much like the magic Arrowhead in Jungle Cruise, he has struggled to track it down throughout his long life after it initially left his possession.
His video game equivalent, Dr. Xander Bravestone, is described as a strong, confident archaeologist and explorer. Sounds a lot like an immortal conquistador we know. Even his running gag nickname, â€œSmolder,â€ is in line with Frankâ€™s Dad Joke sense of humor.
Importantly, this is a virtual recreation, which means that Francisoâ€™s corporal form is still out there afterÂ Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.Â This leaves room for further â€œreal worldâ€ entires in The Rockâ€™s Jungle Cinematic Universe.
Jumanji: The Next Level
Mother Nature Strikes Back
Taking place around one year after the previous film,Â The Next LevelÂ provides further proof for our grand unifying theory.
After our heroâ€™s adventures with the Gato inÂ The RundownÂ 15 years earlier within the JCU timeline, it should come as no surprise thatÂ The Next LevelÂ revolves around the Falcon Heart, another magical animal-themed artifact that can help stop the horrible drought in Jumanji. Sounds a lot like the Gatoâ€™s mythic ability to replenish the rivers, no? Again, the magical Jumanji is akin to an artificial intelligence that learns and evolves as it goes. Of course it would incorporate elements of its creatorâ€™s real life into the gameplay.
In a mid-credits scene, the world of Jumanji begins to bleed into the real world with a group of ostriches running through town. Our theory is that the magic of El Dorado from The RundownÂ runs counter to the magic of Atlantis, which Hank travels to inÂ The Mysterious Island, which disrupts the delicate multiverse Francisco exists in.
Weâ€™re sure a future entry in the JCU will help to explain how this magic-on-the-fritz issue is resolved.
Observation Points is a semi-regular discussion of key details in our culture.