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Zathura: A Space Adventure

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Zathura: A Space Adventure
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jon Favreau
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on Zathura
by Chris Van Allsburg
Music by John Debney
Cinematography Guillermo Navarro
Edited by Dan Lebental
Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing[1]
Release date
  • November 11, 2005 (2005-11-11) (United States)
Running time
113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $65 million
Box office $64.3 million[2]

Zathura: A Space Adventure (or Zathura) is a 2005 American science fiction adventure film directed by Jon Favreau and loosely based on the illustrated book Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg, author of Jumanji. The film stars Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart, and Tim Robbins.

The story revolves around brothers Walter and Danny Budwing (portrayed by Hutcherson and Bobo respectively), who play a mysterious board game they find in the basement of their house. The game teleports Walter, Danny, and their older sister Lisa (Stewart) into outer space where they encounter an astronaut (Shepard), who mentors the siblings on survival and finishing the game so they can return home.

The film was shot in Los Angeles and Culver City, California, and was released on November 11, 2005, by Columbia Pictures.[3] Unlike the book, the film contains no Jumanji material and mentions no Jumanji events. The film was marketed as a spiritual successor with variations of the tagline, "A new adventure from the world of Jumanji". Despite positive reviews from critics, Zathura was a box office flop.


Young brothers Walter and Danny do not get along with each other or their older sister, Lisa. The three siblings go to stay with their divorced father; while the father is away at work and Lisa is napping, Danny discovers an old space-themed board game called "Zathura" in the basement. He and Walter begin to play the game, whose goal is to become the first player to reach the final space named Zathura. During his turn, each player picks up one of the game's instruction cards. When a meteor shower from one of these game cards occurs outside, Walter and Danny realize playing the game has altered their reality.

The boys discover their father's house is floating on an asteroid near Saturn. Lisa, who is unaware of the situation, prepares for her date that evening. When the boys try to warn Lisa about what has happened, they find she is in cryonic sleep as a result of the game. They realize the only way to end the game and return to Earth is to reach the board's final space of Zathura. As they continue to play, Walter and Danny must overcome the dangers presented by the game cards, including the appearance of a defective robot and an attack on the house by a race of reptilian aliens called Zorgons. Another card produces an astronaut, who methodically eliminates the house's heat sources and lures the Zorgons' ship away with a burning couch.

Growing increasingly concerned, Walter accuses Danny of cheating by moving a piece prematurely; when Walter tries to move the piece back, the game reacts as though Walter is trying to cheat and ejects him from the house into the vacuum of space. Walter is rescued by the astronaut. On Walter's next turn, he receives a card that allows him to make a wish, and considers wishing Danny away. The astronaut warns Walter that he and his brother had played the game fifteen years before, and he had received the same card. He wished his brother away, causing him to be stuck in the game forever without a second player. Walter wishes for a new football instead and the brothers agree to work together to finish the game as quickly as possible.

Lisa awakens from her stasis, and unaware of the current events, turns up the heating. This causes the Zorgons to return and anchor their ships to the house. Lisa, the boys and the astronaut hide on the upper floor but have left the game downstairs. While Lisa develops romantic interest in the astronaut, Danny uses the house's dumbwaiter to retrieve the game. Danny gets the game aboard one of the ships, but is caught by the Zorgons. Walter uses the "Reprogram" card to get the self-repairing robot to attack the Zorgons, and the aliens retreat.

Walter receives another wish card; he uses it to bring back the astronaut's brother, who is doppelgänger of Danny. The astronaut reveals he is an older version of Walter whose role is to help the siblings finish the game based on his childhood memories. Danny and Walter interact with their counterparts, creating a temporal paradox that erases them from existence as the future changes.

The Zorgons return to the house with a large fleet, intending on destroying it. Danny makes a final move to land on Zathura and wins, creating a black hole that sucks up the Zorgon fleet and the house. The siblings awaken in the house as it was before the brothers started the game, just as their father arrives home. After they leave with their mother, Danny's bicycle, which had been orbiting their house, falls from the sky.



Director Jon Favreau preferred to use practical effects instead of Computer generated imagery (CGI) in the film. He said, "it's so fun to actually shoot real spaceships or have a real robot running around on the set, or real Zorgons built by Stan Winston. It gives the actors, especially young actors, so much to work off of".[4] Dax Shepard, who plays the astronaut, said he would not have been interested in doing the film if the effects had been CGI-based.[5] Actor Kristen Stewart enjoyed the on-set effects, saying, "When we harpooned walls and ripped them out, we were really doing it. When there was a fire on set, there was really fire," and that "The only green screen I was ever involved with was for getting sucked out into the black hole."[6]

Miniature models were used to create the spaceships; Favreau enjoyed using techniques used in many earlier films, such as the original Star Wars trilogy.[7] in some shots the Zorgon ships were computer-generated, and in many of the scenes digital effects were used to create, for example, meteors and planets, and limbs for the robot suit built by Stan Winston Studios. CGI was also used to augment the Zorgon suits (which were constructed so that the head came out of the front of the suit where the actor's chest was and the actor wore a blue screen hood over his own head), and to create an entirely computer-generated Zorgon for one scene.[8] According to Pete Travers, Visual Effects Supervisor on the film for Sony Pictures Imageworks, retaining the stylized "1950s sci-fi look" from Van Allsburg's book "was a very important aspect of the effects".[9]

Favreau discouraged the notion that the film is a sequel to the earlier Jumanji, having not particularly liked that film. Both he and author Chris Van Allsburg—who also wrote the book of the same name upon which Jumanji is based—stated Zathura is very different from Jumanji.[10]

The soundtrack to the film is an original score by John Debney and is available on CD.[11]


The studio marketed the release of Zathura in an attempt to generate word of mouth with tie-ins, including an episode of The Apprentice. It was one of the last major films to be released on VHS.

Critical reception

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics; as of January 2018 it has a 75% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on review-aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[12] Stephen Holden of The New York Times said Zathura richly gratifies the fantasy of children; "not just to play a board game, but to project themselves into its world".[13] Desson Thomson of The Washington Post wrote that Zathura has "an appealing, childlike sense of wonder".[14]

The connection to Jumanji may have been a double-edged sword with critics and audiences, with one observer referring to it as "Jumanji in space without Robin Williams".[15]

Box office

Despite generally positive reviews, Zathura was considered a flop, grossing $13,427,872 in its opening weekend; far behind Disney's Chicken Little, which opened the same weekend. The film lost 62% of its audience the following weekend, in part due to the opening of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Zathura ended its theatrical run with a gross of $29,258,869,[2], which was less than half its $65 million budget. The international box office total was $35,062,632, bringing its worldwide gross to $64,321,501 and nearly recouping its budget.[2]

Related media

A board game that sought to mimic the film's eponymous game was released by Pressman Toy Corporation. Titled Zathura: Adventure is Waiting, the game incorporated a spring-driven, clockwork card delivery mechanism, an astronaut, the Zorgons, the haywire robot and the disintegrating house in various ways.[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Zathura: A Space Adventure". Retrieved December 25, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Zathura (2005)". Box Office Mojo. December 31, 2005. 
  3. ^ Van Allsburg, Chris (November 2002). Zathura : a space adventure. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-618-25396-8. 
  4. ^ Murray, Rebecca. "Interview with "Zathura" Director Jon Favreau: Jon Favreau on the Practical Effects in "Zathura" and His Young Stars". Archived from the original on December 27, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2008. 
  5. ^ Murray, Rebecca. "Dax Shepard Discusses "Zathura": Interview with Dax Shepard at the LA Premiere of "Zathura"". Archived from the original on October 10, 2008. Retrieved July 19, 2008. 
  6. ^ Barker, Lynn (November 8, 2005). "Kristen Stewart: Zathura". TeenHollywood. II Inc. Retrieved July 20, 2008. 
  7. ^ Szymanski, Mike. "Interview: Jon Favreau and company get board with space exploration in Chris Van Allsburg's Zathura". Science Fiction Weekly. Archived from the original on June 17, 2008. Retrieved July 19, 2008. 
  8. ^ Robertson, Barbara (November 2005). "The Game's Afoot: Digital effects help shift time and space in the movie Zathura". Computer Graphics World. 25: 18–23. 
  9. ^ Wolff, Ellen (November 11, 2005). "Imageworks Goes Retro Sci-Fi With Zathura". VFXWorld. AWN, Inc. Retrieved July 20, 2008. 
  10. ^ Whipp, Glenn (November 12, 2005). "'Zathura' creators shun sequel 'Jumanji' label". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Union-Tribune Publishing Co. Retrieved July 21, 2008. 
  11. ^ Soundtrack info
  12. ^ "Zathura (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 30, 2009. 
  13. ^ "From Suburbia and Stranded Somewhere Near Saturn". New York Times. November 11, 2005. 
  14. ^ "'Zathura' Plays Well on the Big Screen". Washington Post. November 11, 2005. 
  15. ^ "Black Hole Fun". Luke Baumgarten, Pacific Northwest Inlander. 
  16. ^ "Zathura: Adventure is Waiting". Board Game Geeks. Retrieved July 3, 2013. 

External links