Zathura: A Space Adventure
Zathura: A Space Adventure (also known simply as Zathura) is a 2005 American science fiction adventure film directed by Jon Favreau. It is an adaptation of the 2002 children's book Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg, author of the 1981 children's book Jumanji. It is a standalone spin-off of the 1995 film Jumanji and the second installment of the Jumanji franchise. The film stars Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart, and Tim Robbins.
|Zathura: A Space Adventure|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jon Favreau|
by Chris Van Allsburg
|Music by||John Debney|
|Edited by||Dan Lebental|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$65.1 million|
The story is about two brothers, Walter and Danny Budwing (portrayed by Hutcherson and Bobo respectively), who find a mysterious board game in the basement, which transports their house into outer space. Along with their older sister Lisa (Stewart) and an astronaut (Shepard), they try to survive 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 in the United States. Unlike Jumanji, which was distributed by TriStar Pictures, the film was distributed by Columbia Pictures. It received positive reviews from critics, but was not commercially successful, grossing $65.1 million worldwide against a production budget of $65 million.
Walter and Danny Budwing are two brothers who do not get along with each other or with their teenage sister, Lisa. While their divorced father is away at work and Lisa, whom he left in charge, is napping, Danny discovers an old space-themed board game called Zathura in the basement. When he starts playing, the game produces a card that summons a meteor shower inside the living room. Walter and Danny realize playing the game affects reality.
The boys discover the house is floating in space. Lisa, thinks she has overslept and it is evening and prepares to go out. The next card puts her in cryonic sleep, leaving her frozen solid. Walter concludes they must win the game to return everything to normal. As they continue to play, Walter and Danny overcome the dangers presented by the game cards, including the appearance of a defective robot, passing too close to a star, and an attack on the house by a race of reptilian aliens called Zorgons. One of Danny's turns produces an astronaut, who methodically eliminates the house's heat sources, as Zorgons are attracted to heat. He tells Walter to blow out the pilot light on the furnace, but Walter does not blow it out, out of fear of getting attacked by the robot. The astronaut lures the Zorgons' ship away by ejecting the boys' father's couch after setting it on fire.
Walter demands the astronaut to leave, but Danny chooses to let him stay. Growing increasingly agitated, Walter accuses Danny of cheating by supposedly moving his piece prematurely; when Walter tries to move the piece back and takes his next turn, the game reacts as if Walter was cheating and ejects him from the house, but the astronaut rescues him. On Walter's next turn, he receives a card that brings a shooting star that allows him to make a wish resulting in another falling out between the boys. Fearing the worst, the astronaut is relieved to discover that Walter wished merely for an autographed football. He explains his origins, saying that he and his brother had played the game fifteen years before, and after an escalating fight, he wished his brother was never born, resulting in him being unable to finish the game without the now nonexistent second player.
Lisa awakens from her stasis and, still oblivious to the situation, turns up the heat. This causes the Zorgons to return and anchor their ships to the house. Lisa finally discovers their predicament, and the four hide, but realize that they left the game behind. Danny finds the game aboard one of the Zorgon ships, but is spotted. Walter uses a "Reprogram" card he drew earlier to fix the robot, who attacks the Zorgons instead, causing them to retreat.
Walter receives another wish card; he uses it to bring back the astronaut's brother in gratitude of his help and support, causing a double of Danny to appear. The astronaut reveals he is actually an older version of Walter from an alternate universe, and commends his younger self for making a better choice than he did in his timeline, and the astronaut and the alternate Danny merge with their counterparts as the future changes.
A fleet of Zorgons return to attack the house. When Danny makes the winning move, it is revealed that Zathura is a black hole, which proceeds to suck up the Zorgons' fleet and the house. The siblings reawaken in the house as it was before the brothers started the game, just as their father arrives home. Their bond renewed, they promise to each other and to Lisa to not tell anyone about the game and their adventure. After they leave with their mother, Walter's bicycle, which had been orbiting their house, falls from the sky.
- Josh Hutcherson as Walter
- Jonah Bobo as Danny
- Dax Shepard as Astronaut
- Kristen Stewart as Lisa
- Tim Robbins as Dad
- Frank Oz as the voice of Robot
Director Jon Favreau acknowledged the influence of other films saying Zathura had some bits like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Battle Beyond the Stars, and Superman. Favreau was aware of Dax Shepard from the TV series Punk'd but was convinced to cast him because Mike Judge put him in Idiocracy and because of his background in improvisation with The Groundlings that Will Ferrell had also come out of.
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". Dax Shepard, who plays the astronaut, said he would not have been interested in doing the film if the effects had been CGI-based. 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 "[t]he only green screen I was ever involved with was for getting sucked out into the black hole." The exteriors for the house were filmed at Oaklawn Avenue, South Pasadena.
Miniature models were used to create the spaceships; Favreau enjoyed using techniques used in many earlier films, such as the original Star Wars trilogy. 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 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. A full life size frozen model of Kristen Stewart was also made by Stan Winston Studios, she described the process of modeling and being scanned to make it as arduous, it included details down to the freckles on her arm, and called the result an incredible experience, comparing it to having a twin. Real goats were used and extra eyes were later added using CGI. According to visual effects supervisor Pete Travers, from Sony Pictures Imageworks, it "was a very important aspect of the effects" to retain the stylized "1950s sci-fi look" from Van Allsburg's book, and was inspired by the Pointillism style artwork.
Favreau says the most complicated shot in the film was when the house was caught by the gravity of Tsouris 3. The stage was mounted on top of a gimbal 30 to 40 feet (9.1 to 12.2 m) off the ground, and the gimbal allowed the set to be tilted close to 40 degrees. All the cast and crew had to be safely secured with cables and harnesses. Favreau called it "an overwhelming experience".
Favreau discouraged the notion that the film is a sequel to the 1995 film Jumanji, having not particularly liked the 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. The film was marketed by the studio as taking place within the same fictional universe, and series actor Jack Black considers it the second installment of the Jumanji franchise. Author Chris Van Allsburg attributed the lack of box office success to marketing and timing.
The studio marketed the release of the film in an attempt to generate word of mouth with tie-ins, including an episode of The Apprentice. Favreau appeared as a guest judge, the show's two teams were assigned the task of designing and building a float to publicize the film. Favreau attended Comic Con for the first time to promote the film.
With its $65 million budget, Zathura: A Space Adventure was considered a flop, grossing $13,427,872 in its opening weekend, while holdover the Disney's animated film, Chicken Little earned more than twice as much that 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. The international box office total was $35,820,235, bringing its total worldwide gross to $65,079,104.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 76% based on 161 reviews, and an average rating of 6.54/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Dazzling special effects for the kids + well-crafted storytelling for the [parents] = cinematic satisfaction for the whole family." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 67 out of 100, based on reviews from 30 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3 out of 4 stars, praised Favreau, and wrote: "Zathura lacks the undercurrents of archetypal menace and genuine emotion [...] but it works gloriously as space opera." Justin Chang of Variety magazine said it was "arguably the best adaptation of a Chris Van Allsburg book to date" and praised "Favreau's amiably low-key sense of humor and assured handling of well-trod emotional territory." John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter called it a "rare beast -- a family film that even childless adults can enjoy", and praised the performances both from child actors and from Dax Shepard. 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". Desson Thomson of The Washington Post wrote that Zathura has "an appealing, childlike sense of wonder".
The connection to Jumanji may have been a disadvantage, with critics such as Luke Baumgarten for the Inlander, referring to it as "Jumanji in space without Robin Williams".
Zathura was nominated for two Saturn Awards, for Best Fantasy Film, and Josh Hutcherson for Best Performance by a Younger Actor.
At the Hollywood Film Awards Avy Kaufman won the award for Casting Director of the Year, for her work on Capote, Brokeback Mountain, Get Rich or Die Tryin', Syriana, and Zathura. At Young Artist Awards Josh Hutcherson won in the category "Best Performance in a Feature Film (Comedy or Drama)" by a Leading Young Actor, and Jonah Bobo was nominated in the category "Best Performance in a Feature Film" by a Young Actor Age Ten or Younger.
In a 2018 review for Den of Geek, Tim George called it "a terrific movie worthy of reappraisal" praising the witty, efficient script, sense of directorial whimsy, and focus on character over special effects.
Favreau said the film wasn't released so much as it "escaped". He further described the experience: "After the highs of the success of Elf, Zathura was sobering and, though it was well-received by the critics and I learned a tremendous amount about visual effects, the grim reality of the movie business hit me like a bucket of cold water."
Jack Black expressed interest in the possibility of the franchise returning to space. Hiram Garcia producer of the rebooted Jumanji franchise said the game contained multiple universes and that the Bazaar introduced in the 2017 film was added to be a central hub for a larger game universe that the core characters would not know about, and that it could even go into space.
The film is based on the illustrated children's book Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg and to tie-in with the film several other books were released including a novelization Zathura: The Movie – Junior Novel as well as several other activity and play books.
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.
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Zathura is somewhat of a sequel to Jumanji.
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despite a direct hit from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire next weekend.
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had the same target audience as Harry Potter but didn't gain enough traction in its first weekend to withstand the wizard's blow.
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Basically "Jumanji" in outer space -- and even without Robin Williams...
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Jumanji in space, but not as good.
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