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 Jumanji. Unlike the book, the film contains no direct connection to Jumanji, though it was marketed as taking place within the same fictional universe as the 1995 film. It is considered 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 byJon Favreau
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onZathura
by Chris Van Allsburg
Music byJohn Debney
CinematographyGuillermo Navarro
Edited byDan Lebental
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • November 11, 2005 (2005-11-11) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$65 million
Box office$64.3 million[1]

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.[2] It received positive reviews from critics and was a box-office bomb, grossing $64.3 million worldwide against a production budget of $65 million.


Walter and his younger brother Danny do not get along with each other or with their cantankerous older 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. He convinces Walter to play the game with him, the goal of which is to become the first player to reach the final space on the board. Each turn, a player turns a key and presses a button, causing the board to move the player's piece a random number of spaces and spit out an event card. When Danny's first turn causes a meteor shower inside the living room, Walter and Danny realize playing the game has altered reality.

The boys discover their father's house is floating in space. Lisa, unaware of the situation, wakes up and begins preparing for her date that evening, but is frozen stiff when another card turns the bathroom into a cryonic chamber. Walter concludes the only way to end the game and return everything to normal is to win the game. As they continue to play, Walter and Danny must overcome the dangers presented by the game cards, including the appearance of a defective robot, passing too close to a Sun-like planet and an attack on the house by a race of reptilian aliens called Zorgons. Another of Danny's turns produces an astronaut, who methodically eliminates the house's heat sources. 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 asks 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 into the vacuum of space, but the astronaut retrieves him. On Walter's next turn, he receives a card that allows him to make a wish resulting in another falling out between the boys. The astronaut warns Walter not to make a wish out of anger. Fearing the worst, he is relieved to discover that Walter wished merely for an autographed football. He explains that he and his brother had played the game fifteen years before, and he wished his brother had never existed, causing him to be stuck in the game without a 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 upstairs, but realize they left the game behind. The astronaut uses the house's dumbwaiter to lower Danny to retrieve the game. Danny finds the game aboard one of the Zorgon ships, but is seen by the Zorgons. Walter uses a "Reprogram" card he drew earlier to fix the malfunctioning robot, who attacks the Zorgons instead, and the aliens 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 doppelgänger of Danny to appear. The astronaut reveals he is actually Walter, and commends his younger self for making a better choice than he did fifteen years ago of his timeline, and the astronaut and the alternate Danny merge with their counterparts as the future changes.

The Zorgons return to the house with a large fleet, intent on destroying it. Danny makes a final move, landing 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. Their bond renewed, they promise to each other to not tell anyone about the game and their adventure. 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".[3] Dax Shepard, who plays the astronaut, said he would not have been interested in doing the film if the effects had been CGI-based.[4] 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."[5]

Miniature models were used to create the spaceships; Favreau enjoyed using techniques used in many earlier films, such as the original Star Wars trilogy.[6] 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.[7] 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".[8]


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.[9] However, the film was marked by the studio as taking place within the same fictional universe, and is considered as the second installment of the Jumanji franchise.[10][11]

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. It's one of the last major films released on VHS.[citation needed]

Critical reception

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 75% based on 159 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 'rents = cinematic satisfaction for the whole family."[12] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 67 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[13]

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".[14] Desson Thomson of The Washington Post wrote that Zathura has "an appealing, childlike sense of wonder".[15]

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".[16]

Box office

Despite generally positive reviews, Zathura: A Space Adventure was considered a flop, grossing $13,427,872 in its opening 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,[1] 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.[1]

Video game

A video-game tie-in was released on November 3, 2005, developed by High Voltage Software and published by 2K Games for PlayStation 2 and Xbox.[17]

Board game

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.[18]


  1. ^ a b c "Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)". Box Office Mojo. December 31, 2005.
  2. ^ Van Allsburg, Chris (November 2002). Zathura : a space adventure. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-618-25396-8.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Barker, Lynn (November 8, 2005). "Kristen Stewart: Zathura". TeenHollywood. II Inc. Retrieved July 20, 2008.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Wolff, Ellen (November 11, 2005). "Imageworks Goes Retro Sci-Fi With Zathura". VFXWorld. AWN, Inc. Retrieved July 20, 2008.
  9. ^ Whipp, Glenn (November 12, 2005). "'Zathura' creators shun sequel 'Jumanji' label". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Union-Tribune Publishing Co. Archived from the original on January 3, 2018. Retrieved July 21, 2008.
  10. ^ @Fandom (February 24, 2019). "Jack Black says the next Jumanji film is actually the 4th in the series – 'You forgot about the one in space ... 'Zathura 🚀👾" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  11. ^ Miguel Acebedo, Bayani (December 11, 2019). "Jack Black Believes Jon Favreau's Zathura is the 'Real' Jumanji 2". Epic Stream. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  12. ^ "Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 30, 2009.
  13. ^ "Zathura: A Space Adventure Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  14. ^ "From Suburbia and Stranded Somewhere Near Saturn". New York Times. November 11, 2005.
  15. ^ "'Zathura' Plays Well on the Big Screen". Washington Post. November 11, 2005.
  16. ^ "Black Hole Fun". Luke Baumgarten, Pacific Northwest Inlander.
  17. ^ "2K Games Announces Zathura Now Available". GameZone. May 4, 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  18. ^ "Zathura: Adventure is Waiting". Board Game Geeks. Retrieved July 3, 2013.

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