Zathura (film)


Australian 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 dates
  • November 11, 2005 (2005-11-11)


Running time
113 minutes
102 minutes (DVD cut)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $65 million
Box office $64.3 million[2]

Zathura: A Space Adventure (or just Zathura) is a 2005 American science fantasy adventure film directed by Jon Favreau, and is 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 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 does not mention any Jumanji events. The film was however marketed as a spiritual sequel with varying statements of the tagline, "A new adventure from the world of Jumanji". Despite positive reviews from critics, Zathura was a box office disappointment.


Brothers Walter (Josh Hutcherson) and Danny (Jonah Bobo) can never seem to get along with each other, or with their older teen-aged sister, Lisa (Kristen Stewart). While staying at their divorced father's home while he is away at work and Lisa is asleep, the boys discover an old clockwork-driven space-themed board game called "Zathura" in the basement. The two begin to play the game, the goal to be the first to reach the final space named Zathura. During each turn, the game provides a card with instructions, but the two quickly realize the cards affect reality, starting with a meteor shower. They soon discover the house is floating on a small rock alongside Saturn. Meanwhile, Lisa looks out the window, and believing it is merely dark, goes to shower for her date. When the boys try to warn Lisa about what has happened, they find she is frozen in cryonic sleep as a result of one of the cards. The brothers realize that the only way to end the game and hopefully return to Earth is to reach the end space of Zathura.

As they continue to play, Walter and Danny avoid the dangers that the game's cards throw at them like a defective robot (Frank Oz) and the house coming under attack by a race of reptilian aliens called Zorgons. Another card brings aboard a stranded astronaut (Dax Shepard) who goes about eliminating the house's heat sources (during which Walter turns down the house's heating thermostat) and setting a couch on fire and pushing it outside into space to lure the Zorgons' ship away with its heat signature (since Zorgons are attracted to heat).

As the brothers' tension rises, Walter accuses Danny of cheating by moving a piece prematurely, but when Walter tries to correct it, the game reacts as if Walter was cheating and ejects him out of the house into the vacuum of space, but the Astronaut rescues him. On Walter's next turn, he receives a card that allows him to make a wish, and considers making a wish to make Danny go away. The Astronaut quickly warns him that he and his own brother had played the game years before, and he too had received the same card. He wished his brother away, but this caused him to be stuck in the game forever without a second player. The brothers agree to work together to finish the game quickly.

Lisa wakes from her stasis, and unaware of the current events, turns up the thermostat. This causes the Zorgons to return, anchoring their ships to the house. The four evacuate to the upper floor but realize they have left the game downstairs. Lisa falls in love with the Astronaut. Danny uses the house's dumbwaiter to sneak past the aliens and retrieve the game. Danny manages to get the game aboard one of the ships, but is caught by the Zorgons when he attempts to get back on the dumbwaiter. Walter uses the "Reprogram" card to get the self-repairing robot to attack the Zorgons, and the aliens retreat. As the brothers continue to play the game, Walter receives another wish card. He uses it to bring back the Astronaut's brother, which turns out to be Danny. The Astronaut explains he is an older Walter from an alternate timeline. Danny and Walter touch their counterparts causing them to disappear.

The Zorgons return to the house with a large fleet intent on destroying it. Danny makes a final move to land on Zathura. It is revealed that Zathura is a giant black hole that sucks up the Zorgon fleet and the house.

The three children then find themselves in the house as it was before they started the game on Earth, just as their father arrives home and their mother comes to pick them up. After they leave, their bicycle, which had been orbiting their house when it was in space, falls from the sky.



Director Jon Favreau preferred to use practical effects instead of CGI in the film. "'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," he said.[4] Dax Shepard, who plays the astronaut in the film, said that he would not have been interested in doing the film if the effects had been "CGI based".[5] Actress Kristen Stewart enjoyed the on-set effects, saying that, "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, and Favreau enjoyed going back to techniques used in many earlier films such as the original Star Wars trilogy.[7] However, in some shots the Zorgon ships were computer-generated, and digital effects were used in many other shots, such as to create meteors and planets, to add computer-generated legs and arms to the robot suit built by Stan Winston Studios, to digitally 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 shot.[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 that 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 hyped the release of Zathura in an attempt to generate word of mouth, with tie-ins including an episode of The Apprentice showcasing its family appeal. It was one of the last major films to be released on VHS.

Critical reception

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics; it currently holds a 75% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on 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]

Box office

Despite its reviews, the movie was considered a flop due to its $13,427,872 opening weekend gross, ranking only No. 2 for the weekend, far behind Disney's Chicken Little. Even worse, it lost 62% of its audience the next weekend, due to the significant opening of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It ended up grossing just $29,258,869,[2] less than half of its $65 million budget. The international box office total was $35,062,632, for a total of $64,321,501 worldwide, just under the film's budget.[2]

The plot's similarities with Jumanji may have been its undoing, with one observer referring to it as "Jumanji in space without Robin Williams".[15]

A board game was released by Pressman Toy Corporation that replicated as much as possible the gameplay of the game in the movie. Titled Zathura: Adventure is Waiting, the game incorporated the spring-driven clockwork card delivery mechanism, the astronaut, the Zorgons, the haywire robot, and the disintegrating house in various ways.[16]


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Zathura: A Space Adventure". Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 "Zathura". Box Office Mojo. 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". Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  5. Murray, Rebecca. "Dax Shepard Discusses "Zathura": Interview with Dax Shepard at the LA Premiere of "Zathura"". 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.
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