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Zathura (film)

Posted by Mahendra blog Saturday, January 1, 2011

Zathura (film)

Zathura: A Space Adventure (or just simply called Zathura) is a 2005 fantasy science fiction film directed by Jon Favreau, based on the illustrated book Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg, author of Jumanji. It starred Jonah Bobo as Danny and Josh Hutcherson as Walter. Tim Robbins also had a small role as the divorced father of Walter and Danny. In the film two boys discover a space–themed mechanical clockwork board game of race game type in the house's basement; it represents space travel, and in the game Zathura is the name of the place that the players must try to reach. When the game is running, everything inside it becomes real when they play. The film was released on November 11, 2005 by Columbia Pictures. It was shot in Los Angeles and Culver City, California. The film features a sister named Lisa; introduced a lost astronaut to the plot; and a large number of Zorgons and Zorgon ships.[1] Unlike the Zathura book, it contains no Jumanji material and does not mention any Jumanji events.


Walter and Danny are two boys who cannot get along with each other or with their older sister Lisa. One day, when their father sets off for work, they quarrel yet again while Lisa is in her bedroom upstairs. Walter has a pair of small walkie-talkies. Danny damages one of them; Walter accuses him again of wrecking everything.

Danny gets banished into the house's basement, but discovers a clockwork-driven space-themed board game called Zathura. It is a race game, and the objective is to reach a space location called Zathura. At each turn, one of its two markers moves along or back on its track, and the game issues a card (all of which read primarily by Walter, due to Danny's inability to read). The boys start playing the game. On looking out, one of them sees that it has become night outside, and that the house is no longer on earth but on a small rock floating in space. Some sort of power source is keeping the house supplied with water and gas and electricity, and is holding an envelope of air around it. They soon find that when the game says that something is happening, it happens in reality in or around the house. Also, according to the instructions, the house will not return to Earth until the game is finished. During the course of the story, the boys must overcome their personal ill will toward one another in order to survive.

One of these cards says "Shipmate enters cryonic sleep chamber for 5 turns."; the boys investigating find the house's bathroom frozen to far below freezing point and in it Lisa frozen rigid hard. Another card announces a meteor shower, and the house is destructively bombarded by many small fast-flying objects. Another card drawn says "reprogram"; they see no immediate use for it.

Another card says "Your robot is defective.": a robot appears, first as a small wind-up metal toy, but it quickly becomes real and life-size. It is supposed to defend the players, but as it is malfunctioning it misidentifies Walter as an alien life form and begins rampaging through the house to catch him (its line of directive being, "Emergency. Alien life form. Must destroy.") Finally it runs into a wall where its arms are trapped. Another card says "Shooting star, make a wish as it passes.": a large bright object rushes past. Walter struggles mentally with himself about what to wish, but finally wishes for an oval football with a famous player's signature on it: it appears, but is of no immediate use.

Another card says "Rescue stranded astronaut"; an astronaut appears at the house's door, and manages to enter. He was flying loose in space with a rocket pack and a life-support backpack. He says that he and his brother had been playing the game, and he had got trapped as a character in the game's world as a result of using a wishing card during a quarrel to wish that his brother had never been born; that caused his brother to disappear, leaving him unable to escape the game as it was no longer his turn and the game could not advance without another player. He stops Walter from making the same mistake. While trapped in the game he had grown from boy to man and came through a time hole to be with them. He needs a means of two-way communication at a distance with the boys; Walter shows him the walkie-talkies and complains that they are no use because Danny clumsily broke one of them; but the astronaut quickly and easily mends it.

Sometime midway through the game, Walter notices Danny has illegally moved his piece forward, and forcibly moves it back while berating Danny. The game interprets only Walter's action as cheating and the game punishes him by getting him sucked out into space, but the astronaut flies after him with his spacesuit's propulsor and rescues him. Accompanying Danny, Walter, and the astronaut is Lisa, who, while not a player, is as vulnerable to the dangers present in the game. After she comes out of stasis, she develops a crush on the astronaut.

The main villains in the film are the Zorgons: cyborg lizard-men who are fond of heat and are attracted to a heat source much like bees are attracted to nectar, because they are cold-blooded. The Zorgons, having burned their own planet to get more heat, are nomads who travel through space seeking more to burn. They keep a flock of four-eyed goats on their ship, presumably as food. Advised by the astronaut, Walter and Danny switch off all power-using devices in the house, losing its heat signature. The astronaut sets a sofa on fire and throws it out into space; the Zorgon ships follow it away.

By now Lisa has come out of her cryonic stasis. The boys and the astronaut do not see her switching the gas on to heat water for a bath, and the resulting heat and light draws Zorgon ships back. The Zorgons shoot at the house, damaging it more, and anchor to it with grapples, and suck the game into their ship along with much miscellaneous house debris, which they shovel into their ship's engine in order to use them as fuel. The astronaut tries to rescue the game but cannot. Danny gets past the Zorgons to the basement unseen by a dumb waiter, which only he is small enough to fit into, and riskily through a boarding passage into the Zorgon ship. He rescues the game at the last moment before it would have been shoveled into a furnace, and gets back into the house with it.

The robot comes back and tries to attack the boys. Walter uses the "Reprogram" card (which he had drawn earlier) on the robot, which then instead attacks the Zorgons. Of two Zorgon spaceships, one flees, and another explodes. One Zorgon survives the robot's kamikaze attack and sneaks up behind Walter and Danny as they are wondering where Lisa is. Before the Zorgon can kill them, Lisa crushes and kills it by shoving Danny's piano down on it.

Walter, drawing another "Shooting star, make a wish as it passes" card due to getting to repeat his last turn, wishes that the astronaut had his brother back. A copy of Danny appears. The astronaut apologizes to Danny, who is his brother. It is revealed that the astronaut and his brother are Walter and Danny from an alternate time line which started when Walter at the first wish card wished otherwise: "I wish my brother had never been born", which was stopped this time due to the astronaut's intervention. The astronaut's brother disintegrates into sparks which enter Danny when the two touch. The astronaut thanks Walter and tells him to take care of Danny, then touches him and turns into a copy of Walter, which smiles at him and disintegrates into sparks which enter Walter. Thus the two time lines merge, and the future caused by Walter wishing Danny away is erased. Lisa is alarmed to find that she had fallen for an older version of her brother Walter.

In the last throw of the game, Zorgons return with a large fleet, and start blasting the house. Danny scores a move which brings his marker to Zathura, and the Zorgons stop firing. The house goes to a black hole, which sucks up the Zorgons and the house and Lisa and Walter. Moments later, the humans are on Earth in the house, whose structure and furnishings are as they were before the game began and in perfect condition; Danny and Walter realize the whole adventure never happened due to time reversing. The Zathura game is in the house, switched off at the second before Danny started playing. The brothers are thereafter much more cooperative with one another with Walter teaching Danny how to play catch. The boys, and Lisa, keep their memories of the game's events, but all agree never to speak of Zathura again, although Walter makes fun of Lisa for her crush on his other self.

As the two boys get in the car with Lisa and drive away, one of their bicycles, which drifted off into space and can be seen in certain parts of the film, falls back onto the house's lawn.



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.[2] 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".[3] 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."[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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".[7]

Jon Favreau discouraged the notion that the film is a sequel to the earlier film Jumanji, having not particularly liked that film. Both he and 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.[8]

The soundtrack to the film is an original score by John Debney and is available on CD.[9]


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. The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. It currently garners a 76% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[10] but was considered a flop because of its $13,427,872 opening weekend gross, ranking only #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, 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, still not enough to recover the film's budget. The plot's similarities with Jumanji proved to be its undoing, with one observer referring to it as "Jumanji in space without Robin Williams".[11]


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