Film / Zathura

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Zathura_8653.jpeg
Working Title: Jumanji in Space.

Zathura (the book version) is the sequel to Jumanji (the book version). It was written by Chris Van Allsburg in 2002 and adapted into a fantasy film directed by Jon Favreau in 2005.

The story picks up where the previous one left off: two boys discover the Jumanji board game where it was hidden and take it home. However, Danny, the younger of the pair, discovers another game also hidden inside the box: the sci-fi-based Zathura. Despite their ongoing rivalry, Walter and Danny find they must work together if they're ever going to beat the game and get back home.

Note that while Zathura (the book version) is a literal sequel to Jumanji (the book version), the film is a Spiritual Successor to the Jumanji movie.

Much like its predecessor, the film heaped on plenty of details that weren't in the original 32-pager, such as adding Lisa, Walter and Danny's older sister, and a mysterious astronaut who becomes a gruff mentor to the boys. It's also worth noting that, excluding voice actors or people wearing alien costumes which cover their whole bodies, the film has a cast of exactly five, one of whom's total time makes up about ten minutes at the most, and another who is in cryogenic stasis for about half of the film. There are no extras, crowd shots, or other group scenes, and the movie takes place almost entirely in a single house.

This film provides examples of:

  • Brick Joke: In every shot of the house floating through space, a bicycle is seen orbiting the house. In the final shot of the film, the bike crashes back into the front yard after everyone leaves.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Lisa develops a crush on the hunky astronaut, who turns out to be an older version of one of her brothers. Once she learns this, she is, understandably, squicked out.
  • Cain and Abel: Walter in another timeline actually wished his brother out of existence. He was unable to complete the game without the other player and ended up wandering the cosmos to look for a way to undo his mistake. He wises up the second time though with a little help from his future self.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": "It's just a goat..." Except it has four eyes on stalks.
  • Cassandra Truth: The boys try to tell Lisa what is happening but she quickly brushes them off. Their dad also isn't any better about believing them. It doesn't help that whenever Walter and Danny try to explain anything, they both babble rapidly and simultaneously so that it's hard to understand them in the first place.
  • Cerberus Syndrome: It was already dark in the beginning with soured relationships, but it just gets worse when the Zorgons come in.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Reprogram card seems useless at first, but when the robot reappears, it's used to effect a Heel–Face Turn, because A.I. Is a Crapshoot.
    • The dumbwaiter, which they use to sneak past the aliens and get the game in the cellar.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Danny appears to be the main character—much of the film focuses on his perspective, not to mention it's Danny who first starts the game. Turns out Walter/the Astronaut's actions have far more impact than Danny's.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Not as bad as Jumanji, but if you get a card, you better get ready to run.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The game really only lasts for three hours or less.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Astronaut, like Walter, has a Fleet Admiral card, indicating that he's played the game before. It's not just the same type of card, it's the very same card, because the Astronaut is Walter.
    • When after insisting on allowing the astronaut to stay against his wishes, Walter asks Danny, "Whose brother are you, his or mine?" The correct answer is both.
    • "Someday you're gonna be really happy I got you that piano." Quite true, but that's because the piano is shoved down the stairs and crushes a Zorgon.
    • The astronaut mentions that he passed through time to get here. It's treated as a joke, until you realize that the astronaut is Walter.
    • The first time we see the astronaut, Walter's face is reflected in his helmet.
  • From Bad to Worse: Getting thrown into space is one thing, but then comes falling meteorites, a deadly robot, a gravitational field pulling the house towards the sun, Zorgons that want to eat the players and comes in swarms, and finally, a black hole that sucks in their whole house with them inside.
  • The Game Plays You: The Movie!
  • The Game Come to Life: See above.
  • Glass Smack and Slide: At the conclusion of the scene where the house passes through the gravity well of a star, Danny is being pulled towards a window and hanging onto a light fixture. Just as they're leaving the well he loses his grip and looks like he's going to crash right through the window, he smacks flat against it instead.
  • Harmless Freezing: Lisa gets frozen pretty early on for five turns, and once those turns are up she unfreezes without any problem, not even noticing that she had been frozen.
  • Hide Your Children: Painfully averted, to the point where one of the children has to board the spaceship of a fleet of dangerous lizardmen just so they can continue playing the game to survive.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The robot after it is reprogrammed.
  • I Hate Past Me: The astronaut is noticeably a lot harder on Walter than he is on Danny. At first it seems because this is simply due to Danny "rolling" him out of the game, but it's actually because the astronaut is a time-looped older version of Walter, who in his timeline wished his brother out of existence in anger after an argument and regretted it ever since. After years of reflection—and the fact that he can't continue the game since it was Danny's turn after he made the wish—he's more than a little resentful towards his past self's brotherly callousness, but ends up being very proud that the current Walter learned his lesson where he did not.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The film makes Walter out to be rather bullying and demanding towards the younger Danny. The astronaut also has his jerky moments, but has the benefit of experience. The Astronaut is notably only really a jerk towards Walter.
  • Kill It with Fire: Wanting heat, the Zorgons eventually burned their entire planet.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Lisa invokes this trope at the end.
  • Luck-Based Mission: To get home, you must complete the game by spins.
  • Minimalist Cast: Five main characters—Walter, Danny, The Astronaut, Lisa, and Dad. Technically, four main characters, since Walter and The Astronaut are the same person. And a few guys in alien costumes. That's pretty minimal.
  • Mundane Wish: The game has a card called Shooting Star, which grants a wish. When Walter gets one of these cards and has to come up with a wish fast, he panics and wishes for a signed football.
    Astronaut: You wished for a football?
    Walter: Signed by Brett Farve.
  • No Fair Cheating: Try moving a piece backwards or forwards to cheat? Out the airlock you go!
  • Parents as People: The kids' father doesn't do half bad for a divorced dad. There's just literally not enough of him to go around when both his sons are demanding his exclusive attention and he has to work on a Saturday.
  • Point of No Return: As soon as you start playing the game, you aren’t allowed to stop until the game is finished. This turns out to be the reason why the astronaut is eternally lost in space.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The original book was a direct sequel to Jumanji, set immediately after Judy and Peter got rid of the game (both games were in the same box; Judy and Peter simply didn't realize this, while Danny did and thought Zathura looked cooler). Since Jumanji's film adaptation came out in 1995, and Zathura's 2005, this had to be done.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Walter steals Danny's thunder by leaping in front of a softball he was about to catch.
    Danny: You're such a dick!
  • Raygun Gothic: The eponymous board game is full of it. Retro Rockets, Reptilians, robots and astronauts with jet packs, etc.
  • The Reptilians: The Zorgons are large raptor-esque lizard aliens.
  • Reset Button: Actually a pretty scary method of resetting, in fact; the titular Zathura is a black hole.
  • Retro Rocket: The Zorgons fly in them, and the players' game pieces are small red and blue rockets on a track.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The second time you watch the movie, you'll realize that the astronaut being Walter is foreshadowed all throughout the film.
  • The Reveal:
    • The astronaut is a former player—in fact, he's actually Walter, who wished away Danny only to find he couldn't complete the game without him.
    • Zathura is actually a Black Hole.
  • Running Gag: Walter says something won’t work and it ends up working anyways.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The astronaut prevents Walter from making the same mistake he once did: wishing away his younger brother.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The players manage to survive all the hazards and dangers and make it to their destination, Zathura, which turns out to be a black hole. The fact that it's actually the Reset Button makes this a subversion, but until the moment everything suddenly returns to normal, there's zero indication that they aren't about to die pointlessly.
  • Shout-Out: Early in the film, Danny is shown playing Jak 3: Wastelander. A poster for the game can be found in the bedroom after Walter wishes for a football signed by Brett Farve.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Between Danny and Walter. They work out the differences eventually though.
  • Spiritual Successor: The movie, to Jumanji.
  • Surprise Incest: Lisa is obviously attracted to the astronaut before she finds out he's a future version of her brother.
  • Telescoping Robot: The robot from the game. It starts out small, then transforms into a human sized killing machine.
  • Thematic Series: At least in regards to the film version of this story and Jumanji. The book was a direct sequel, but the two films are unrelated except for the concept of kids being trapped in a board game, leading some audience members to believe this was a rip-off.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: "Get me a juice box, biatch!"
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Caught Cheating. Automatic Ejection. Walter is instantly tossed through the hole in the ceiling, but manages to hang on by his fingertips long enough for the astronaut to get his jetpack set up to rescue him. Fortunately, Space Is Air, so he's fine.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: So, the first time he played the game, Walter never met an older astronaut, and he was stuck in space after wishing his brother away. The "second" time, which was actually the same time, they did roll up an astronaut for some reason, and things turned out differently. Or else they already met the astronaut the first time, when Walter wished his brother away, and no one knows where he went, leaving Walter alone in space till he was rolled up himself. (Also note: the astronaut quoted the card that rolled him up, so he seems to have seen it before). Another example: If the game granted the wish that the brother had never been born, he wouldn't have been the second player, so the game shouldn't have become unplayable. Furthermore, since the brother wouldn't have been there to start the game, the whole game should have been undone.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Lisa at one point gushes over the Astronaut's eyes... too bad he's her brother all grown up.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The results of Walter wishing away Danny in the first timeline are very ambiguous. It's never explicitly mentioned where Danny was sent, nor is it mentioned what happened to Lisa or what occurred in the real world while Walter was gone.

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