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Film / Zathura

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Working Title: Jumanji in Space.

"Attention, space adventurers. Zathura awaits. Do you have what it takes to navigate the galaxy? It's not for the faint of heart. For once you embark upon your journey, there's no turning back until Zathura's reached."

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 Walter and Danny discover the Jumanji board game where it was hidden and take it home. However, Danny 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, starring Josh Hutcherson and Jonah Bobo as Walter and Danny. Both games exist and even with the same concept.


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:

  • Actor Allusion: Perhaps it was unintentional, but:
    Walter: I'm not mean, Danny, I'm in fourth grade, I have a girlfriend.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The boys gain a sister and an experienced astronaut mentor in the film, among other things.
  • Aliens are Bastards: The Zorgons are only interested in burning things and eating meat. Humans are meat.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Walter, at first. He is entirely uninterested in doing anything with Danny, and even turns off Danny's PlayStation to watch SportsCenter.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: The Zorgons are the main threat for a good chunk of the film. What ends up getting rid of them? The robot that wants to kill Walter. It slaughters multiple Zorgons off-screen just because they stood in its way, and then it gets reprogrammed and destroys one of their ships while the other ship flees into space!
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Danny (according to Walter anyway). To the point that in another timeline Walter actually wished Danny away.
  • Antagonist Title: Like its predecessor, Zathura is the name of the board game that is causing all the trouble. But this time, the portal takes a whole house into space!
  • Apologizes a Lot: Danny, especially after he does something horrible.
    Danny: ImsorryImsorryImsorryImsorry!
  • Artifact of Doom: The game itself, which drags the players into space when they start it.
  • Ashes to Crashes: When the game creates a meteor shower one of the meteors hits an urn on the mantlepiece. Danny shouts "Grandma!"
  • A Villain Named "Z__rg": The Zorgons.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Especially on shooting stars.
  • Big Eater The astronaut. Justified as he claims that he's been eating nothing but paste for several years.
  • Big "NO!": Danny when Walter is sucked into the black hole.
  • Big Shadow, Little Creature: When the robot first appears. It gets big pretty quickly though.
  • Bottle Episode: Well, Bottle Film, but the entire film takes place in a single location with a Minimalist Cast.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Kid protagonist Walter is a major jerk for most of the film.
  • 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.
  • Cerebus 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.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Comparing at least the books, Walter and Danny seem more prone to arguing than Judy and Peter do. Judy and Peter also read Jumanji's instructions before beginning the game, while Walter and Danny tend to start games without reading the instructions.note 
  • 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: If you thought Jumanji's cheater penalty of being turned half monkey was a harsh, just read the info in the No Fair Cheating trope below..
  • Door Handle Scare: The kids are hiding in a cupboard. They hear heavy footsteps outside. The camera closeups on the door handle, which starts to turn... and then the somewhat goofy astronaut comes back in.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": At no point does the Astronaut ever say his name, which hides the fact that he's the older version of Walter.
  • 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:
    • Several regarding The Astronaut and his role:
      • 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.
      • The astronaut's story about how he played the game with his brother, and accidentally erased his brother from existance by wishing on a shooting star; the way the astronaut is certain that Walter has wished for the same thing foreshadows them being the same person.
      • 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.
    • "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 game's ultimate goal is to get to Zathura, represented on the board as a black ball with the letter Z on it. In space a 'black ball' generally means only one thing: a black hole.
  • For Want of a Nail: As Walter explains, the Astronaut yelling at him made him wish for a football. Since we later learn the Astronaut is Walter, this became a rather important act on his part, since it's implied Walter was going to wind up making the same mistake he did and wish Danny away.
  • 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.
  • Fusion Dance: When present-day Walter wishes the astronaut had his brother back, a second Danny appears, leading into the reveal of the astronaut's true identity as an alternate timeline version of Walter. The two Dannys then merge just by touching, and the older Walter fuses into his younger self in much the same manner shortly after.
  • Future Badass: Walter grew from a bratty kid into a space-roving astronaut in one timeline.
  • 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.
  • Hope Spot: After Danny has been lowered into the basement to retrieve the game from the Zorgons, he immediately notices it a metre away from him - except when he grabs it, he realises it's just the cover of the game
  • 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.
  • The Homeward Journey: The objective of the entire game. To return to earth, you have to finish the entire game.
  • Instant Turn-Off: Lisa becomes attracted to The Astronaut until she finds out he's actually her brother Walter from an alternate timeline.
  • 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.
  • Recycled In Space: It's Jumanji IN SPACE! Justified in that both films were based on books by the same author.
  • 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. Averted the second time he gets the card.
    Astronaut: You wished for a football?
    Walter: Signed by Brett Farve.
  • Never My Fault: Walter blames Danny for almost getting him sucked out into space, even though the game said Walter was the one who cheated by moving Danny’s piece back.
  • No Fair Cheating: Try moving a piece backwards or forwards to cheat? Out the airlock you go!
  • One-Word Title
  • 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.
  • People in Rubber Suits: The Zorgons are portrayed by people in lizard-man costumes (but well-made and convincing costumes, so you're not that likely to notice.)
  • Planet Looters: The Zorgons, who go after other planets in their quest for heat.
  • 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.
  • Practical Effects: Used extensively throughout, courtesy of the legendary Stan Winston studio, as Jon Favreau greatly prefers them to the alternative. With the exception of the exterior shots of the house in space, which are obviously CGI (and couldn't really be done any other way) as much of the film as possible is done practically, including the Zorgons, the robot (the arms and legs were digital because they're far too thin for a human's arms or legs, but the large torso and head was real) and even the exterior shots of the Zorgon ships, which were done using the semi-lost art of Miniature Effects rather than CGI.
  • 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.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The robot has glowing red eyes when it's a villain.
  • 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.
  • Sir Swearsalot: Danny is quite foul-mouthed for a six-year old.
  • Skewed Priorities: Walter and Danny both realize everything will “reset” no matter who reaches the end first, but when Walter notices Danny’s piece somehow got ahead of his he acts like Danny cheated and that the situation they are in is just a game instead of life and death. If anything Danny being ahead was a good thing because they were both closer to the end, but all Walter cared about was that he was behind because Danny “cheated.”
  • Space Does Not Work That Way: For starters, there is oxygen and gravity (unless for the latter, you attempt cheating).
  • 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.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Zathura itself, one that administers the Reset Button.
  • Wham Shot: Walter wishes for the Astronaut to get his brother back. Said brother appears in a flash of light and it is revealed to be Danny because the Astronaut is a grown up version of Walter.
  • 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.
  • Yellow Brick Road: In Jumanji style... meaning that once the players start down the road, they must play the game all the way through in order to escape and undo the damage done.

"Pieces reset at the end of each game. Play again and again for different adventures."

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