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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 is a 2005 fantasy film directed by Jon Favreau. The plot is adapted from the book Zathura written by Chris Van Allsburg, who also wrote Jumanji. However, unlike the book, the film serves as a Spiritual Successor rather than a direct sequel, only sharing the basic "board game comes to life" premise.

Two brothers, Walter (Josh Hutcherson) and Danny (Jonah Bobo) discover an old board game in the basement of their father's house: the sci-fi-based Zathura. When they start playing, the entire house, including them and their sister, is transported into the world of the game. 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.

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. 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.

Zathura provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
  • Adaptation Expansion: The boys gain a sister and an experienced astronaut mentor in the film, among other things.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The book ends the Zathura game rather abruptly. After Danny and Walter vow to work together in order to return to Earth, Walter gets sucked into a black hole. He lands at an earlier point in the story, when Danny found the Jumanji box. Walter throws away the games, effectively preventing their incomplete adventure from ever happening. In the movie, this occurrence takes place after one of the boys actually reaches the board's last space. Plus, both brothers (and Lisa) backtrack retaining their memories of the game.
  • Aerosol Flamethrower: When Lisa gets frozen by the "cryonic sleep" card, Walter tries to thaw her with a flamethrower improvized from one of her cans of hair spray.
  • An Aesop: The Astronaut delivers a helpful one to Walter and Danny: "There's just some games you can't play alone and you must work together as a team." The brothers have spent a majority of their time together fighting. It's only thanks to the board game and The Astronaut did they learn that they have to put aside their petty sibling rivalry and work together as a family to survive.
  • AI Is A Crap Shoot: The robot summoned by Walter is apparently supposed to protect humans from hostile aliens. Unfortunately, its A.I. is defective and it can't differentiate Walter from an alien. This causes it to relentlessly try to kill Walter until he uses a special card that reprograms it into ignoring him and attacking the Zorgons instead.
  • 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 Sports Center.
    • Their older sister Lisa zigzags this. She is grouchy the first time she interacts with them, but they had just woken her up while talking really fast at the same time, confusing her, and she thought it was night out and she's missed a date, and afterwards she mostly subverts this and shows some Big Sister Instinct.
  • 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.
  • Anger Born of Worry: The Astronaut yells at Walter after Danny seemingly disappears from the wish. Only because he didn't want Walter to make the same mistake he did with the wish years ago: wishing that his little brother had never been born.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Space: For starters, there is oxygen and gravity (unless for the latter, you attempt cheating).
  • Ashes to Crashes: When the game creates a meteor shower one of the meteors hits an urn on the mantlepiece. Danny shouts "Grandma!"
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Although the Astronaut is wearing a full space suit when he first appears, he later ventures out to rescue a stranded Walter without stopping to put his helmet on first, and although both are out in space for several minutes neither is significantly the worse for wear when they return.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Especially on shooting stars.
  • Big Brother Bully: Walter always talks down to Danny, wanting for his dad to focus all his time on him, and tells Danny to his face that his life was great before he was born and "ruined everything".
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Walter doesn't have much of one to begin with, considering Danny a nuisance, but it develops as the movie goes on. At a dramatically appropriate moment, he assures Danny, "I'll never let anything happen to you, because that's what being a brother means," and thereafter does his best to live up to it.
    • Lisa, although she seems disinterested at the beginning, shows how much she cares about her brothers once she wraps her head around the idea of the danger they're in, rescuing them both from a Zorgon and trying to shield them from the black hole.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Trapped right between crossfire the Zorgons and the killer robot who still attempts to harm Walter, Walter uses his "reprogram" card to change the robot's mind. It works and the robot immediately comes to Walter and Danny's defense and it targets the Zorgons instead, blasting right after them. The Zorgons panic and flee the house but the robot manages to make it onto one of the Zorgons spaceships and blows it up with the Zorgons inside of it, saving Walter and Danny from enemy fire in the process.
    • Just as it seems like a distracted Walter and Danny are about to be eaten by a hungry Zorgon, the creature gets crushed by a piano courtesy of their protective older sister Lisa who used quick thinking and saved her brothers from the Zorgon.
    • The Astronaut arrives just in the nick of time as Walter and Danny were being attacked by the Zorgons for the first time and had no knowledge of what to do in such a hostile situation or how to complete the game. The Astronaut wastes no time walking Danny and Walter through the steps of how to stay safe and keep their dangers away. And later, when Walter is ejected from the house (due to cheating), The Astronaut uses his space flight equipment to fly after Walter into outer space to rescue him and bring him back to the house safely. And he didn't even wear his helmet.
  • 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 "OMG!": Lisa's reaction when she learns that the astronaut she's been crushing on the entire film is an older version of her brother Walter from an alternate timeline.
  • Big Shadow, Little Creature: When the robot first appears, it is preceded by an enormous shadow on the wall and threatening music, only to turn out to be just a few inches tall. It gets big pretty quickly though.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The celestial object Tsouris-3 is pronounced like the Yiddish word tsuris, which means trouble, and definitely causes the characters some problems.
  • The Board Game: The merch for the film includes a replica board game (without the reality warping effects).
  • Bond One-Liner: Lisa, after crushing a Zorgon with a piano, "LISA... is upstairs!".
  • Bottle Episode: Well, Bottle Film, but the entire film takes place in a single location with a Minimalist Cast.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • TV edits of the film remove the instances of strong language.
    • The UK release edits out the bit where Walter attempts to defrost Lisa with an Aerosol Flamethrower and the bit where the Astronaut pours accelerant on the sofa and sets it on fire (cutting straight to the sofa on fire without showing how), due to concerns that children might imitate these behaviors.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Kid protagonist Walter is a major jerk for most of the film.
  • Brick Joke: Two examples.
    • 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 finally crashes back into the front yard after everyone leaves.
    • Lisa's compliment about her crush The Astronaut's gorgeous eyes. Little did anyone know was that The Astronaut was actually Lisa's brother Walter from an alternate timeline. Much to her disgust. When everything goes back to normal and the siblings leave to their mother's car, Walter jokes about it to Lisa, which earns him a Death Glare from her: "Still think I have gorgeous eyes?".
  • Broken Record: The robot seems capable of speaking only five words.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Lisa develops a crush on the hunky astronaut, who turns out to be an older version of one of her brothers, and 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: Walter and Danny seem more prone to arguing than Jumanji's 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 
  • Convection, Schmonvection: At one point, the house passes close by what appears to be a star after Danny takes a turn. Despite being close enough to be caught in the star's gravitational pull, neither the house nor anybody in it seems to be affected by the intense heat of being that close to a blazing hot celestial object. Probably justified however as they are currently trapped inside a magic board game.
  • Dagwood Sandwich: For his first meal of real food in years, the rescued astronaut makes a huge sandwich which is referred to by name as a dagwood sandwich. It's not as enormous as sandwiches can get in comics or cartoons, but it's still impressive.
  • 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.
  • The Determinator: Absolutely nothing will stop the robot from killing Walter. Not the gravitational pull of a star, getting stuck in a wall or falling down the stairs and being put out of commission for several hours. So long as the robot is active, it has one singular objective: Alien lifeform, must destroy. Until Walter uses the reprogram card on it and reboots its A.I., that is.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: If you thought Jumanji's cheater penalty of being turned half monkey was a bit harsh, just read the info in the No Fair Cheating trope below.
  • Distressed Dude: Walter:
    • His Alternate Timeline self becomes stranded within outer space for fifteen long years after wishing his version of Danny away.
    • His Alternate Timeline self must save him from getting Thrown Out the Airlock once he cheats at the game.
    • A Zorgon attempts to eat his and Danny's heads off, only for Lisa to drop a piano onto him.
    • Upon the revelation that Zathura is a black hole, Lisa attempts to carry him to safety, only for them and Danny to get sucked into it as the game resets both itself and time upon the latter winning it near the end of the film.
  • 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.
  • Doppelmerger: When Walter wishes for the Astronaut to have his little brother back, a duplicate of Danny appears. This is what reveals that the Astronaut is actually an adult Walter from an alternate timeline. After he thanks Walter for bringing back his own Danny, he dissolves into a cluster of stars that enters Danny, representing the two timelines becoming one again.
  • Dumbwaiter Ride: Danny uses his home's dumbwaiter to hide from his brother, and later to move around the house without being seen by the Zorgons.
  • Establishing Series Moment: Once the game begins and Danny draws the first card saying "METEOR SHOWER TAKE EVASIVE ACTION", it's made immediately clear just how real the game's effects are when a meteor shoots straight through the card that Walter is holding.
  • 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.
  • Eye on a Stalk: Four of them, on the Zorgon livestock that were not goats.
  • Expy: Some of the characters in the movie share elements of the characters from Jumanji.
    • Walter and Danny playing the game are basically Judy and Peter but with a poor sibling bond.
    • Lisa is like Sarah Whittle: (1) being the fourth member to help complete the game and (2) filling in as the love interest role for The Astronaut like Sarah Whittle to Alan Parrish. Except they're actually siblings but she doesn't know that.
    • The Astronaut is like Alan Parrish, having been spun out of the game Walter and Danny are playing to help them.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The game really only lasts for three hours or less.
  • Flaming Meteor: The meteors that strike the house are red hot.
  • 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 helping them get rid of the Zorgons for the first time, he tells Walter to go into the basement and turn off the furnace, despite having no possible way of knowing that the house even has a basement. Except he does because he's Walter, and he lived in the very same house a long time ago.
      • When the Astronaut asks whose turn wished him, The Astronaut has this to say to Walter:
        Walter: [immediately gesturing to Danny with his head] He did.
        Astronaut: Don't be so quick to sell out your brother; he's the only one you've got.
    • The Astronaut is quick to chastise Walter for his bratty attitude and help Danny around the house even though he only just met them them minutes earlier.
    • The Astronaut tries to calm Danny and Walter's fighting during the game despite having just met them.
    • 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 existence 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.
    • Lisa comments that her crush The Astronaut is very protective of her and her brothers and that she feels really safe around him. She should. He's her brother.
    • "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. Even when they reach it on the board, said black ball spins and "floats" for a little while, with spark effects that make it heavily resemble the real thing they're about to encounter, also making it Five-Second Foreshadowing.
  • 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.
  • Freudian Excuse: It's implied that Walter acts like a brat to his little brother because he's having a hard time dealing with his parent's divorce.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: ... but none of that is Danny's fault.
  • 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.
  • Future Self Reveal: Part-way through the film, the characters meet an astronaut who'd been trapped in Zathura for a few years. He becomes part of the team but manages to get on Walter's nerves in his attempt to protect everyone from the aliens. At the end, it's discovered that the astronaut is an adult version of Walter who got trapped in Zathura after he used his wish card to wish his brother Danny out of existence. Because Walter only asked for a football this time, though, he's also from an alternate reality and wanted to ensure his kid self didn't make the same mistake twice.
  • The Game Come to Life: Once Danny starts playing the game, the entire house is transported into the world of the game.
  • The Game Plays You: The game has real-life consequences, and the only way to survive is to play through to the end.
  • The Ghost: The siblings' mother, the most anyone gets to see of her is her conspicuously empty-looking car at the end of the film.
  • Giving Them the Strip: The rampaging robot grabs Walter's foot in its claw, but the boy's athletic shoe comes off and he escapes.
  • 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.
  • Gravity Sucks: When the house passes close to Tsouris-3, and again later when it encounters a black hole, loose objects and even some bits of the house that were firmly attached get sucked off separately from the movement of the house.
  • Group Hug: Walter and Danny do this to Lisa once she awakens from cryo-sleep and catches them stoking a fire in the kitchen, but funnily enough, said kitchen-fire isn't the boys' main concern during that scene.
  • 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.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: Lisa misses the first part of the plot because she's up in her room listening to loud music on her headphones. When the house is being rocked by a meteor strike, there's a cutaway to her obliviously listening to her tunes.
  • The Heavy: The Zorgons are the most prominent and biggest threat the characters face.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The robot after it is reprogrammed. The robot spends a majority of it's time trying to kill Walter and Danny. Luckily Walter remembers his "reprogram" card and uses it to change the robot's mind so that it could attack the Zorgons instead.
  • Help Yourself in the Future: The astronaut turns out to be a future version of Walter who got stuck in the game after losing Danny. He is able to help Walter and Danny overcome their differences so they both survive and get home.
  • 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.
  • Hollywood Darkness: When the characters go around the house turning off every light and extinguishing every flame to avoid becoming a target for the Zorgons, there's still plenty of dim blue light to see what's going on.
  • The Homeward Journey: The objective of the entire game. To return to earth, you have to finish the entire game.
  • 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.
  • Hysterical Woman: Lisa shows shades of this upon awakening from cryo-sleep and freaking out over Walter and Danny's kitchen fire.
  • 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.
  • Instant Turn-Off: Lisa becomes attracted to The Astronaut until she finds out he's actually her brother Walter from an alternate timeline.
  • It Can Think: Zathura, the eponymous board game. Other than having the ability to alter reality, it is heavily implied that the game has a mind of its own.
    • It knows whose turn it is to play and refuses to let anyone else press the button and make it work. The Astronaut/Walter shot himself in the foot with this one in an alternate past, as he wished his version of Danny out of existence but became trapped in the game forever as a result, because it was his brother's turn.
    • The game knows when someone is cheating (deliberately or inadvertently so) and takes steps to punish those who do... by throwing them out into space to die.
  • It Kind of Looks Like a Face: The first time Danny goes down into the basement, when he's frightened of the mysterious noises and the roaring of the furnace, the front of the furnace appears to be a sinister face.
  • I Wished You Were Dead: The astronaut got the "Wish Upon a Star" card just after a big argument with his brother, and in the heat of the moment wished his brother out of existence; he regretted it immediately, even before it sank in that without a second player he was trapped in the game. When Walter gets the card in matching circumstances, the astronaut urges him not to be hasty, and Walter makes a less dangerous wish.
  • 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.
  • Lampshade Hanging: There is no way to satisfactorily explain why the house still has electricity, gas, and running water when it's floating in deep spacenote  so the movie doesn't attempt to offer one, but hangs a lampshade on it by making a joke out of Walter confidently stating that the gas and running water won't be working and immediately being proven wrong.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Walter and Danny both mutually agree that wishing for a football and everything in Zathura never happened in the first place. Lisa invokes this trope at the end.
  • Lizard Folk: The Zorgons are aliens who resemble humanoid lizards.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Walter loses a sneaker when the defective robot tries to grab him by the foot, then retrieves it after the robot gets damaged in the basement. He loses the shoe again during "automatic ejection", but Danny returns it after the Astronaut jets Walter back into the house.
  • Luck-Based Mission: To get home, you must complete the game by spins. The only real skill comes with surviving whatever horrors the game warps into existence with each turn.
  • Malaproper: When the meteor storm card suggests taking evasive action, Danny needs Walter to explain to him what that means. Later, he panics and runs around shouting "Take erasive action! Take erasive action!"
  • 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.
  • Monster Delay: Zigzagged:
    • Downplayed with the Killer Robot. He's initially summoned about a third of the way through the film, and once that happens, we also see his whole body.
    • Somewhat exaggerated with the Zorgons. Up until the halfway point, we don't even see their Retro Rockets, and the Zorgons themselves don't appear on-screen until later than that.
  • 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 Favre.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Living with feelings of guilt, remorse and regret over the one mistake he made years ago, and still horrified at himself over his immature decision to wish his little brother out of existence because he was so angry at him (without thinking about the consequences), The Astronaut makes various attempts to keep Danny and Walter from making the exact same mistake he did with the wish when he was their age.
    • A brief second but the non-audible guilty look on Walter's face upon learning how The Astronaut lost his brother by wishing him out of existence shows that he had almost made the exact same wish and he's feeling regret about it.
    • Or what she had almost done. Lisa has been crushing on The Astronaut throughout the journey of the game and when she learns the truth that her crush The Astronaut is actually her brother Walter from an alternate timeline in the game, she is appropriately shocked, disgusted, guilty and horrified. Implying in her reaction that she was contemplating kissing him at one point.
      Lisa: Oh my God! And I wanted to...
  • 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: If you try moving a piece backwards or forwards to cheat, then out the airlock you go!
  • No Indoor Voice: Walter and Danny spend most of the film yelling at one another, and their yelling eventually reaches the point where Walter's future self asks his past self and Danny to lower their volume.
  • Not a Morning Person: Lisa is introduced lying in bed well past the break of dawn, looking relatively disheveled, and behaving irritably when her dad wakes her up to give her babysitting orders. Afterward, she goes back to bed for the next several scenes and sleeps through the house being launched into space. This is apparently normal for her, given how her brothers beg their dad not to wake her up on their behalf and are nervous about waking her up themselves.
  • Numbered Homeworld: One of the hazards involves a celestial object designated "Tsouris-3" (although it looks more like a star than a planet).
  • Oblivious to Love: The Astronaut is completely unaware of Lisa's attraction to him. And for good reason.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Danny and Walter when they start playing the game and then actual meteors rain down through their house, forcing them to take shelter.
    • Lisa, when she learns that the Astronaut she's been crushing on is actually a future grown-up version of her brother Walter from an alternate timeline.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Played with — the Zorgons' final attack is accompanied by ominous chanting, but it's in clear English, and just consists of "Run! Run! Run! Run!"
  • One-Note Cook: When Danny asks Walter to make something to eat, Walter claims he only knows how to make water.
  • One-Word Title: Zathura, the titular black hole. (unless you count the subtitle, A Space Adventure.)
  • 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). The robot is also a person in a suit, although its various appendages were added in CGI.
  • Planet Looters: The Zorgons, who go after other planets in their quest for heat.
  • Plummet Perspective: Played with when Walter first discovers that the house is in space. He goes out onto the front porch and looks over the edge, and there's a shot between his feet of the endless void below. There aren't any loose bits of the porch to fall, so he spits to test how far down it is — but as soon as his spittle passes beyond the edge of the porch, it stops being subject to gravity and just floats away.
  • 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.
  • 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 (however, the house itself was a miniature model) 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. The house set was built on a gimbal. Even the rocket exhaust from the Zorgon ships was a real flame.
  • 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: Near the beginning of the film, when Walter steals Danny's thunder by leaping in front of a softball their father threw to Danny.
    Danny: You're such a dick!
  • Prehistoric Animal Analogue: The Zorgons are partially inspired by depictions of raptors, being bipedal lizard-like human-sized aliens with mouths full of teeth.
  • Protect This House: For a significant portion of the running time, the external drama is defending the house against Zorgon attacks.
  • Raygun Gothic: The eponymous board game is full of it. Retro Rockets, Lizard Folk aliens, robots and astronauts with jet packs, etc.
  • Recycled In Space: It's Jumanji IN SPACE! Justified in that both films were based on books by the same author.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The robot has glowing red eyes when it's a villain.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The reptilian Zorgons are the monstrous villains.
  • 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.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What exactly gives Zathura its reality-warping abilities? Who made the game and why? How did it end up in the basement of their father's house? None of these questions are ever given any explanation.
  • Running Gag: Walter says something won't work and it ends up working anyways.
  • Satiating Sandwich: When the stranded astronaut arrives in Danny and Walter's house, one of the first things he does is make himself a sandwich, explaining that he's been living off survival rations for years.
  • The Scape Goat: Danny gets disproportionately blamed for everything by Walter.
  • 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 needlessly.
  • 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 Favre.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Between Danny and Walter. They eventually work out their differences, though.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: 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 cares about is that he's behind because Danny "cheated". It all adds up if one assumes Walter genuinely believes Danny cheated and that the magical game will punish them for it.
    • Walter and Danny Group Hug Lisa upon seeing her freed from cryo-sleep, all while there's a fire burning in the kitchen.
  • Surprise Incest: Lisa is obviously attracted to the astronaut before she finds out he's a future version of her brother Walter.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: Since it's a kid's movie, it's only fatal to the TV set, but the trope beats are all there. After the meteor storm trashes the living room, everything goes quiet, and the TV set that had been fritzing out starts working normally again. There's just enough time to form the thought "maybe everything's gone back to normal", and then the largest meteor yet seen slams down and crushes the TV set.
  • Telescoping Robot: The robot from the game as it starts out small but then rapidly grows 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.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: The Budwing siblings: Walter, Danny, and Lisa. Walter, The Hero, is very callous towards Danny and blames him for everything, from their parents' divorce to stealing their father's exclusive attention away from him. Danny, The Lancer, just wants to play a magical board-game with Walter and not get mistreated by him all the time. Lisa mediates the two brothers whenever their father is away by breaking up their constant fights with one another.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Zathura itself, one that administers the Reset Button.
  • A Villain Named "Z__rg": The Zorgons, a race of evil lizard people.
  • Wasteful Wishing: When Walter gets a wish on the Shooting Star, he gets flustered because the Astronaut keeps badgering him to think carefully and not wish unwisely, and ends up wishing for a football signed by Brett Favre. Which he doesn't even get to keep, because it disappears along with everything else at the end of the game. To be fair, this was a wiser wish than the one the Astronaut was trying to steer him away from.
  • Wham Line:
    • When Danny sees another version of himself after Danny makes a wish to help the Astronaut.
      Danny: You wished for two of me?
      Walter: No, I-I-I wished for The Astronaut to have his brother back...
    • And after they've manage to complete the game, the house's wall is suddenly busted open by a Zorgon ship trying to flee as it gets sucked away into something, revealing what Zathura really is:
      Danny: [frightened] IT'S A BLACK HOLE! ZATHURA IS A BLACK HOLE!
  • 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.
    • After they complete the game, Walter, Danny, and Lisa are left in their damaged house, figuring they made it home. And then a Zorgon ship breaks the roof, attempting to hold on from Zathura, which is not a planet, but a black hole.
  • 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. Though it's possible the timeline was erased once everything was restored. It's completely left up to the audience what happened to the game after the movie's events.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Zorgons will eat any meat, even if it comes from children.
  • 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.
  • Your Television Hates You: At the end of the film, when the characters are returned to the moment before Danny started the game, and Walter warns him not to press the button and restart the game, the sports commentator on the TV in the background can be heard saying something along the lines of "Is it going to happen again? No, it's not happening again."

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