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General

"Zathura: A Space Adventure", also known as "Zathura: Adventure Is Waiting" or simply "Zathura", is a 2005 American science fiction adventure film directed by Jon Favreau and loosely based on the illustrated book "Zathura" by Chris Van Allsburg, author of "Jumanji".  Unlike the book, the film contains no "Jumanji" material and mentions no "Jumanji" events. The film was marketed as a spiritual successor to the 1995 "Jumanji" film with variations of the tagline, "A new adventure from the world of "Jumanji".

The story revolves around brothers Walter and Danny Browning (portrayed by Hutcherson and Bobo respectively), who play a mysterious board game they find in the basement of their house. The game teleports Walter, Danny, and their older sister Lisa (Stewart) into outer space where they encounter an astronaut (Shepard), who mentors the siblings on survival and finishing the game so they can return home. (In the book, the brothers' surname was Budwing.)

The film was shot in Los Angeles and Culver City, California, and was released on November 11, 2005 by Columbia Pictures. Despite positive reviews from critics, the film was a box office flop.

Cast

Production

Director Jon Favreau preferred to use practical effects instead of Computer generated imagery (CGI) in the film. He said, "it'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". Dax Shepard, who plays the astronaut, said he would not have been interested in doing the film if the effects had been CGI-based. Actor Kristen Stewart enjoyed the on-set effects, saying, "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."

Miniature models were used to create the spaceships; Favreau enjoyed using techniques used in many earlier films, such as the original Star Wars trilogy. in some shots the Zorgon ships were computer-generated, and in many of the scenes digital effects were used to create, for example, meteors and planets, and limbs for the robot suit built by Stan Winston Studios. CGI was also used to 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 scene. 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".

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 "Zathura"  is very different from "Jumanji".

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

Release

The studio marketed the release of the film in an attempt to generate word of mouth with tie-ins, including an episode of The Apprentice. It was one of the last major films to be released on VHS.

Critical reception

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics; as of January 2018 it has a 75% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on review-aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. 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". Desson Thomson of The Washington Post wrote that Zathura has "an appealing, childlike sense of wonder".

The connection to Jumanji may have been a double-edged sword with critics and audiences, with one observer referring to it as: "Jumanji" in space without Robin Williams.

Box office

Despite generally positive reviews, "Zathura: A Space Adventure"  was considered a flop, grossing $13,427,872 in its opening weekend; far behind Disney's Chicken Little, which opened the same weekend. The film lost 62% of its audience the following weekend, in part due to the opening of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"Zathura"  ended its theatrical run with a gross of $29,258,869, which was less than half its $65 million budget. The international box office total was $35,062,632, bringing its worldwide gross to $64,321,501 and nearly recouping its budget.

Related media

A board game that sought to mimic the film's eponymous game was released by Pressman Toy Corporation. Titled "Zathura: Adventure Is Waiting", the game incorporated a spring-driven, clockwork card delivery mechanism, an astronaut, the Zorgons, the haywire robot and the disintegrating house in various ways.