Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)

zathura poster 2005 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Solid kids' movie, nice looking

Primarily for kids with a rather thin plot

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Zathura:  A Space Adventure

Studio:   Columbia Pictures

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Family

Release Date(s):   November 11, 2005

MPAA Rating:   PG

zathura lizard zorgon danny walter jonah bobo josh hutcherson

I hate you…

Danny (Jonah Bobo) and his brother Walter (Josh Hutcherson) are trapped at their father’s house for the weekend with their older sister Lisa (Kristen Stewart).  When their father (Tim Robbins) has to leave, Danny discovers an old science-fiction board game called Zathura.  When Danny activates Zathura, Danny, Walter, and Lisa find themselves in space and fighting for survival.  The only way to escape Zathura is to finish Zathura…and playing the game could be deadly.

Directed by Jon Favreau, Zathura:  A Space Adventure (frequently just called Zathura) is a family science-fiction fantasy adventure.  The movie is based upon the 2002 book Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg and a loose sequel to his book Jumanji (which was made into a film in 1995).  The film received positive reviews but underperformed at the box office.

I was out of the target audience for Jumanji and way out of the target audience of Zathura.  The family friendly kids movie market generally is a bit of a downer because movies are afraid to “get dark” for kids (there are exceptions).  Zathura toes the line on the aspect of darkness, but never quite crosses it…something that I wish it had.

zathura robot frank oz voice

We all need a robot…just don’t hurt the house (it’s awesome)

Like Jumanji, the characters are pulled into the game, but this game is a space game.  You have a nice brother-brother rift and the older “too cool” sister who doesn’t want any part of either of them.  Though the sister character is realistic, I wish she had been more incorporated into the plot instead of just being a set piece.  The basic story is predictable and the danger never feels very real.  You watch Zathura knowing everyone is going to turn out ok which is alright for a kids’ movie, but can be done while giving it more of a danger element.

The movie is for kids and the movie utilizes kid actors.  Points at which the kids’ yelling at each other will grate on parents who probably have enough of that at home.  Jonah Bobo is the fresh faced younger brother who is always in the way while Josh Hutcherson plays his cooler older brother.  Hutcherson really isn’t that much younger than Kristen Stewart who plays the older sister (a role that she’s a good fit for finally).  Tim Robbins has a small spot as the father for the bookends of the movie, and Dax Shepard plays the stranded astronaut (who also doesn’t look anything like the now adult Josh Hutcherson).  Frank Oz provides the voice of the robot.

zathura board game jonah bobo josh hutcherson dax shepard kristen stewart

I got next game!!!

The movie is visually quite strong.  Favreau wanted more practical special effects in the film and those do hold up better than computer animated effects from the period.  The robot and the lizard men are fun and kids will like them…I just want to live in the house in Pasadena.

Zathura is no masterpiece, but it also isn’t a movie you will hate if you get stuck watching with children.  Children will enjoy the sense of adventure but also might even see through the safety of the story.  The Jumanji series ended with Zathura for the time but was resurrected in 2017 with Jumanji:  Welcome to the Jungle (which was a big success).  Maybe we’ll see a new Zathura with Zathura:  Welcome to Space.

Related Links:

Jumanji (1995)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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