Zathura (2005) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart, Tim Robbins

Director: Jon Favreau

For 15 years this game has been hidden… Forgotten and collecting dust… Or was it left there deliberately?

Zathura: A Space Adventure is discovered in a dilapidated box under the stairs of his dad’s (Tim Robbins) house basement by 6 year-old Danny (Jonah Bobo). Bored and always arguing with his older brother Walter (Josh Hutcherson), Danny opens the box revealing a game and pushes the starter button, which moves a spaceship along the board so many spaces and then issues each player in turn with either a warning/penalty or bonus card. This unwittingly sets in motion a series of cataclysmic events that will test the resolve and ingenuity of the brothers. All just while dad has slipped back to the office… briefly!

The game, designed for two players, has a strange, superior and life threatening power over its players. Initially capable of literally blasting meteors on Danny and Walter, weirdly confined to the living room they’re playing in without disturbing their stroppy, older sister Lisa (Kristen Stewart) who’s lounging in bed upstairs, the game’s control soon encompasses the whole house which appears to blast off into space, foundations and all, where a multitude of cosmic perils await…

Director Jon Favreau manages to keep this film lively, fast-paced, witty, fun-filled and scary – it will make you jump out of your seat on more than one occasion! Kids will love it, as will most adults. Only the youngest will find it too frightening and nightmarish. Not only that but this film is so well acted by the three young leads, Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo and Kristen Stewart (PANIC ROOM) that you can easily identify with their personal frustrations and the sibling rivalries that bounce between them, each vying for their own space until they’re blasted into space and have to start working together rather than against each other.

Since their sibling bonding becomes the key to their survival and they’re way back home, the game attempts to annihilate the players by pounding them with meteors, subjecting their sister to cryonic sleep for five moves, causes a malfunctioning robot to attack them, draws them too close to a gravity field and they’re then bombarded by some ferocious, bloodthirsty, lizard-like aliens, the Zorgons, intent upon their destruction. With the penalty cards far outnumbering the bonus cards they also save a stranded astronaut, played by Dax Shepard (WITHOUT A PADDLE), who is difficult to suss out – is he their friend of foe?

A novel idea, ZATHURA is a wonderful fantasy that launches you into a challenging but equally terrifying rollercoaster space adventure of life threatening proportions.

5 out of 6 stars