June 14, 2012

Zathura: A Space Adventure

By Andrew at 8:47 AM

Recently I watched “Zathura: A Space Adventure,” not expecting too much from it since I thought that it would merely be a “Jumanji” knock-off.  Surprisingly, I was actually quite wrong.  While it is true that, at the most basic level, the story is about two kids that are pulled into a game that destroys their lives until they finish it, there are several rather interesting twists, and they consist of more than just setting the game in space.

The movie opens with Danny and Walter playing baseball with their father, newly divorced from the boys’ mother.  The brothers are constantly vying for their father’s attention, which becomes especially frustrating for Danny, the younger brother, who feels like he is always living in his brother’s shadow.  Due to work commitments and a mishap created by the boys fighting, their father ends up needing to run into work and leaves them at home under their sister’s charge.  Except, said teenage sister is still asleep since it is Saturday morning.  As the brothers attempt to find entertainment for themselves, Danny once again feels oppressed by Walter’s desire to always be the best, always to come in first, and he ends up in the basement where he finds a mysterious wind-up space game.  When he takes the game upstairs and begins playing it, a meteor shower destroys their living room, much Walter’s chagrin and Danny’s terror!  At this point, Walter and Danny begin to realize that in order to escape their predicament, they must finish the game, and they must finish it together.

Throughout the movie, Danny and Walter learn that they need to look out for one another and not necessarily “win” all the time.  In fact, they even end up developing a bond with their older sister, who previously would not think of anything aside from her date that night.  The expected demolition of the house occurs throughout the movie, but the extent to which the siblings become involved in accelerating this destruction shows how committed they were to completing the game and to rescuing each other from their predicament, no matter the cost.

I had seen the trailers for this movie several years ago and thought that perhaps it would be interesting, but my overwhelming sentiment was that it was merely someone attempting to make a “Jumanji in Space.”  From reading about the movie afterward, it turns out that “Zathura” was a children’s book written by the same author as “Jumanji,” tackling a storyline revolving more around the two brothers than just two friends.  So instead of being made in spite of an author’s original intentions, it was built from another work of his own.  In addition, Jon Favreau did a spectacular job of integrating practical and digital effects in a believable way that made the movie enjoyable and interesting.

While “Zathura” does not compete on the level of movies such as “Iron Man” or “Night at the Museum,” it definitely holds its own as an engaging and visually stunning adaptation of a children’s book.  In the process, it also manages to pick up a lesson that we all could learn from: care for your family, since they are the most valuable “friends” you can have throughout life and especially when you find yourself in a tight spot.

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