Kristen Stewart has been in some big movies. She’s led the Twilight movie franchise as Bella Swan to the tune of over $3.3 billion, she’s played Snow White in Disney’s Snow White and the Huntsman and now she is preparing to take on the role of Princess Diana in Spencer. But one of Stewart’s most overlooked movies just hit Netflix and it is a family film worth seeing.
Zathura: A Space Adventure is the 2005 film that was billed as a follow-up to the 1995 Robin Williams hit film Jumanji. The Kristen Stewart movie is based on the 2002 book of the same name, written by author Chris Van Allsburg, who also penned Jumanji back in 1981.
Zathura stars a very young Josh Hutcherson and Jonah Bobo as Walter and Danny Budwig, two brothers who simply can’t get along. Stewart is on board as their very irritable and grumpy sister Lisa (Kristen Stewart). This fantasy-adventure film tells the story of Walter and Danny, brothers who don’t see eye to eye on anything and are left with their sister when their father is away for work. Danny is exploring their basement when he happens upon a board game called Zathura. It takes him a little bit of time, but he finally convinces Walter to play with him. During their turn, they turn a key and press a button, which causes the board to move the player a certain number of spaces. At the end of the movement, an event card is dolled out to the player. Danny’s first card calls for a meteor shower, which just so happens in their front room. The game is real, causing real events, much like what was seen in Jumanji.
It is around that time the boys realize the house is actually floating in space. Kristen Stewart’s Lisa, unaware of all this stuff happening, heads to the bathroom to prepare for an evening date but one of the boys pulls a card that turns the bathroom into a cryonic chamber, freezing her for much of the movie.
The boys realize they must finish the game in hopes of returning home and their normal life but along the way they encounter space aliens who want nothing more than to destroy them, as well as a mysterious astronaut (played by Dax Shepard) who Kristen Stewart’s Lisa finds to be a hunk. The astronaut informs the boys that all heat in the house must be shut down because it attracts the aliens. There is a fun little twist when the boys realize who this mysterious astronaut really is, giving the movie an action-filled, but heart-warming conclusion. Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption) is on hand briefly as the boys and Lisa’s father.
On top of the movie being an all-around fun family film and one of Kristen Stewart’s best movies, another reason to give it a whirl is that it is one of Jon Favreau’s earliest films as a director. He had just come off directing Elf and Zathura was expected to do big things at the box office. It didn’t. Favreau was given a $65 million budget for the movie and its first weekend brought in a little over $13 million. It was considered an immediate flop, even though it received great critical reviews. Overall, the film made a shade over $65 million at the box office. It has even received a strong 6.9 on the Giant Freakin Movie Score meter.
Director Favreau took a look back on when he was introducing Zathura to an audience at the San Diego Comic-Con and its reception at the box office. “My presentation was met with the level of applause that one might expect after sinking a six-foot putt, and the experience of attending the convention was as disappointing as the box-office returns for the film that year,” he said via The Hollywood Reporter. “Nobody cared. To say that Zathura was released is misleading. It escaped. After the highs of the success of Elf, Zathura was sobering and, though it was well-received by the critics and I learned a tremendous amount about visual effects, the grim reality of the movie business hit me like a bucket of cold water.” The Kristen Stewart movie deserved better, as we have so eloquently stated in the past.
Author Van Allsburg even chimed in on what he thought went wrong with Zathura’s release. “Marketing and timing. It’s competitive,” Van Allsburg said via BoxOfficeMojo. “They were looking for a weekend that was far enough away from [Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire], and they probably opened it up a little earlier than it should have.” But Van Allsburg liked what Favreau did with his novel, he liked Bobo’s portrayal of Danny, and he felt the story held its own when compared to Jumanji. “It’s actually a pretty good movie. It’s a rare kids’ movie that can hold the attention of adults. I think [director] Jon [Favreau] did a good job. Little Jonah Bobo is such an appealing whiner. This was essentially a variation on the theme that game boards come to life. I thought it would be more interesting to see another game rather than another Jumanji game. Zathura is somewhat of a sequel to Jumanji. I’d been reading about old game boards produced in the first part of the 20th century, and they would put the game on the other side of the Jumanji board, and it’s Zathura.”
Zathura: A Space Adventure arrived on February 1, 2021, on Netflix.