Zathura is a 2005 fantasy film directed by Jon Favreau, based on the illustrated book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg, author of Jumanji. It starred Jonah Bobo as Danny and Josh Hutcherson as Walter. Tim Robbins also had a small role as the divorced father of Walter and Danny. In the film two boys discover a space–themed board game from the basement, where everything inside it becomes real when they play. The film was released on November 11, 2005 by Columbia Pictures. It was shot in Los Angeles and Culver City, California. The film features a sister named Lisa; introduced a derelict astronaut to the plot; and a large number of Zorgons and Zorgon ships.
Walter (Josh Hutcherson) and Danny (Jonah Bobo) are two brothers who cannot get along with each other or with their older sister Lisa (Kristen Stewart). One day, when their father (Tim Robbins) sets off for work, they discover a space–themed board game from the basement, where everything inside it becomes real. The boys are eventually drawn into an adventure when their house is magically hurtled through space.
During the course of the story, the boys must overcome their personal ill will toward one another in order to survive. They are aided in this by an astronaut (Dax Shepard) who appears as a result of the game. This astronaut is eventually revealed to be an older version of Walter, who had been trapped as a character in the game’s world as a result of using a wishing card to cause Danny to disappear—wishing that his brother had never been born—leaving him unable to escape the game as it was no longer his turn and the game could not advance without another player. This backstory becomes the basis, although the viewer only sees its role as such in retrospect, of parallels drawn between the two versions of Walter, including a revelation of the backstory without mention of his name or that of his brother.
Sometime midway through the game, Walter notices Danny has illegally moved his piece forward, and forcibly moves it back while berating Danny. The game interprets only Walter’s action as cheating and he is punished by being sucked out into space, but the astronaut rescues him.
Accompanying Danny, Walter, and the astronaut is Lisa, who while not a player, is as vulnerable to the dangers present in the game. She is placed in cryogenic freeze for five turns. She develops a crush on the astronaut, and is thus horrified when she finds out that she fell for an older version of her brother Walter.
The main villains in the film are the Zorgons: reptilian, biped tool-users who are fond of heat and are attracted to a heat source much like bees are attracted to nectar, because they are cold-blooded. The Zorgons, having burned their own planet to obtain more heat, are nomads who travel through space seeking more to burn and who keep a flock of four-eyed goats on their ship.
Another character, a robot (Frank Oz), first appears as a wind-up tin toy that quickly becomes life-size. It is supposed to defend the players, but as it is malfunctioning it misidentifies Walter as an alien life form and begins rampaging through the house. Walter uses a “Reprogram” card on the robot, and it instead sets its sights on the Zorgons. A single Zorgon survives the robot’s kamikaze attack and sneaks up behind Walter and Danny as they are wondering where Lisa is. Just as the Zorgon is about to kill them, it is crushed and killed by Lisa with Danny’s piano.
The older Walter is finally released when Walter, drawing another wishing card, wishes the astronaut had his brother back, resulting in the ‘other’ Danny appearing. After the future Walter apologizes to his brother, the two seem to merge with their other selves (after the astronaut turns back into another version of Walter) now that the future caused by Walter wishing Danny away has been erased. Unfortunately, in the latter stages of the game, a massive Zorgon fleet arrives and attacks after Walter frees the astronaut and his brother.
Danny eventually completes the object of the game. Moments later, the house is drawn into a roaring black hole, which Danny realizes is Zathura. The Zorgon fleet is pulled into the black hole, as are Lisa and Walter. Moments later, they have returned to Earth. All the “pieces” of the game (the house, its furnishing, and the players) have been replaced as they were before the game began. The brothers are thereafter much more cooperative with one another. The boys, and Lisa, retain their memories of the game’s events, but all agree never to speak of Zathura again.
As the kids get in the car with their mother and drive away, one of their bicycles, which had drifted off into space and can be seen in several parts of the film, falls back to the lawn.