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Zathura: A Space Adventure – 10th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

ZathuraZATHURA: 10th ANNIVERSARY EDITION stars Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games franchise), Kristen Stewart (Twilight franchise), Jonah Bobo (Crazy, Stupid, Love.), and Dax Sheppard (“Parenthood”) in the story of two young brothers who are drawn into an intergalactic adventure when their house is hurled through the depths of space by the magical board game they are playing. The all-new bonus features include an animated storybook version of the book narrated by author Chris Van Allsburg and the original theatrical trailer.  The film is directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens, Chef).  ZATHURA has a run time of approximately 101 minutes and is rated PG for fantasy action and peril, and some language.

Film 

In this heart-racing science fiction adventure, ZATHURA, two squabbling brothers are propelled into deepest, darkest space while playing a mysterious game discovered in the basement of their old house. On their fantastic journey, they are joined by a stranded astronaut and must survive meteor showers, hostile lizard-like aliens, a rocket-propelled robot who runs amok and an intergalactic spaceship battle. Unless they finish the game and reach the planet Zathura, they could be trapped in outer space forever.

When it was being marketed before its release, the film was being touted as a “spiritual sequel to Jumanji“.   Aside from both being about board games come to life base on books by the same author, that’s luckily where the similarities stop.  Where Jumanji was a grim, dour hollow adventure, Zathura actually has a lot more fun, emotional stakes and things going on with our characters beside the whole “Oh woah!  I rolled a ten, look at this creature/disaster coming after me!”

This was Jon Favreau’s follow-up to Elf, and he’s having a blast directing the crap out of this movie.  People may have scratched heads when it came to him directing Iron Man, but he more than proves his chops here.  Favreau makes fine use of a marriage between practical and digital effects.  A lot of what you’re seeing in Zathura is real.  And some of what you think is fully CGI, is actually an animatronic, prop or built set.  The best thing is that it all looks quite smooth, holds up and still gives a childlike sense of wonder and fantasy with a sense of realism within in its own sort of reality (That make sense at all?).

Beyond the fantastics of the Zathura game coming to life and every sort of cool sci-fi action sequence or character.  Beyond the humorous situations and the fun of seeing some of this cast at a young age and early in their careers.  This movie actually has something else going for it.  The true story of this film is the brother relationship at the center.  Their dealing with a divorce, age difference and getting along to move forward.  Its the crux of this entire thing and also gives Dax Shepard some of his best dramatic work I’ve ever seen the guy deliver.  What this film remembers that Jumanji didn’t, is that its a family film and puts the family as the important focal point and theme no matter where the film is at in its zaniness.

Didn’t like Jumanji, either?  Don’t worry, Zathura is everything that movie should have been and whole lot more.  Its tops that film in almost every aspect and actually has something it wants to be and gives its characters some drive.  The film also has some great effects and action sequences to boot.  For the family, science ficition adventure film that it is, its really top of the line and one of the best around.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Zathura heralds the same transfer as the previous Blu-ray edition.  That’s very good news.  This is image is sharp and pristine.  Its luscious with beautiful coloring and thoroughly detailed.

Depth:  Zathura has some nice, loose space shots as well as a good free feeling environment in the home between characters and objects.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and really help improve sharpness and definition.  No crushing or detail hidden.

Color Reproduction:  There is a nice varied palette on display in Zathura.  The Earth-bound things all have a nice wholesome rustic look to them and some of the fantastical stuff and kids can pop and look very bold and at times appealingly striking.

Flesh Tones:  Skin is takes on a natural look and is consistent throughout.  Detail on freckles, blemishes, make-up and the like is visible at any distance.

Noise/Artifacts:  Very very clean.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese (Traditional), Dutch, French, Indonesian, Japnaese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

Dynamics:  Also carried over is the excellent 5.1 track.  This is an action packed track that is booming with action.  It’ll make you feel like you’re playing the board game in your own house.  The 5.1 mix is masterfully woven around and hits every necessary beat with sound precision.  Its a great experience.

Low Frequency Extension:  There is a lot of pounding down with the suboofer.  House destruction, explosions, meteor showers, robots stomping, blaster firing…all this and more rumbles your living room to incredible thrills.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This is a busy 5.1 mix, utilizing the rear speakers for more than just ambiances.  Action comes at you from all sides with this mix.  Closing your eyes, you’ll know what’s going on in every corner of the house in the movie.  The volume placement and action beats are accurately depicted.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Crisp and clear.

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Extras 

Zathura – 10th Anniversary Edition comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Jon Favreau and Peter Billingsley

Featurettes (SD, 1:33:08) – Featurettes on the various aspects of making the film ported over the from the previous DVD/Blu-ray release.

  • Race to the Black Planet
  • The Right Moves
  • The Cast
  • Miniatures
  • The World of Chris Van Allsburg
  • Zorgons, Robots and Frozen Lisa
  • Making the Game

Zathura Motion Storybook as Read by Author Chris Van Allsburg (HD, 17:39) – Original artwork featured also from Chris Van Allsburg

Race Through Space: Virtual Board Game – A video version of the board game.

Goosebumps Sneak Peek (HD, 3:01) – Basically the trailer for Goosebumps.

The Cast of Goosebumps Reflects on Zathura (HD, 5:18) – The two male leads from the upcoming Goosebumps and share a sneak peek at the film.

Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:33)

Summary 

Zathura is the better version of Jumanji.  Easily.  Its a story with some weight to it, its fun, better directed, acted, effects you name it.  It runs the gamut around the previous film.  This Blu-ray’s video quality also runs wild on that one (But, its a more recent film too, so that’s to be expected).  Sight and sound are top notch and the extras bring a whole lot of fun.  If you already own the movie, there’s no real reason to upgrade (Unless you’re THAT into everything Goosebumps), but for those who don’t have it, jump on this edition.  Its a terrific family film, and at least a good one for those of all ages.

Zathura-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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