Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Jumanji in Space
In 1995, Jumanji was released, and it was a smashing success. The only problem was that the film felt slightly inconsistent with the use of CGI and animatronic effects. Ten years later, a spiritual sequel is born, known as Zathura. A spiritual sequel is a sequel that doesn’t affect the first film in any form or fashion or even include anyone from the original. Instead, it just has similar things happen, almost like a reimagining. Zathura was originally a book authored by the same guy who authored Jumanji, so it shouldn’t be seen as a rip-off or anything. Though, if I could say one thing, it would be that maybe the man should think about writing new material.
Like Jumanji, Zathura is a magical board game with mystical properties. There are also a couple of kids that discover the board game, wreaking havoc around them by playing it. Only instead of a jungle coming to them, it is space and aliens. Again like Jumanji, there is a helper…or guide that has the inside scoop on the game that helps the two kids out on their adventure. Finally, they must play through the game (again like Jumanji) in order to return home and have all of this madness end.
Let’s not skip around the bush here, this film is almost identical to Jumanji in every shape and fashion. Where it differs however, is the tone. Jumanji had us reeling on the edge of our seats in excitement. We felt the danger in the board game as if it were real. There were great characters and great chemistry around. Zathura? This was more of a light-toned comedic adventure with kids that are more cute than serious. Therefore, we don’t sense the same level of danger, even though dangerous things are happening around them.
Next, things just didn’t add up as well as they did in Jumanji. The discovery of the board game didn’t make much sense. In Jumanji, the legend was that it’s played, then people get rid of it and is found again by another family. The board game Zathura was just in these kids’ basement. Yep. Just a magical board game hanging out downstairs. Next, the urgency of playing the game start to finish was more apparent in Jumanji. They had to, because things were getting worse and worse, and the dangers introduced in the beginning were still dangers in the end. In Zathura, once the kids dodge one evil, it stops…which means if they wanted to, they could stop playing the game and float by peacefully in outer space…doesn’t make much sense.
The thing is, and this is very important, I am focusing way too much of my energy on comparing this to Jumanji. This is not Jumanji. It has similarities, but it is its own project. Once I got that through my head, I started to realize something. The movie isn’t half bad. The tone it has is light, funny, and adventurous. It remains consistently so throughout the entire film. The visuals are magnificent. The film was also able to establish a better representation of a child’s imagination…something the other movie ignored completely.
This is a prime example of why you should remember the phrase, “apples and oranges”. Just because these two films have striking similarities doesn’t mean you should compare them to each other. Personally, I like Jumanji better. I will always see that as the more memorable film, but I also believe Zathura was done better on an overall production aspect. Both easily have great qualities in completely different categories, and I think they should both be seen.
Now…if they could make another film with the best aspects of both of these films, then you’ve met the perfect film.