Brothers Walter (Josh Hutcherson) and Danny (Jonah Bobo) can never seem to get along with each other, or with their cantankerous older teen-aged sister, Lisa (Kristen Stewart). While staying at their divorced father's home while he is away at work and Lisa is asleep, the boys discover an old clockwork-driven space-themed board game called "Zathura" in the basement. The two begin to play the game, the goal to be the first to reach the final space named Zathura. During each turn, the game provides a card with instructions, but the two quickly realize the cards affect reality. They soon discover the house is floating on a small rock in outer space. Meanwhile, Lisa looks out the window, and believing it is merely dark, goes to shower for her date. When the boys try to warn Lisa about what has happened, they find she is frozen in cryonic sleep as a result of one of the cards. The brother realize that the only way to end the game and hopefully return to Earth is to reach the end space of Zathura.
As they continue to play, avoiding the dangers that the game's cards throw at them, the house comes under attack by a race of aliens called Zorgons. Another card brings aboard a stranded astronaut (Dax Shepard) (who is later revealed to be an older Walter) who goes about eliminating the house's heat sources (during which Walter turns down the house's heating thermostat) and setting a couch on fire and pushing it outside into space to lure the Zorgons' ship away with its heat signature.
As the brothers' argument rises, Walter accuses Danny of cheating by moving a piece prematurely, but when Walter tries to correct it, the game reacts as if Walter was cheating and ejects him out of the house into the vacuum of space, but the Astronaut rescues him. On Walter's next turn, he receives a card that allows him to make a wish, and considers making a wish to make Danny go away. The Astronaut reveals to him that he and his own brother had played the game years before, and he too had received the same card. He wished his brother had never been born, but this caused him to be stuck in space forever. The brothers agree to work together to finish the game quickly.
Lisa wakes from her stasis, and unaware of the current events, turns up the thermostat. This causes the Zorgons to return, anchoring their ships to the house. The four evacuate to the upper floor but realize they have left the game downstairs. Danny uses the house's dumbwaiter to sneak past the aliens and retrieve the game. Danny manages to get the game aboard one of the ships, but is caught by the Zorgons when he attempts to get back on the dumbwaiter. Walter uses a robot previously brought by an earlier turn to attack the Zorgons, and the aliens retreat. As the brothers continue to play the game, Walter receives another wish card; he wishes the Astronaut had his brother back, who turns out to be Danny. The Astronaut reveals he is an older Walter from an alternate timeline. Danny and Walter touch their counterparts, causing them to disappear.
The Zorgons return to the house with a large fleet, intent on destroying it. Danny makes a final move to land on Zathura; in space, it is revealed that Zathura is a giant black hole that sucks up the Zorgon fleet and the house. The three children then find themselves in the house as it was before they started the game on Earth, just as their father arrives home and their mother comes to pick them up. As they leave the house, Lisa tells her brothers that none of it ever happened. They both agree with Walter asking her if she still thinks he has "gorgeous eyes". As the car drives away, a bicycle that had been hovering in space around the house during gameplay is seen falling to the ground.
John Alexander as the robot (Frank Oz as voice)
Douglas Tait as Head Zorgon
Jeff Wolfe as Master Zorgon
Adam Wills as Captain Zorgon
Bill Fagerbakke as Patrick Star (uncredited from archival footage)
Stuart Scott as Himself (uncredited from archival footage)
Zathura got a mostly positive review.
Rated PG for fantasy action and peril, and some language
- Kristen Stewart is only two years older than Josh Hutcherson.
- Kristen Stewart admitted she was disturbed to see the life-size replica made of her for the scenes where Lisa is frozen.
- Jonah Bobo lost 4 teeth during filming, so the filmmakers made him fake teeth.
- The beginning and end of the movie were shot on the same, intact, set. Throughout the movie the set was damaged and destroyed forcing the film to be shot in sequence except for the beginning and the end.
- Originally conceived as a direct sequel to Jumanji (1995). The visual effects supervisor on that film, Ken Ralston, was lined up to direct before Columbia abandoned the project in favor of adapting Zathura.
- In every Chris Van Allsburg book, there is a bull terrier named Fritz. Jon Favreau put Fritz in the movie - look for a Beanie Baby bull terrier behind Walter near the end of the movie.
- Filmed in the same house that would later be used in Disturbia (2007).
- Near the beginning of the film, Tim Robbins walks into Kristen Stewart's room. When he walks in, a "Tenacious D" poster can be seen behind him on the wall. Tim Robbins starred in the film "Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny" a year later.
- In Kristen Stewart's first scene, she mentions to her dad: "we should have never rented Thirteen." Thirteen stars Nikki Reed, a future costar in the Twilight saga. It was also directed by Twilight director, Catherine Hardwicke.
- The trailer used background music from the 1989 James Cameron movie The Abyss.
- When Walter opens the living hall of the house after the game was finished, at the bottom of the left can be seen the iconic Steve McQueen poster from Bullitt (1968).
- Danny asks his father to play "Smash Brothers". This is an obvious reference to a series of Nintendo games titled "Super Smash Bros." that is only available on the Gamecube and Nintendo 64. Danny is holding Sony Playstation 2 controllers.
- When Danny first finds the game he looks at the game and says to Walter "What's Zathura?", clearly able to read and pronounce such an unusual word. But just seconds later after the first card pops out he struggles with the phrase "Meteor Shower. Take evasive action". Throughout the rest of the movie Walter needs to read the cards and Danny even tries to read another card and he is unable to read words like "rescue" and "stranded."
- When Danny get a card that says "SHIPMATE ENTERS CRYONIC SLEEP CHAMBER for 5 turns", it actually takes 8 turns.
- When Walter is watching SportsCenter, he changes positions between the one close-up of his head and then the medium shot of him on the chair.
- From the point where Danny is behind the wall listening to Walter complain to his father about the fact that he works too much and Danny getting in his way to the point where Danny knocks over Walter's fruit punch that spills over their father's picture, his hair is sometimes parted and sometimes not.
- The circular saw that the defective robot grabs from the hatch in its back is shown in most shots to be held closely between the robots two fingers - except when the saw is being used to cut the fireplace; here the saw is shown to have a large hub between the blade and the holding fingers.
- Josh Hutcherson's (Walter) hair changes style frequently throughout the movie, even though the film is set in one day.
- When the Zorgons first appear, they shoot out the windows in the kitchen. But later, when the astronaut is telling the kids to shut off all the lights, the windows are intact.
- When the father goes into Lisa's room to wake her up, she is seen sleeping with a bunch of white colored pillows. A shot later, there is a purple pillow next to her. A few more shots later, the pillow is gone.
- When Danny is on the Zorgon ship trying to avoid being seen by the Zorgon, while grabbing at the game, you can clearly see the arm of either a camera man or puppeteer just to his right. He dodges back and forth and the arm is there at first then gone on the second attempt.
- When the house passes too close to Tsouris-3 and enters its gravity field, objects in the house and attached to the house begin to fall toward Tsouris-3 and away from the house, but all objects, including the house itself, would be subject to the same gravitational force and would fall toward Tsouris-3 together, as demonstrated by Galileo at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
- The Games has a total of 51 spaces (Danny wins the game with the following spins after going further for rolling a 6 on two turns in a row - 5, 4, 7, 6, 6, 8-2, 9-1, 1+9). Walter after spinning 6 times is at space 46 (9+2, 8, 6+4, 8, 0, 9! 3-3), which means he should have already won the game. But he continues to play and gets a 3, moves back 3 spaces to get an additional card and the CAUGHT CHEATING card gave him total of 46 spaces.
- When the astronaut first arrives, Walter tells him he is a "fleet admiral" in an attempt to make him leave. The astronaut then responds that he is fleet admiral as well, even showing him the card which shows that he used to be a player. Later, when the astronaut is telling the boys about his failed attempt at a shooting star wish Walter exclaims "You were a player?" He should've been clued into the fact that the astronaut was indeed a former player when he showed the boys the card. However, Walter could've assumed that the astronaut was lying to them in order to stay in the house, but it wouldn't explain where his card came from.
- When the astronaut sets fire to the sofa and kicks it out of the door into space, the couch shouldn't burn because there is no oxygen. Given that the characters can go outside and breathe without any harm, such a detail can to be excused.
- When Danny breaks the broom on the kitchen table, you can clearly see it has been sawed halfway through.