Topic: Zathura: review by Writhyn (spoilers)
Just finished watching this movie for the first time since I saw it in theaters. I decided to check it out again because a) I was bored, and b) I've had it on my Google Play wish list for a year. Why? Just because I vaguely remembered liking it, and there were five or six particular moments in the movie that stuck in my head. Which is pretty good for a single viewing ten years ago. I was also quite curious how it would hold up post-FIYH training.
So I started watching it with a few of the main points I learned from WAYDM, which I'll focus on for the review, such as
1. Story clarity or through line
2. Set-ups and payoffs
3. Character arcs
4. Magic Bean
5. Fridge Logic
6. Perfect Movie (?)
Story Clarity or Through Line
It's quite simple: two brothers do not get along. They find an adventure game which actually makes a them part of a real adventure by bringing them into the world of the game. By the end, they learn to appreciate each other.
Simple. Also it's obvious this is a spiritual successor to Jumanji, but I think it's different enough to justify its existence.
I think the through line of brothers learning to appreciate each other is clear, and constantly referred to as the movie progresses. So it's a success here.
Set-ups and payoffs
This movie is worth watching for these alone. Having listened to most of the WAYDM commentaries, I've got an amateur eye for catching things that look like set ups, and the movie payed off two dozen at least, big and small. There was one small one that I noticed just floating around a number of times, and thought "That had better be a thing." And BOOM. Right at the end they payed it off.
There are quite a few of these based on small lines, a lingering shot, and particularly one with a piano briefly mentioned in conversation that made me really happy. The best part about some of the more subtle ones (like the piano) is they don't shove in your face what they just pulled off. They just let you enjoy it if you happen to catch it.
Seriously, watch Zathura for good examples of this storytelling device.
Pretty solid. I believe the main character is the younger brother, who goes through a clear arc of overcoming his fears. His older brother is also a major character who goes through the main arc of not being a dick to him. Both are well-justified, though the older brother's arc might be a tad sudden.
As far as the supporting characters, they're fun and generally make sense, with the possible exception of the older sister being a little too calm when she wakes up in the middle of everything (she freaks out, but not quite enough). That said, this is the most emotional I've ever seen Kristen Stewart be. She actually opens her eyes all the way for most of the movie. But seriously, she gets some great moments, and plays them well.
Incidentally the siblings interacting with each other is one of the highlights of the movie: I have three older siblings and seven younger, and this movie shines in showing what that's like.
This movie might be strained a bit here, unless you give it the Wonderland (that the introduction of a different universe allows for multiple odd things happening). Personally I hold to the wonderland here, because the multiple contrivances make sense together.
So the wonderland magic bean is that a game transports the characters and their house into outer space for the duration of the game. There is still water, gas, and power, and oxygen. They also don't freeze. Don't worry though: lanterns are hung, and in excellent ways.
Aliens show up, but that still makes sense given the game's sci-fi theme.
The only bean that might not hold up is a somewhat iffy time paradox, but that's always the case with time. (Ugh. Time. Who needs it?)
Simply put, this is mainly related to the time paradox.
Maybe. It certainly tied things up as far as I could tell, but I'm open to debate on this one.
The acting was solid all around, especially from the two boys. The writing was filled with character lines and setups. Not a lot of exposition. I loved the family dynamic.
The special effects are really nice, including a lot of puppet work that I really felt good about. Also someone had a great time blowing a house to smithereens.
So give it a shot if you haven't seen it, or maybe another view if it's been awhile. Pay attention to the dialogue and setups and you'll have a lot of fun.