Zathura appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image satisfied.
Sharpness worked fine. A smidgen of softness crept into a couple of shots, but the majority of the movie appeared accurate and concise. I witnessed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also failed to cause concerns.
If you wondered “hey, was orange and teal a thing in 2005?”, Zathura answers “heck, yeah!” This wasn’t exactly a lush, vibrant palette, but the tones seemed well-represented by the transfer. Blacks were reasonably deep and dense, and shadows looked mostly fine; a few low-light shots were a smidgen thick, but not to a problematic degree. Overall, this was a positive presentation.
I found almost nothing about which to complain when I examined the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Zathura. Actually, there was only one problem I noticed: a few lines sounded a little edgy. Those occurred solely when the kids yelled at each other, and the distortion remained minor.
Otherwise the track sounded great. Most of the lines were concise and crisp, and music fared well. The score was bold and dynamic throughout the movie. Effects were especially terrific, as they showed great clarity and range. Low-end packed a fine punch and never became loose or boomy.
The soundfield was also excellent. The outer space theme afforded many opportunities for all five channels to involve us, and this occurred frequently. The meteor shower was the first real chance for this, and it provided a fine sense of action. Other standout scenes came from the Zorgon attacks as well as the first appearance of the robot.
Really, the whole third act kicked things into gear, with audio that zoomed around us from all sides. The material meshed together smoothly and always seemed well-placed. We even occasionally got some nice localization of speech to the various non-center channels. This was a consistently strong soundtrack despite the minor edginess to dialogue.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2006? Audio had more range and power, while visuals seemed cleaner, better defined and more vivid. The Blu-ray gave us a clear step up in quality.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and these begin with an audio commentary from director Jon Favreau and co-producer Peter Billingsley. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. They touch upon a mix of subjects such as casting and working with the kids, various effects, the house set and its features, the story and changes from the original book, influences and inspirations, deleted scenes, and general production notes like costumes and design.
Favreau and Billingsley interact well, though the director definitely dominates the discussion. The track moves briskly and boasts a light and lively tone. I especially like details such as the studio’s resistance to casting Kristin Stewart and their desire to have Sony product placement.
I also like the parts about miniatures and the avoidance of CG whenever possible; the elements about the way the various forms melded for the robot are quite interesting. In a refreshing touch, we even hear a little about the movie’s box office failure. Overall, this is a very good commentary that tells us a lot about the flick.
Seven featurettes follow. All use the same format, as they mix movie clips, production materials, and interviews. First we get Race to the Black Planet, an 11-minute, 55-second look at visual effects. We hear from Favreau, Billingsley, visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer, visual effects producer Joseph Conmy, special effects supervisor Jon G. Belyeu, and actors Dax Shepard, Jonah Bobo and Josh Hutcherson.
The show discusses Favreau’s desire to use as many practical effects as possible. We then watch the various techniques used to achieve these goals. The program offers a nice behind the scenes glimpse of these methods, as the many clips from the shoot help make this an effective view of matters.
During the 14-minute, 56-second The Right Moves: The Making of Zathura, we discover remarks from Favreau, Billingsley, Bobo, Hutcherson, producers William Teitler and Michael De Luca, director of photography Guillermo Navarro, production designer J. Michael Riva, stunt coordinator Tom Harper. It looks at the adaptation of the original story, attempts to give the fantasy a personal tone and ground it in reality, elements of the house set and related subjects, and stunts and the kids.
Based on its title, I feared “Moves” would be little more than a generic promotional piece. Happily, it provides much more substance than that. It repeats some info from the commentary, but it brings different perspectives and gives us a fine look at some production decisions.
Next comes The Cast of Zathura. As one might expect, the 12-minute, 51-second show examines the movie’s actors. We hear from Favreau, Billingsley, Bobo, Hutcherson, Shepard, Teitler, casting director Avy Kaufman, and actors Kristen Stewart and Tim Robbins. We learn a little about how the folks got their roles and why the project appealed to them. Inevitably, this includes a fair amount of praise for various participants, but it adds some nice insights, and I like the audition shots.
More effects material shows up in Miniatures and the World of Zathura. This nine-minute, 48-second piece features Favreau, Bauer, Conmy, Riva, miniatures supervisor Michael Joyce, and Cinema Production Services producer Bob Hurrie. “Miniatures” looks at the design of the house and the Zorgon ship as well as their creation as miniatures. This provides a nice up-close look at the specifics of the miniatures and helps tell us more about the movie’s practical elements.
For notes about the author behind Zathura, we go to the 12-minute, 52-second The World of Chris Van Allsburg. It includes remarks from Van Allsburg. He discusses his early interest in art, his move into books, elements of various works, specifics of Zathura and its adaptation into a movie. A similar piece appears on the Polar Express release, but “World” runs significantly longer and offers much greater depth. Van Allsburg digs into his stories well in this informative program.
Still more technical information appears in Zorgons, Robots and Frozen Lisa. In this 16-minute, 42-second program, we find details from Favreau, Navarro, Bauer, Hutcherson, Conmy, Stewart, Teitler, Stan Winston Studio’s Stan Winston, and animatronic supervisor Shane Mahan. As implied by the title, we get information about the design and execution of the Zorgons, the robot, and the Lisa mannequin. We see plenty more solid behind the scenes footage and learn quite a few useful details. This turns into another strong show with many excellent insights.
Lastly, we turn to the 14-minute, one-second Making the Game featurette. It provides material from Favreau, Riva, Hutcherson, property master Russell Bobbitt, and illustrator Phil Saunders. It should come as no surprise to learn that this show examines the design and creation of the movie’s titular board game. We find out how it differs from the game in the book, other visual elements, and actually building the thing.
As with the other featurettes, this one’s lively and informative. I like learning more about the game’s specifics since it plays such a major role in the film, and this piece delves into the topics well.
For a look at the novel, we get a Motion Storybook. This runs 17 minutes, 39 seconds and lets us hear parts of the original text as read by author Chris Van Allsburg. It’s a quick but fun addition.
Race Through Space offers a “virtual board game”. Meant for two players, “Race” asks trivia questions as you attempt to get to the center of the board. The items cover science. Some minor enjoyment may result from this, but don’t expect much.
As a tie-in with the 2015 film, we get The Cast of Goosebumps Reflects on Zathura. It goes for five minutes, 18 seconds and offers comments from actors Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee. They tell us what they like about Zathura and why it remains popular. This exists to promote Goosebumps - which becomes more obvious because Lee and Minnette talk for less than two minutes before we get a sneak peek for Goosebumps. That promo also stands on its own (3:01), and the package finishes with a trailer for Zathura.
Although it suffers from too many similarities to its big brother Jumanji, I think Zathura entertains on its own. The movie falters in its third act, but it still offers a fair amount of fun. The Blu-ray brings us solid picture and audio as well as a nice array of supplements. Though not a classic, Zathura mostly succeeds.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of ZATHURA