Let’s just get this out of the way right now… yes the premise sounds a lot like outer space Jumanji. There’s a reason for that. The book “Zathura” on which the upcoming Jon Favreau directed film is based was written by Chris Van Allsburg, who also wrote the book “Jumanji”. It is not however, a sequel. Just a book with a similar premise.
Favreau had originally intended to flat out avoid the whole Jumanji thing, but after being beaten down by constant comparisons, recent advertisements for the film have decided to embrace it with the tagline “From the world of Jumanji”. I guess Sony Pictures got sick of fielding “is this a Jumanji sequel” questions.
Why not embrace Jumanji? It’s not a bad film, and now Zathura is looking pretty good too. What’s most interesting to me is Favreau’s insistence on using mostly practical effects. He’s spurning the loving, lazy, crappy looking embrace of CGI and instead using real effects, matte paintings, models, robots, and maybe even hand puppets to bring the world of Zathura to realistic life. The guys who know that sort of work are becoming dinosaurs, employ them before their breed vanishes.
Favreau blew everyone away with Elf in 2003, and there’s reason to hope that Zathura may deliver just as well. However, for your next film Jon, consider getting out of the kiddie genre… and consider avoiding the annoyance of Dax Shepard.