Sunday, August 17, 2008

Movie Review # 1 (Zathura)

ZATHURA: a space adventure (2005) (written by David Koepp, Dir. by Jon Favreau)

The science-fiction genre is a dying genre. Films, books, commercials and t.v. shows used to be teeming with space encounters and fantastical outer-space scenarios. Now, we only seem to care about the real, the plausible, the believable. But some filmmakers dare to break this trend and weave a tale of outer space high-adventure. Zathura is one such film, and These are the films that are killing the genre.

Zathura is a family movie made in the early 2000's. it revolves around a middle brother, his older sister and their youngest brother. The are at home, alone and find a game called Zathura in the attic. They decide to give it a try. It, over a course of time, launches them into outer space. More adventurous, scary and dangerous things happen as the game goes on. But they cannot just stop the game, or else everything that the game has cause to happen (monsters, space goo, missing walls, etc.) will stay the way it is. Or, at least that is the only, even partially logical answer that can be deduced, seeing as they never directly tell us why the game cannot be stopped. Basically, it is a space version of the movie Jumanji, except, Robin Williams isn’t in it as a saving grace. Zathura has no saving grace.

The biggest problem with this movie is the lack of logic involved. (Even for a children’s movie. Our kids are not this dumb) It is not even research that is needed. Just a common, fourth-grader’s knowledge of how people, building, space, air and time work. Now, this list may seem hefty, but you will see what I mean by fourth grader’s knowledge.

The game launching them into outer space, in itself, is unbelievable. But that is passed off as a suspended dis-belief in order to make the story work. There are no problems there. But it does open the door for a tidal wave of other logical flaws to become manifest. Far too many to be passed of simply as “suspended audience dis-belief.” The game somehow causes their walls to be blown off, and so, many walls, or parts of walls are missing. These walls lead directly to space, yet all the items in the house stay put. The children can still breathe, their heads don’t explode, and they can still walk on the floor. It is common knowledge that there is no air or gravity in space, And that if a wall is missing, then it is no longer there, meaning it can no longer separate what is on one side of the wall from what is on the other side of the wall.

And while we are on the topic of missing walls not acting like they are missing, or not leading to space, (which would explain a lot) or something: whenever the children need to see outside, the children go to the front door and open it. Why the door is even still intact doesn’t make sense, but it is, and in fact, is one of the only things still fully intact. But they feel the need to walk over to the door, open it and look through it instead of just turning their heads slightly in any direction and looking out one of the many missing walls or parts of walls. An astronaut enters, which will be discussed further later, and the moment he comes through the door, he takes off his helmet. Again, He cannot breath in open space, but in open space standing on a floor , that’s okay. Floors must be able to generate oxygen.

About the astronaut: he turns out to be the main character fifteen years into the future. He comes back to tell the main character (himself) not to wish upon the game to have his younger brother never born, because this astronaut did, and it is miserable. The logic herein is non-existent. The brother wished his younger brother to never be born. The game makes it so. Okay, so why then does his house, carrying himself, and his younger brother who was never born, fifteen years younger, come floating through space again. It is never explained.

This film not only doesn’t do justice to the genre, it regressed the genre’s progress. The sci-fi genre had to work very hard to be taken seriously. It took decades to finally get to the point where a science-fiction film could actually be watched by a general audience, instead of just geeks, and even make money. Films like Star Wars, Cocoon and Star Trek all were very successful and had to push through the bad reputation of such films as Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, or This Island Earth. Science-fiction is now a recognized and marketable genre to those who are aware of it. And with a little time, it could become as popular as the 12-film-a-summer action movies. But what Zathura has done has been unforgivable. It has shown the general public that the awful stereotypes were right. That Science-Fiction movies are not believable or intelligent and do not give any message at all.

This Genre is also known for it’s advances in special effects and in-screen visual excitement. And this is another instance where Zathura falls short. It does fall into the usual science-fiction-movie trap of using a lot of special effects in order to, hopefully, make the audience feel like they are someplace where these incredible things can happen. Very few movies actually do this well, but even fewer do is so poorly that it hurts to watch. But Zathura does. There are missiles and explosions that look like the producer’s 6 year old daughter got onto a paint program and painted an explosion, then it was cut into the movie. And the set looks like a set from a really bad 1970's music video. With a few walls missing, some chunks taken out of the remaining walls, and a little bit of mess behind. But behind the set is a very obviously green-screened image of what we are supposed to believe is space.

(I also didn’t mention in the original article such small things like their big sister is supposed to be frozen for five turns, but she is actually frozen for eight. Or that the big sister dresses like a two-cent Las Vegas whore, and In a family movie no less. Or that the astronaut happens to have clothes that fit him after his 15 year, unexplainable growth in space [without food or oxygen or water.] or that the funniest part was that the sister has a crush on the astronaut, but it turns out to be her brother haha! Or that the Zorgon’s are after them and they are attracted to heat, so thats why they target their house (because missing walls still keep heat in...) So they turn on their central air (which still works with no walls) and shove a burnt couch into space (and it still has oxygen to burn In open space) or that they little brother jumped over to the Zorgon’s ship (which name I am sure must be copywrited somewhere) and finds these three-eyes goats. Then he steps in this industrial space goo, and it stays on this shoe-leaving a mark, all the way back to his ship, but then disappears on the laundry-chute being used as an elevator to his house. Or that when he is jumping from ship to ship, he still falls in between the ships, even in the gravity-less environment of space. But you know, there are just semantics.)

The movie Zathura has done more to hurt the genre of Science-Fiction as well as the hearts and faith of those who believed Sci-Fi was heading someplace great, than any other single film. There have been worse films made, like Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space. But Ed Wood was a Kook, and it was the 1950's and the sci-fi genre didn’t know any better, and Bella Lugosi died. Zathura is illogical in a very knowledgeable world, open-ended in very inappropriate places, and can’t back itself up in any way, at any time. The Science-Fiction Genre would do better to excommunicate Zathura from the annals of Sci-Fi time than to let it keep poisoning the ideas of the ignorant and closing the minds of the potential fans.

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