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Is Zathura Really A Secret Jumanji Sequel? It's Complicated

When audiences sat down to watch Jon Favreau's "Zathura: A Space Adventure" in 2005, they were surprised by how similar it was to 1995's "Jumanji." Both films follow the same premise: children play a board game, only to have elements of the game come to life. In the case of "Zathura," the family playing the titular game are transported to space. "Zathura" faded into obscurity upon release, but the forgotten sci-fi adventure later found a second life on Netflix and has since become a cult favorite for fans who grew up watching it. It's up for debate if "Zathura" is a secret sequel to "Jumanji," but it's definitely not a rip-off, as the films sort-of exist in the same universe. 

Both projects are produced by Sony Pictures and are based on novels written by author Chris Van Allsburg. The "Zathura" and "Jumanji" books are part of the same franchise and are inter-connected. Seeing as "Jumanji" came out first, that makes "Zathura" a sequel to the jungle classic. While the books are connected more explicitly, the films are largely divorced from one another. Both the "Jumanji" and "Zathura" books feature overlapping characters, but the "Zathura" film doesn't follow up on this. 

Their respective source materials are connected, but Favreau's "Zathura" is essentially a standalone spin-off that doesn't lean into the larger universe "Jumanji" established. Though this may confuse fans, the decision to have "Zathura" divorced from the classic Robin Williams comedy was an intentional decision by Favreau. 

Jon Favreau doesn't think Zathura is a Jumanji sequel

After the success of his Christmas comedy "Elf," Jon Favreau decided to switch things up by taking on "Zathura." While "Jumanji" leans into its source material's comedic aspects, "Zathura" is a much more mature production focusing on the challenges of growing up. In fact, "Zathura" is filled with things that only adults will notice, as it's ripe with symbolism and themes that might go over children's heads.

While both projects come from the same author, it was important for Favreau that "Zathura" was seen and interpreted as a project separate from the '90s comedy. "It's confusing because [the books are] written by the same guy and they both share the motif of fantastic events emanating from a game," he told The Los Angeles Daily News in 2005 when discussing the similarities between both films "But, by the same token, 'Zathura' has a very different sensibility, shares none of the same characters, and takes place on the other side of the country."

While many have debated for years if "Zathura" is a stealth "Jumanji" sequel, Favreau cleared the confusion up years ago. "I don't want to mislead people to think this is a sequel, whether you liked the first movie and hope to see more of it, or didn't like it and wouldn't want to see anything related to it," he said, definitively confirming that "Zathura" is a standalone spin-off. 

Jack Black wants Zathura and Jumanji to crossover

Upon release, "Zathura" proved to be a box office misfire, grossing $58.5 million worldwide against a $65 million budget. In 2017, Sony Pictures went back to the larger franchise and debuted "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," a standalone sequel to the 1995 classic. The star-studded reboot proved to be a commercial success, with a sequel titled "The Next Level" premiering in 2019. Now, all eyes are on the next Jumanji film, which could potentially crossover with "Zathura." 

In a 2019 chat with Variety, "Jumanji" reboot star Jack Black acknowledged the legacy of "Zathura" and discussed how it's still part of the larger franchise. The actor also expressed his interest in bridging both films together. "I say we go back to space and find out who is responsible for the technology behind the [Jumanji] game," Black suggested. "This is very advanced ... it's got to be aliens, right? If it's not aliens, it's a super genius like Elon Musk ... Someone's behind it." 

While there is a holdup, "Jumanji 4" is in the works, meaning that Sony Pictures is ready for audiences to return to the jungle. Taking the characters to space would be an intriguing proposition. As exciting as it would be to see both projects finally connect, the decision to do so would probably annoy Favreau, as he strictly wanted "Zathura" to be a separate entity from "Jumanji."