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Lost In Space (1998)

LS

Danger Will Robinson!

Directed by:

Stephen Hopkins

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 125 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

Country: United States, United Kingdom

These, friends, are the voyages of the Space Family Robinson. Pioneers propelled into the cosmos to begin colonizing a new home for the peoples of the dying Earth, an entire planet’s hopes depend upon the success of this one mission to end all missions. The only problem is, it turns out space is quite a bit bigger than they’d realised, and they’ve gone and gotten themselves lost. Oops.

To be fair, it’s not really the Robinsons’ fault. They’re a good bunch, after all. And how were they to know a dastardly saboteur (Gary Oldman) was hiding on board, ready to send the whole lot of them up Slack Alley whenever their ever-trusting backs were turned? I mean, really – you just can’t legislate for that sort of jiggery-pokery, can you?

A big screen remake of the camp 60s TV show, ‘Lost In Space’ brings together a high profile cast (Oldman is the weasel-like Dr Smith, Heather Graham and Lacey Chabert are among the family members, and Matt LeBlanc pilots the ship) and squeezes in a number of cameo appearances from the original line-up (plus Dick Tufeld reprising his role as the voice of the Robinsons’ pet robot). It also invests in a record-breaking number of special effects, throwing an array of CGI-generated space critters our way as well as some remarkably gaudy backdrops.

Unfortunately, this ambitious project largely fails to produce the goods. Much of the dialogue is so bad that I found myself wondering whether it had deliberately been written that way as part of some misguided attempt at injecting irony. The story itself takes far too long in getting to nowhere in particular, devoting over half-an-hour to setting up the overall premise before taking an unfocussed meander through to its disappointing (and not to mention nonsensical) anti-climax.

Many of the big names involved are poorly cast, with Oldman producing a strange hybrid of his own personal touch and the original Smith persona – it’s interesting to watch, but doesn’t really work. Gene Hackman could have pulled it off, but Oldman isn’t suited to the part. Similarly, LeBlanc never looks anything other than uncomfortable with his role of chisel-jawed action hero. He’s a fine comic actor, but when asked to play it straight he invariably struggles.

Even the much-praised visuals didn’t work for this reviewer. While technically superb, they’re also emotionally soulless – prime example being the irritating monkey-like alien picked up by the crew. Generated entirely out of CGI courtesy of Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop, it never looks any more realistic than the collection of super-imposed pixels it actually is. A good quality Henson puppet would have been infinitely preferable.

It's Got: An ending that seems to almost beg for a sequel – but don’t hold your breath.

It Needs: A good map.

DVD Extras Cast and crew info, a special effects featurette, a couple of music videos, scenes deleted from the director’s cut, and some trailers. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10

Alternatives:

Galaxy Quest, Starship Troopers, The Core

Summary

Mediocre remake of a mediocre TV show.

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