Combustible Celluloid
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With: William Hurt, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham, Lacey Chabert, Jack Johnson, Gary Oldman, Matt LeBlanc, Jared Harris, Mark Goddard, Lennie James, Marta Kristen, June Lockhart, Edward Fox
Written by: Akiva Goldsman, based on the TV series created by Irwin Allen
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense sci-fi action
Running Time: 130
Date: 04/03/1998

Lost in Space (1998)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Spaced' Out

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I was a fan of the re-runs of the original "Lost in Space" TV show when I was a kid, although I can't remember why. I remember Will Robinson (Billy Mumy, who is conspicuously absent from the new movie), the Robot, and Dr. Smith. I don't remember any plots or any particular scenes. I guess it wasn't that great of a show.

Which is fine. Usually Hollywood can't make movies that are as good as the best TV, so why not adapt bad TV shows into good movies? That's what they've done here with the new Lost in Space movie.

Lost in Space is far from perfect. There are lots of plot holes, bad dialogue, and bad choices made. There's a completely unnecessary cute-creature named Blawp, created by Jim Henson's Creature Workshop, that seems to disappear when it's not needed to be cute. There are some awful lines that William Hurt's wooden-method readings make laughable. There's stuff like the Jupiter 2 making a nose dive directly into the sun and surviving. And generally, the 3D computer animation is bad, obvious, and outdated. They're using the exact same technology that shocked and amazed all of us five years ago in Jurassic Park, but we've grown used to it, and we can now see how the trick works.

On the other hand, I got into the story, and I was curious to see what happened next. The plot has something to do with the Robinson family setting up a hyperspace "doorway" at Alpha Centurai so that people on Earth can travel there in an instant without going through 10 years of light-speed travel. Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman) tries to sabotage the mission, but ends up trapped on board. The Jupiter 2 begins a collision course with the sun. The Robinsons use their hyperdrive to get out, but without the doorway, hyperspace is completely random, and they end up not only in uncharted space, but in the future as well.

I liked Gary Oldman's Dr. Smith. Usually, when he is the bad guy (Air Force One, The Fifth Element), he is wicked, twisted and sheer, undiluted evil, with no character development or depth whatsoever. His Dr. Smith seems to have a small smidgen of ambiguity. We're allowed to like him at certain moments. Young Lacey Chabert is a great Penny Robinson. Her feature debut here is not unlike that of Christina Ricci's in The Addams Family. I may get in trouble for saying this, but she is gorgeous. She's only 14, but I can fearlessly predict, that by the time she's 18, she'll be one of the most beautiful women on the planet. Mimi Rogers, a very fine actress, has a few moments where she's allowed to shine, but basically she's just "the wife." The robot, my favorite part of the TV show, is back with a few modifications. Even his voice is similar to the old voice.

Director Stephen Hopkins is responsible for some B-movie trash that I liked, such as Predator 2, and A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child, and some I didn't, like Blown Away. Keeping these credits in mind, you may know what you're in for. In any case, I had a lot of fun. Possibly more fun that I ever had watching the TV show, and that's the point, isn't it?

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