Principal Cast : William Hurt, Gary Oldman, Matt LeBlanc, Heather Graham, Mimi Rogers, Lacey Chabert, Jack Johnson, Jared Harris, Dick Tufeld, Lennie James, Mark Goddard.
Synopsis: The Robinson family was going into space to fight for a chance for humanity. Now they are fighting to live long enough to find a way home.
Inexplicably obtuse, Stephen Hopkins’ 1998 sci-fi nostalgia-bump remake of the classic 60’s Irwin Allen television series is an abysmal failure on almost every level. From the writing, the visual effects, the editing and camerawork, to the unflattering acting performances and astoundingly inane story decisions, Lost In Space is a train-wreck of a film, hot garbage from the first frame to the pounding headache-inducing trash that is Apollo 440’s title track, and actually harms the reputation of the iconic show that spawned it through simply existing. Hopkins isn’t typically a bad director, and was coming off the critical and cult success of The Ghost & The Darkness, but with this silly tripe and stretched-thin VFX capabilities he’s well out of his depth here – Lost in Space also represents the dichotomy of both the birth and death of Friends’ star Matt LeBlanc’s feature film career, while much the same could be said of Party of 5 actress Lacey Chabert.
Hurtled across the galaxy to save a dying Earth by establishing a base on a far distant planet, science family the Robinsons – father John (William Hurt), mother Maureen (Mimi Rogers) and their children Judy (Heather Graham), Penny (Lacey Chabert) and precocious Will (Jack Johnson) – find themselves and their craft, the Jupiter 1, lost in space thanks to sabotage committed by stowaway and rebel Dr Zachary Smith (Gary Oldman). Together with cavalier military pilot Major Don West (Matt LeBlanc), the family and their robotic protector (voice of Dick Tufeld) traverse the far reaches of space and a variety of alien creatures in their desperate attempts to return home.
Written by Akva Goldsman, Lost in Space is a film comprised almost exclusively of glib trailer-ready modern-speak (“Cool!” “Let’s rock’n’roll!” “Cold fish, eh?” several characters bark at the screen), bizarre non-sequiturs, and a leathery grey computer aesthetic prominent in the sci-fi genre at the time. Goldsman’s screenplay is an entity of confused ideas, preposterously cluttered character arcs that never land with any emotion (although not for lack of trying by the surprisingly solid cast), a grabasstic load of hokum and nonsense trying to evoke a more up-to-date replication of Irwin Allen’s prototypical science ficition series. Hell, the production even snagged the return of the voice actor who played the series’ iconic robot, Dick Tufeld, who is given the unedifying task of replicating Jack Johnson’s pre-teen inflections and delivery at various points through the film; props for trying, I guess, but this film is a stream of visual garbage.
Half the problem is that it looks completely unfinished from a VFX standpoint. Blocky, ill-rendered graphics and low-grade textures on much of the obvious CGI sequences look positively laughable, with whole landscapes reduced to lopsided replicas of a world not too dissimilar to ours but entirely without depth. Brief flashes of some futuristic Earthen metropolis look like barely SimCity3-level artefacts, a jumble of flashy yet inconsistently constructed shots that do little to truly “build a world”. Hell, one of the major characters, a completely CG monkey-alien named Blart, looks like they ran out of money to finish the effects of him, and he comes across like a rough previz concept build for Gollum, only without the nuance. This problem completely ruins the suspension of disbelief, and things only go from bad to worse.
With such terrible dialogue to deliver, and with so many of the film’s actors giving atonal performances compared to each other, the likes of Gary Oldman (who appears to be having a hammy time chewing scenes as Dr Smith) and William Hurt (who looks totally bored to be here) struggle to differentiate themselves from the very inanimate sets and soundstage production they are walking through, while Matt LeBlanc was inexplicably forced to wear clothing that’s at least two sizes to large for his frame. Mimi Rogers and Heather Graham are unable to offer much other than eye-candy for various demographics, while Lacey Chabert’s high-pitched, chipmunk voice absolutely set my teeth grinding together, she was so annoying. Jack Johnson – poor kid – is the “precocious youngster nobody listens to” before of course becoming the soul of the film’s blindingly stupid third act, whereby we’re subjected to a young Jared Harris doing his best Robinson Crusoe (perhaps harkening back to the ill-fitting themes of the franchise) having a conversation with Gary Oldman as a black robotic spider thing.
Lost In Space is a remarkably terrible film. It’s just as bad as people have said it is, if not worse. Unfortunately, it’s not even in the “so bad it’s good” camp, so I’d avoid going anywhere near this car crash of a thing. The whole film feels like an unfinished concept album by a band who should have broken up ten years back.