Director: Stephen Hopkins
Cast: William Hurt, Matt LeBlanc, Gary Oldman, Heather Graham, Mimi Rogers, Jack Johnson, Lacey Chabert, Jared Harris
Plot: Dr Robinson (Hurt) volunteers to send his family onto a scientific expedition into space, uprooting them from their comfortable life.
It would be nice to blame Lost in Space’s failures on the decade it was released. It does reek of a 90s blockbuster at its very worst. Loud, brass, packed with lacklustre CGI… That being said, while the shortcomings of the era deserve a lion’s share of the fault here, really the entire production is riddled with mistakes.
The premise is taking the traditional Sci-Fi adventure and making the core team a dysfunctional family unit. The characters are essentially that typical family moving house – with the teenage daughter being ripped away from her friends and the son striving for attention in his father’s busy schedule – but with every problem exacerbated, because it is set in deep space. It sounds intriguing enough, probably why this movie was green-lighted to be turned into a film from the 60s TV show it is based off. However, with the running time of the film format, the family never gets time to be developed, meaning that they are never anything more than stereotypes. The result is that the family drama is more frustrating than anything, distracting from the sci-fi elements. Mimi Rogers barely features as the mother and Lacey Chabert gets most of her characterisation done through shallow video blogs. The bigger problem is that the dialogue is so cheesy that the audience is never particularly bothered about finding out more about the characters we are given. Whenever the film does slow down, the characterisation carries on feeling forced and hampers the pace. The audience ends up caught in a catch-22 scenario. Do we accept the painful stereotypes this movie is built around – Matt LeBlanc’s roguish pilot 101 and Hurt’s stoic father – or do we subject ourselves to more dreary talking head scenes? The only character that is fun to spend time with is Gary Oldman’s spy who ends up caught on the spaceship when his employers betray him and is forced to align with the Robinsons. His Dr. Smith is a desperate villain, a bad guy without a plot, and therefore made all the more unpredictable. Is he helping the Robinsons because it suits his own needs or is he working towards a darker goal? That being said, as far as Oldman villains go, Dr. Smith isn’t worth remembering, when compared to his meatier work on Leon, Hannibal and Air Force One.
The plot also struggles to figure out where to go. Trapped in deep space, thanks to Oldman’s plan gone wrong, the Robinsons end up struggling to figure out which time zone they are in. This is a strong premise as the film can go wherever it needs to go. It means that when the suspenseful build-up is finally done with, there is a slight disappointment with where the story has decided to go. Perhaps it is not so much the narrative arc, but how it is told… There are merits to the time travel fun which means that interesting plot points unravel themselves, keeping the audience guessing until the very end. But bad CGI means that any scares meant to be wormed out of both the spider minions that make up most of the film and the final monstrosity are reduced to laughable examples of why Lost in Space over-reaches with its visual effects. Also, the finale has the horrific crime of splitting its cast by gender. Every male character gets to take part in the final showdown, while the girls are stuck back in the spaceship, tapping at computer screens. Sexism at its very worst! But by this point in the movie, pointing out flaws with misogyny is splitting hairs with a predominantly flawed movie.
Final Verdict: Lost in Space’s movie reboot is a messy blockbuster with thin characters and ropey effects. Highly skippable.