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Lost in Space

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Lost in Space

Starring: William Hurt, Gary Oldman
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 130 Minutes
Release Date: April 1998
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Heather Graham, Mimi Rogers, Matt LeBlanc, Lacey Chabert, Jack Johnson

Reviewer Roundup
1.  MrBrown review follows movie review
2.  Mark OHara read the review ---
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by MrBrown
1 star out of 4

Back in February at the monthly Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention, New Line Cinema put on a lavish presentation for its big-screen update of the cult 1960s sci-fi TV show Lost in Space, complete with in-person appearances by cast members Mimi Rogers, Matt LeBlanc, Lacey Chabert, Jack Johnson, and even Gary Oldman. That should have set off my warning alarms--the last time such an extravagant film presentation took place at the convention was nearly five years ago, when none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger made an in-person cameo to peddle... Last Action Hero. But no, like millions of others, I bought into the hype and "got Lost." If only I had gotten lost--literally--on the way to theatre and spared myself the tedium of this sloppily slapped-together blockbuster wannabe.

You may find yourself wondering if director Stephen Hopkins and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman were lost themselves when they made the film. At the convention, Goldsman claimed to be a rabid fan of the original television series, and if that really is the case, I'd hate to see what he does with concepts he only has mild interest in. To say that his script lacks narrative cohesion is to imply that there is a narrative to begin with--which there most certainly is not. After the setup, in which the Robinson family--father John (William Hurt, looking and sounding as spaced out as he does in interviews), mother Maureen (Rogers, wasted), daughters Judy (Heather Graham, ditto) and Penny (a heavily made-up Chabert, looking like a junior version of Neve Campbell in Wild Things), and son Will (young newcomer Johnson, making the best of it)--and pilot Don West (LeBlanc, doing a bad Han Solo impression) find themselves lost in space after their ship is sabotaged by evil stowaway Dr. Smith (a watered-down but still-lively Oldman, cashing a paycheck and loving every minute), the script's "stream" of events becomes so fragmented and random that it seems to be made up as it goes along--and Hopkins does little to make what does go on the slightest bit interesting. They encounter another ship. They board it. Alien spiders attack them. They return to their ship. The other one explodes. They land on a deserted planet. And so on. An attempt at a plot involving time travel occurs in the third act, but Goldsman doesn't seem to understand the rules that come with using such a story device; when one character's past self dies, the future incarnation inexplicably lives on.

The look and effects should be Lost in Space's ace-in-the-hole, but Hopkins even manages to botch that. For a big-budget film, the visual effects are incredibly shoddy. In one composite background shot, I could see the blue outline around Oldman; the various digital effects for the space battle scenes look like... digital effects. But nothing in those shots is as jaw-droppingly unconvincing as Blawp, a monkey-like space creature that becomes Penny's pet. Entirely computer-generated and every inch showing it, Blawp looks like it was lifted directly from a Sony PlayStation game. Apparently Hopkins thought the same and tried desperately to hide it; how else can one explain the graininess of Blawp's composite shots with the human actors? But in doing so, the seams are that much more obvious. You have to be severely visually impaired to not be distracted when a grainy shot of Penny and Blawp is immediately followed by a crystal-clear solo reaction shot of Judy.

New Line is hoping Lost in Space will become a big franchise much like the long-running Star Trek cash cow at Paramount. I don't think so. In a few years, the Lost in Space movie will likely live on not as a series but as the obscure answer to a trivia question: What film ended Titanic's 15-week reign at the top of the weekend box office?

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