Lost In Space (1998)

Lost In Space Title

Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Written by Akiva Goldsman

Run Time: A whopping 130 minutes! [Dennis: Ouch!]

Tagline: Danger, Will Robinson!

Budget: 75 million Total US Gross: 69.102 Million (136 Million worldwide)

A Guest Review by Karl Hoegle

John Hurt John Robinson (John Hurt)

Super Dad!

Mimi Rodgers Maureen Robinson (Mimi Rodgers)

The glue that keeps the family together.

Heather Graham Judy Robinson (Heather Graham)

Eye candy for Joey

Lacey Chalbert Penny Robinson (Lacey Chalbert)

Teen angst!

Jack Johnson Will Robinson (Jack Johnson)

10 year old brainiac.

Jared Harris Elder Will Robinson (Jared Harris)

30-something brainiac.

Gary Oldman Dr. Zachary Smith (Gary Oldman)

He should have a black cape, he is so evil!

Robot Robot (Voice of Dick Tufeld)

Takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’

Blawp Blawp

Computer generated Money maker. [Dennis: Oh dear lord! What the heck is this?!]

Once again the Monster Shack has graciously allowed my humble efforts to grace its hallowed web site. This review is for a movie that I just can’t bring myself to love nor hate. It has its moments both good and bad, the former being fewer but grander. I was worried when the movie started out with a huge wad of exposition, but boiled down it posits that all humanity had given up fighting, war was eliminated, and that all peoples, creeds, and nations banded together for the greater good. Riiight! But there was still an evil serpent in Eden ; the dreaded Seditionists were trying to blow up all that was good and take over. (Even though all humanity had given up fighting, war was eliminated, and that all peoples, creeds, and nations banded together for the greater good…)

Mankind is building a “Hypergate” that will allow them to bypass all that tedious flying about through space and use it to warp to Alpha Centauri where a new planet named Alpha Prime awaits our arrival. The Robinson family will travel the long hard journey (in cryosleep!) to Alpha Prime via a 10 year long conventional sublight spaceflight and build the other identical end of the Hypergate, presumably from whatever is on hand at that end. Seriously, this Hypergate is HUGE; giant space freighters have to go through it, so John Robinson’s Hypergate building abilities had better be up to par.

Question 1 : What if he dies before he can build it? No one is a backup for him, his son Will Robinson is the only science savvy person on board; I hardly think that Earth leaders would trust a 10 year old kid to build such a device.

Question 2 : Where the heck are the materials going to come from? Certainly they are not stored aboard the Jupiter 2. I mean it is freakishly roomy, but that is ridiculous! Also, the entire planet Earth is building this end of the Hypergate, it has been over a year and they only have a tenth done. How long will it take one man to do the same at the other end? Stupid…

The evil Seditionists try to blow the Earth’s portion of the Hypergate up, which makes no sense. They need the Robinsons to build the other end of the Hypergate so that they can sneak their colonists through and steal all the “ Alpha- Prime” real estate. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!) And if they were building their own Hypergate, it would be plainly visible to anyone on the planet beneath it, as the Good Guys’® Hypergate is. It would be easier and much cheaper to just steal control of their Hypergate, once built.

A quick throw away sequence has Joey Tribbiani… I mean Major Don West in a macho outer space showdown with his sidekick Jeb Walker (sigh) defeating a pair of evil Seditionists’ suicide bombers, and Major West defies orders and saves his less macho wingman from a certain doom in a damaged ship. Seriously, why would they order him to let Jeb crash into the Hypergate, thereby accomplishing the Evil Seditionists’ plan and simultaneously depriving the Good Guys® of a pilot? Stupid… The original Don West (Mark Goddard from the TV series) tells them that the original pilot selected to complete the mission was murdered, ergo the need for Major West, and that the Earth will not be able to support human life in 20 years. I can’t believe that the governments of that era could keep a glaring fact like that from the populace. Plus, that gives Earth less than 10 years to transfer all living things from Earth to Alpha Prime. That is assuming it takes him less than 10 years for the lone scientist ( after his 10 year flight ) to find the materials, smelt them down to usable metals, and build the other end of the Hypergate BY HIMSELF!!! Preposterous!

After a bit of frenzied running about and heavy handed characterization, (I.E. Will Robinson is a child genius, Momma Maureen is caring yet stern, Dad is preoccupied with the mission yet cares about his family, etc.) The family finally gets into the Jupiter 1 (wait for it!) and prepares to hurl themselves into the void. Doctor Smith (a wonderfully evil Gary Oldman at his quirky best, in my humble opinion) sabotages the Robot and orders it to go berserk in a few hours and “destroy!”everyone. Unfortunately, his evil Seditionist cohorts double cross him and kayo him via remote control in the spaceship, thereby allowing them to save their bribe money. That sure happens a lot in this sort of movie; if I ever go evil I’ll want cash up front. The blast off sequence is top notch. When the ship is about to take off it is in a jiffy-pop style building, it is miles above a futuristic industrialized city.

Lost In Space

(Imagine if they had an accident! Look out below!) It is shaped just like the Jupiter II from the TV series, and once launched and above the atmosphere, the outer shell blasts away exposing a sleek, outrageously cavernous spacecraft, named (Tada!) Jupiter II! Kudos, that sequence alone was worth my ticket price.

Lost in Space

Meanwhile, Dr. Smith wakes up just as the robot goes berserk, wailing its arms and blowing big chunks of walls and computer equipment into sparking debris. Smith quickly realizes the error of his ways, and hits the emergency wake up switch to thaw the Robinsons and Major West.

Question 3 : If everyone is frozen, Dr. Smith was obviously an unforeseen stowaway, why would there be an emergency thaw switch, since everyone is in cryosleep? Were they thinking that the robot might need to wake them at the end of their journey, in case the automatic units fail? Possibly… Anywho, the robot has Momma Maureen and Penny (Lacey Chalbert with a squeaky chipmunk voice that grates on ones nerves) square in its sights, when Will shows up at the last possible moment ® with a homemade remote control that overrides the latest military security encryption and allows a 10 year old boy to instantly take complete control. Riiight…

I’d also like to point out that they must be using some futuristic technology that allows a spaceship to be much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, thereby breaking the laws of physics. Seriously, they sit at the widows in the control room of the ship, and to access certain controls they have the chairs elevate them 10 to 20 feet towards the ceiling. Why? This control panel would be impossible to reach without a space stepladder if they lost power, broke a chair, etc. Stupid! Meanwhile on the outside of the ship, the windows are nearly snug against the roof of the ship, causing me to doubt my sanity. This is the most spacious ship I have ever seen in Sci-fi, and I have seen plenty . You could play basketball with the high ceilings and spacious floor plans. John and Maureen’s bedroom is bigger than an Embassy suite at the swankiest hotel in Dubai . After discovering Doctor Smith, they realize he is in league with the Seditionists and probably the cause of their current predicament. Smith points out that they are about to get vaporized by the Sun, so that ought to top their priority list.

Lost in Space

They maniacally try to break the grip of Old Sol, can’t do it, and decide to drive through the sun! Using the near-magical Hyperdrive that Prof. Robinson devised. “It will leave us with a random vector!” whines the brilliant scientist (who, as I said, invented it !). “We could end up anywhere!” he then whimpered. Sticking his chest out while sitting in his chair 15 freaking feet up above normal sane chair height, Major Don West deepens his voice and growls “Anywhere but here!” Realizing he has a valid point, and that they will all die in mere seconds if he doesn’t acquiesce, they shoot through the Sun and wind up in unknown space near a strange planet. And after a bit of excess verbiage a portal in space / time opens up for absolutely no good reason and a pair of odd spaceships are visible. Why? We never find out. Even Ed Wood didn’t use such obvious plot devices as unbelievably convenient as that. They cruise through the Deus ex Machina portal against John Robinson’s better judgment and half hearted bleating protests, and decide that one ship is human made (The Proteus!) and one is an alien ship. Momma Robinson points out it just looks wrong . (And it doesn’t have a name neatly stenciled on the outside).

Lost In SpaceLost In Space

Once aboard, they find tons of star maps, a weird (computer generated) monkey-like creature named Blawp that they instantly trust and adopt, and evil death space spiders. Blawp seems to be simply a tie-in for selling key chains, fast food beverage glasses, and tennis shoes, IMHO. They learn also that Don’s old buddy Jeb left Earth 20 years after the Robinsons were lost, as captain of the Proteus. I guess Earth could support life after 20 years, despite those dire warnings. The evil space spiders attack and Don sprouts cool armadillo-like armor that unfolds over his head to protect him. He shoots dozens of spiders, in a scene that could only be part of some video game tie in.

Lost In Space

Do we really need to watch him blast so many spiders, one after another? Dr. Smith gets a scratch from one of the evil death space spiders, and ominous music lets us know that this bodes no good. After leaving the robot to do battle while they beat a hasty yet brave retreat, they get the hell out of Dodge and against orders, Don blows up the other ships in order to “never leave behind an enemy stronghold”. This bit of whimsy on Major West’s part causes the Jupiter II to crash land on the planet, right next to a huge transparent bubble. Will then states that he recognizes the bubble; it is a predicted side effect of his time machine. Of course, nobody listens, and we all know that we will be the worse for it.

Lost In Space

Don and John take off to find more radioactive material for their severely underpowered ship, as it has exactly 1 half tank of fuel left, which won’t be enough to get the ship into orbit. Let me say this again; it takes more than half their fuel to reach escape velocity from a planet about the same size as the Earth. I guess once they reached Alpha Prime, they hoped that there would be refined radioactive fuel just lying about in massive quantities, as I am sure building the Hypergate would take at least a few trips out into orbit. Sigh. Dr. Smith cons Will into releasing him and giving him a loaded gun,
and Dr. Smith ruthlessly exploits the child’s innocence and takes him hostage. He meets up with Don, John, the reconstructed Robot, and a 30 something Will Robinson (We will call him Will the Elder) from this future. Just to point out the obvious, this planet, although cold, has breathable air, potable water, and lots of edible plants. Has it occurred to anyone else that this planet might be just as good as Alpha Prime? Stupid…

Lost In Space

Will the Elder is telling anyone who will listen that he hooked up his ship’s Hyperdrive to his time machine and plans to leap through it and warn everyone not to leave Earth. How would that help? They MUST leave Earth, it won’t be able to support life in 20 years, or so they thought earlier. Who would believe a raving madman who dropped out of thin air and told a story as crazy as that? Meanwhile, Dr. Smith uses a control module that he stole from the Proteus earlier to control the Robot, since he didn’t have Will the Junior’s expertise in building remote controls for billion dollar robots. Talk about identity crises, the Robot is everyone’s pawn. Will the Elder laughs at Dr. Smith’s feeble attempt call the shots, and points out that he could not have survived all alone. A huge bug-like Dr. Smith (Let’s call him Bug Smith to keep it simple) drops from the rafters, and throws the non-buggy Dr. Smith out of what is left of the ship onto some rocks. “Never fear, Smith is here!” he opines. I guess that the evil death spider-scratch has had time to work its magic, much like Metamucil.

Bug Smith orders the Robot to kill everyone except himself and Will the Elder, but relents when Will the Elder begs him not to. He then orders the Robot to guard them off camera, and shoot them if they move. Luckily, the Robot doesn’t take him literally, as simply breathing could set off the “Crush! Kill! Destroy!” reaction from the Robot. Will the Junior talks the Robot into “forgetting logic” and be his friend, which instead of failing miserably like it would in any other universe, works here. They promptly escape; John Robinson sticks around and has a showdown with Bug Smith, using his sons’ pointy science award to scratch the dastard on his egg sac (!), reminding Bug Smith that the bugs “eat their wounded”. Time out, these bugs are only half bug, half human, so they wouldn’t necessarily follow the same rules, but there you have it. They do eat Bug Smith, and he gets pushed into the now open Time portal, seriously risking Earth’s admittedly short future by allowing a few stray evil death space spiders to fall through. Will the Elder spouts some saccharine platitudes about family, and they watch the time bubble burst. Time is now no longer separating the old from the new, earthquakes are tearing the planet apart, yet both Jupiter II spaceships are co-existing. They watch the under powered Jupiter II take off and promptly get creamed by a boulder the size of a 747.

Will the Elder sends Dad through a quickly re-programmed time portal to the Jupiter II just before it explodes, hoping his dad will come up with a brilliant plan! This, despite the fact they haven’t the fuel to escape the planets’ gravity. If he would have followed his original plan, jumped to Earth before they took off and told everyone that Dr. Smith was a Seditionist stowaway spy I am sure that security would at least look , thereby negating the whole movie. You have to love those lapses of logic. Ah, well. Poppa John does come up with a novel idea, instead of using the Hyperdrive again (which worked fine to escape the freaking Sun!) they use more conventional means to fly through the planet, as it is breaking up.

Lost In Space

Somehow, he just knew that there was a void through the molten core of the planet large enough for the ship to fly through and use the gravity assist to slingshot out the other side, reaching outer space. They bounce against the rock walls and even get hit by huge flying boulders twice, (both of which are the same rough size as the one that destroyed the Jupiter II in an earlier scene) but those are mere annoyances. Major West even gets to smile and say “Rock and Roll!” I’ll bet that the Rolling Stones are still packing stadiums in that era, albeit from wheelchairs.

They break into orbit and finally think that they are safe, when against all the known laws of physics, the planet’s gravity turns in on itself and promptly starts forming a black hole.

Lost In Space

Another time out! All my reading suggests that it would take something with 20 times the mass of our own sun to form even the smallest of black holes, yet this tiny planet is doing so. You could fit almost 1,000,000 Earths in the Sun! I guess that it is getting an assist from the time portal bubble… You know, the one that popped and is no longer in existence? Stupid… Well, the end of this movie is in sight, and the Robinsons realize that the newly forming yet impossible black hole is sucking them in, so they decide once again to use the Hyperdrive, but this time they will use the star maps that they downloaded from the Proteus. Armed with said star maps, why would they then need to build the Hypergate? We never find out if they make it, I guess that they wanted to leave room for a (shudder) sequel. Thank goodness that the box office receipts were so dismal that they canned that project.

Final Question : They KNOW that Dr. Smith is going to turn into Bug Smith soon ; will they still haul his evil carcass around with them? Will they just continue to laugh off his multiple murder attempts? At some point, they are going to have to make a decision! Stupid…

Karl Hoegle (November 2010)

Afterthoughts

As I said in the beginning of this annoyingly long review, I just can’t bring myself to love nor to hate this movie. The science was abysmal, if anyone stopped long enough to actually think the movie would have gone in a much different direction, but the writers really loved the TV series. I grew up wondering why the Robinsons didn’t shove Dr. Smith out of an airlock, but I guess I am glad that they didn’t. Somewhat.

Lost in Space

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28 comments to Lost In Space (1998)

  • guts3d

    Woo-hoo! Made it to the big leagues! I want a salary raise to match Sean…

  • With great fame, comes great responsibility, my friend….:)

  • Sean

    Thanks for the fun review. And if you can’t bring yourself to hate this movie, I can! With particular attention to Akiva Goldsman. He’s one of those depressingly unexplainable Hollywood “successes” which explain why so many Hollywood movies are failures. Reading your list of absurdities built into the movie’s premise makes me want to club this man to death. And it doesn’t end there. I remember seeing this movie in the theaters. I really wanted to like it, but I kept getting thrown by the weird decisions they made as the adventure progressed. Rather than develop any of the themes or characters, they seemed bend on unraveling everything – with all the good actors and lovely production design thereby wasted.

    Oh, and even as a child I was constantly frustrated by the Robinson’s inability to shove Dr. Smith out that airlock. Did they all have a death wish?

  • Guts3d

    Thanks for the thumbs up, Sean! I never understood why Gilligan, Dr. Smith, Fitzhugh ( From Land of the Giants http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062578/episodes ) all survived. I remember as a kid yelling at the tv screen “Dump that loser!”. I realize that all good stories have to have conflict, but having a homicidal maniac who has multiple murder attempts under his belt living with you seems a bit like the lamb asking the lion to room with him for the weekend.

  • Sean

    Ah – the timeless aggravations of old American television! But oddly, I never put Gilligan into the “Dump the loser!” camp. Why, I wonder? Maybe because it was such a dumb comedy to begin with.

  • But see, that’s the point of it. Lost in Space isn’t really science fiction (the movie certainly didnt concern itself with science). It was Gilligan’s Island in Space. Instead of the crazed Vito Scotti playing a Japanese mini sub commander, you have a giant carrot man. In fact, you can find the same sort of characters peppered throughout all of Irwin Allen’s “sf” series. They’re all the same premise, they’ve got the same characters, they’ve got the same villains.

    The movie to me was an enjoyable diversion for a couple of hours, nothing more, nothing less. And sadly, it’s probably completely true to the original series.

  • Sean

    You get the obscure reference of the month award with the Vito Scotti bit! I don’t remember seeing his schtick as a kid, but thanks to the wonder of YouTube I just saw a collection of his “best” moments…..Makes Mickey Rooney’s cringe inducing turn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s seem dignified.
    Getting back to Lost in Space, you’re right. By the time the giant carrot man appeared the whole thing had devolved into “Gilligan’s Planet.” Ugh. As for the movie, I’m glad you got some enjoyment from it, but it just didn’t work for me. It’s insulting to the audience, and even kind of obscene, when Hollywood spends $75 million on a movie ($75 million!!!) but doesn’t work to make the story plausible or compelling.

  • Guts3d

    I still want to know what their wildly optomistic plan was, once they made it to Alpha Prime. Once they landed, unless they found gobs of radioactive fuel just lying about, they were Stuck on Planet, not Lost in Space.

  • I think Joey…er, Major West sums it up best as a publicity stunt. They’ve already been sending the stuff for Stargate 2 to Alpha Centauri the old fashioned way. Now they’re sending a PR expedition to talk about how cool it’ll be to relocate to an alien planet. My question was why in hell were the Earth forces under Jeb bothering to look for the Robinsons. If Earth is dying, it seems kinda stupid to waste resources on a family whose spaceship dove into the sun. 🙂

    Sean, sadly, I’m one of those Dennis Miller fans who actually gets all his obscure jokes and references. :))

  • Sean

    Hats off to your impressive ability to get those obscure jokes. It’s a rare talent, and one that I both fear and admire!

  • It’s more apt than anything else to have people turn and stare. LOL

  • David Fullam

    Well, at least it had Mimi Rogers and her chest twins.

  • Guts3d

    Tsk tsk, sir! I hardly looked at those at all during the movie.

  • Scotty D.

    That was by far the best review of the Lost in Space remake I have ever read. I could not stop laughing at your disappointment of the film’s storyline and it’s obvious lack of logic or reason. Thanks for sharing that.

  • guts3d

    Thanks for the kind words! I am glad you liked it.

  • Stubob

    Lacey Chabert has grown up nice.

  • guts3d

    So true, and her voice has improved as well.

  • disappointed

    Loved the movie! It was one of my kids’ favorites when they were young. It wasn’t supposed to be a true sci-fi movie based on a goofy tv show. You’re joking, right?! It was just a fun movie with some funny parts, a few cool scenes (young Will inside the hologram of the robot fighting off the spiders), and generally bad writing. No need to hate it as long as you see and judge it for what it is.

    Dude, how can you list everyone else in the cast -AND give descriptions! – yet leave out Matt LeBlanc’s bio pic and one-liner?! How about the interchange between Judy Robinson and West when she made the “not so smart” comment, nodding to the Joey Tribiani character (if you were a “Friends” fan, you got that). You referred to “Joey” but then left us hanging… It’s not too late! You can fix it! Update the page…just saying…young Matt…

  • Guts3d

    When I wrote this review, Dennis (Our stern but outrageously generous headmaster)remarked that I had inadvertently left our Hero out. I meant to correct it, but sadly, forgot. I’ll ask the boss at our next corporate meeting in Switzerland if such is possible. And I didn’t hate this movie, if you read carefully there were many kudos handed out. None, however, went to the writers.

  • Night-Gaunt

    Found out from the DVD commentary they were unable to finish the Blawp’s CGI so it looks incomplete. (Why can’t someone go back and fix it?)Also we are told what the director had planned in a sequel. They would arrive on Alpha Centari Prime to find the mutants there first. Penny would have been infected with the camouflage abilities from the creature and they would have fought to take back some of the planet from the mutant bad guys. (Yeah, real racist too. Mutant=baddie. How 19th century of them. See Lombroso.)

    In some ways they were channeling the weird pseudo science concepts of the TV series.

    Most people are not murderers and throwing Smith out an airlock or leaving him on a dead planet, since they blew it up, wouldn’t have sat well later. I liked the concept of the hybrid Dr. Smith, thought the young ones attacking him was a rather silly bloodless way of stopping him. And strange, why would his own attack him?

    Showing earth so horribly over populated, you can guess how it is in poorer counties, so they were brilliant enough to build all that technology but not stop population increases? But that would be too controversial then and more so now.

  • Guts3d

    In the deleted scenes was a grown up Blawp, who was huge and didn’t look much like his younger self. The CGI on that deleted scene was laughable, dark, and choppy. I can easily see why it was a cut scene. I would have a hard time chucking Dr. Smith out an airlock, right up until the time he tried to kill me or my family. Then, sayanora, sucker. No remorse.

  • Yunker

    Okay whatever, my post will come hilariously late AND this review has probably gotten a lot of bash already but I just want to add my two cents here.

    This review is written in a very cynical way and that’s where it’s entertainment value comes from. I can even agree on the parts where the author is cynical or skeptical – but those moments where the author looses his stuff and calls out the movie on mistakes (“Stupid…”) are not only annoying, but often also wrong.

    I can throw a number of wrenches in there and I will just name a few things, for times sake.
    – Robinson was never meant to build the gate alone, only oversee construction. He mentions this himself. The Robinson family are not the first to undergo this trip, just the first family including kids.
    – The spaceship is roughly the same size inside as it is outside. The differences are nowhere near as extreme as the author makes them out to be.
    – The time portal they pass through is explained. A lot of handwaving, granted, but what time-paradox story doesn’t have that?
    – The planet they crashland on may be inhabitable, but may well be much further from earth than Alpha Prime. As they jumped through he sun, they could have wound up anywhere.

    I could go on. This movie has many mistakes, yes. Liking or disliking it is a matter of taste, but spreading misinformation is something else. I have seen the movie a few times and personally like it, and I am guessing there have been a few references to the older series (“Danger, Danger!”) to please the fans of the original series a bit.

    Final words: keep your facts straight if you want to designate things ‘right’, ‘wrong’ or ‘stupid’. Personally I’d call the movie a solid, enjoyable family scifi movie.

  • guts3d

    I think that you might misunderstand my review; I liked the movie as well, I just wanted to point out some things that were annoying to me.
    1. If the Robinsons were the first family to leave Earth and go to Alpha Prime, and there were workers there building the portal already, my bad. Mea Culpa.
    But I wish they were a liiiitle more forthcoming with that fact, as they seemed to gloss over it quickly. Almost as if it was an oversight and they tossed it in.

    2. No way, that spaceship is leagues larger inside than out. Look again, I’ll argue that till I am blue in the face.

    3. They explain the time bubble, but after it is gone they still aver that it is breaking up the planet? And why did it open up the doorway just then? No, I’ll argue that as well.

    4. The planet they landed on is inhabitable, and they should get the coordinates back to Earth to add that planet to the list for colonization. They got there in seconds with the warp drive,
    so it matters not how far away it is. All they need is the location.

    So I appreciate your comments, but will still argue with you!

  • Sean

    Oooh, I see you took some friendly fire from a fellow movie fan. Which will happen when people care – which they should. Nicely handled response!

  • guts3d

    My mom always said “If you can’t take the heat, don’t dish it out.” And who would read a review that gushed nothing but praise for a movie? I’d be bored stiff.

  • guts3d

    Oh, and #4: The planet they landed on WAS habitable, until they blew it up! Reminds me of Mike Nelson, killer of worlds!

  • Sean

    Yes, poor Mike. My favorite example is the “too much baking soda” incident. I think most of us can relate. As for Lost in Space, Hollywood sure does love to blow stuff up, doesn’t it?

  • Guts3d

    Yes, Hollywood loves to have explosions, but all of the cool guys walk away from the explosion like it was nothing big. I think I’ll try to talk the wife into watching this turkey tonight, instead of the DVR. I’d like to look for the part where they say the Hypergate is under construction.

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