Awfully Good: Lost in Space

As Netflix prepares its LOST IN SPACE reboot, let's hold hands and dance around the corpse of the version that starred Matt LeBlanc…

Lost in Space (1998)

Director: Stephen Hopkins
Stars: William Hurt, Gary Oldman, Matt LeBlanc

The Robinson family goes, uh, missing in the galaxy.

Here's my favorite memory of LOST IN SPACE: I was watching the movie in the theater opening weekend and had to go to the bathroom after drinking a bucket-sized Surge. I came back less than a minute later and Gary Oldman's character was now a giant CGI spider monster attacking everyone. I sat back down and asked my friend what the hell happened and he turned to me, confusion and fear in his voice, and just said "I. DON'T. KNOW."

"So many men died in those safe spaces. I can't even."

I didn't realize it then, but I shouldn't have been surprised that LOST IN SPACE ended up being a complete mess. You see, 14 year old Jason had yet to learn the name Akiva Goldsman, the Oscar-winning writer responsible for the fine screenplays for films like BATMAN AND ROBIN and WINTER'S TALE. And Goldsman's stank is all over this movie, from the unnecessary space battle opening (one of the first lines spoken in the film is, "This cold war just got hot!") to the equal-parts hilarious and bizarre ending. (More on that later.)

The RAMBO – STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT crossover got real weird.

The movie's real failing is that it takes itself too seriously instead of leaning in to the campiness of the original TV show. If you wanted a schmaltzy drama about a dad learning to spend time with his family with some occasional space exploration and time travel sprinkled in, I have great news! And at a miserably long two hours and ten minutes, the film is just a series of set pieces without an overarching story. I guess the fact that the family is "lost in space" is accurate, but it doesn't make for much of a plot.

Also, the movie features the worst romantic scene since ARMAGEDDON's animal cracker fiasco: two young crew members share an intimate moment where they draw constellations in condensation on the window of their spacecraft, only to pull back and reveal their artwork to be near unrecognizable scribbles of Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny. Thanks Akiva.

So did the X-MEN - SUICIDE SQUAD crossover.

Aside from Oldman, who goes all-in as the evil Dr. Smith and dramatically over-enunciates ev-er-y syll-a-ble of his lines, LOST IN SPACE boasts an impressively 90s flashback cast, including FRIENDS' Matt LeBlack, PARTY OF FIVE's Lacey Chabert, Heather Graham (hot off BOOGIE NIGHTS), and FULL BODY MASSAGE star Mimi Rogers. Everyone struggles with the material, even veteran actor William Hurt as the Robinson family patriarch, who literally seems like he might be sleeping in a couple scenes. (His simple line of "I love you, wife" is said with such disaffection it may be the coldest declaration of love outside of Melania Trump's marriage.) No one fares very well in this movie, but Matt LeBlanc gets special recognition for being especially wrong as roguish space pilot Don West. His Han Solo-lite performance is so aloof it seems like he's in a different movie than everyone else.

In space, everyone can smell your fart.

Stephen Hopkins, who directed the underrated THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS, definitely made a sleek-looking film. The massive sets and practical robots clearly cost a pretty penny and the results are worth it. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the shoddy CGI, which I remember already looking outdated at the time it was released. Blarp, a random space monkey the crew finds in a blatant bid to sell merch, looks like a previz animatic that was never finished. And kudos for attempting a bullet-time effect a full year before THE MATRIX, but the results are much, much less convincing.

First Friends, then ED, and now this... Does Matt LeBlanc have it in his contract that everything he stars in has to feature some sort of primate?

The first half of LOST IN SPACE isn't great, but it's not memorably bad. Thankfully, the second half says, "Hold my beer" and shows you how it's done. [SPOILERS] That's because the filmmakers decided that space exploration alone wasn't exciting enough for a movie, so they decide to also randomly add in a time travel element. An hour and a half in, the characters crash land on a planet and come across a "time bubble" and William Hurt and Matt LeBlanc decide to investigate. They're immediately attacked by an evil robot, who turns out to be controlled by an older version of Hurt's son Will Robinson from the future. (Future Will is played by MAD MEN's Jared Harris, who clearly had his voice randomly dubbed by a completely different actor for his entire performance.) Turns out, their mission was a failure and everyone died except for Will and Doctor Smith, who is now a giant CGI spider creature. Seeing that his future son is a total dick, Hurt learns a lesson about the importance of fatherhood and family, while young Will is somehow able to change the evil robot's programming by simply talking to it about friendship.

H.R. Giger's SPIDER-MAN took the character in a different direction.

Think about how terrible this is: Nearly two hours in to the film, you meet two brand new characters who are now the villains, planning to take over Earth. There's zero stakes and zero suspense throughout the whole movie because you had no idea any of that even existed. And in case you're wondering about the whole "bad guys taking over Earth" thing, Will Robinson has built a time machine so Spider Gary Oldman can go back to our present-day planet and lay his eggs and conquer the globe. And before you start thinking about how little sense that makes, just know that it forces the recent Oscar winner to present his CGI spider butt and say, "I am a god! Within these egg sacs grow the seeds of a master race of spiders!" I bet that's something you never thought you'd witness.

Eventually, William Hurt fights Spider Oldman, which for some reason leads to Oldman's eggs hatching prematurely, crawling out of his ass, and eating him alive until they all fall in to a pit of time lava. And unfortunately while all this was happening, the spaceship containing the rest of the Robinson family explodes. So of course William Hurt uses the time machine lying nearby to go back in time to right before his family was killed so he can save them. Except… why not go back further, maybe to before your ship was sabotaged by a traitor, causing you to get lost in space in the first place?

Oh, that's right… they thought this was going to be a franchise.

The worst dialogue, mostly courtesy of Matt LeBlanc and various robots.

Discount Bullet Time, Spider Gary Oldman and other terrible action scenes.

Nothing. Although kudos to a family with genes good enough to produce Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham and Lacey Chabert.

Need to complete your LeBlanc collection? Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:
  • The film enters Penny Vision
  • Gary Oldman says something snarky or overly evil
  • Matt LeBlanc attempts to get some
  • There's awkward sexual tension between Matt LeBlanc and a teenager
  • Someone mentions "the pain"
  • The importance of spending time with family is stressed
Double shot if:
  • The robot says, "Danger, Will Robinson, danger!"

Thanks to Mark, Wess and Jennee for suggesting this week's movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Extra Tidbit: For a while, this movie was nicknamed "the iceberg" in the industry because it was the first movie to knock TITANIC out of the #1 spot at the box office after 15 weeks.
Source: JoBlo.com



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