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LOST IN SPACE

I grew up watching the television series, so it was a no brainer that I was going to see LOST IN SPACE ($25) when it hit movie theaters back in 1998. While my jaw hung open gaping at the visual effects, my jaw also hung open for me to yawn, as the film itself seem to lay there, comatose, for much of its running time. When LOST IN SPACE came to home video, I found myself enjoying the film a hole lot more, because the material just seems better suited to the small screen that it did the large screen. I can't say that an episode of the campy 1960's television show was better written than the film, but the fact that the Jupiter 2 and the Space Family Robinson weren't half as lost as the film’s script was probably the biggest problem with the big screen version of LOST IN SPACE.

The screenplay is a hodgepodge that tries too hard not to be campy, yet at the same time it wanted to squeeze in enough "inside" jokes to appease fans of the original series. Another problem is that LOST IN SPACE wanted to appear super cool, just so it could appeal to the teenage movie going demographic. Audiences really could have done without all that Penny Robinson teenage angst. Finally, the story doesn't resolve a number of key plot points, as though this film was intended to be a launching pad for a movie franchise. Sure a series of "good" LOST IN SPACE movies would have been great, but the proposed franchise needed something more than special effects to bring an audience into theaters for multiple outings. Let’s face it, more humor and a tightly focused story line would have helped this film immensely.

And now for my personal pet peeve with LOST IN SPACELOST IN SPACE was the one time that I was actually looking forward to watching Gary Oldman shamelessly overact; however, this is the one of the few times in his career that he isn't allowed to do so. Jonathan Harris' over-the-top portrayal of Dr. Smith is what makes watching reruns of LOST IN SPACE so much fun. Believe me, Oldman could have chewed scenery with Harris- bite for bite. Like Oldman's Dr. Smith, the rest of the characters are humorless underwritten creations, although the cast members do try to make it fly. William Hurt isn't as bland as usual in the role of John Robinson; he even seems to be having something of a good time during the action sequences. Perhaps Hurt's good time stems from the fact that Mimi Rogers is portraying his wife Maureen Robinson. Rogers' role in the film is perhaps the most underwritten, which makes her look as though she would rather be someplace else. Matt LeBlanc was certainly an interesting choice to portray Major Don West, the pilot of the Jupiter 2. LeBlanc has made a career of playing likable, but dumb characters. His semi-serious turn in LOST IN SPACE is a marked improvement over those other roles. Out of everyone in the cast, Heather Graham comes off the best as Judy Robinson. Graham manages to do a lot with the few choice lines she is given. Lacey Chabert really can't do anything with the annoyingly written Penny Robinson, while Jack Johnson was entertaining enough as the "too smart for his own good" Will Robinson. Fans of the original series will be happy to hear Dick Tufeld providing the voice for The Robot, as well as seeing Mark Goddard, June Lockhart, Marta Kristen and Angela Cartwright in neat little cameos.

The plot of LOST IN SPACE follows the basic premise of the television series pilot, although a number of high tech scientific flourishes have been added. The Jupiter 2 is launched from Earth with the Robinson family and pilot Don West on board. They are all placed in suspended animation for a ten-year journey to colonize another planet. Dr. Smith, the base physician, turns saboteur and programs the ship’s robot to destroy the Jupiter 2 sixteen hours into the mission. Things don't turn out as Dr. Smith planned, and he finds himself an unwilling stowaway aboard the Jupiter 2, just as the robot begins executing his destruction program. Smith is forced to awaken the sleeping crew to stop the robot. With a number key systems damaged, the Jupiter 2 is forced to make a blind jump into hyperspace, where it literally becomes lost in space. The rest of the film finds the Robinson's facing danger as they are forced to battle carnivorous space spiders, then escape from a time travel paradox.

New Line Home Entertainment has made LOST IN SPACE available on Blu-ray Disc in 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is fairly under-whelming. The numerous digital effects that made LOST IN SPACE somewhat jaw dropping seem a bit dated, and the film appears to have been digitally softened in post-production to make the integration of effects and live action more seamless. As digital effects are so pervasive throughout the film, the picture almost always appears slightly soft. Some additional DNR may have been applied during the hi-def mastering, but as I stated the image appear soft and under-whelming throughout. Colors are saturated at a fairly naturalistic level and appear more than adequate. Blacks look fine, as do the whites. Contrast is relatively smooth, while shadow detail is decent. The elements from which LOST IN SPACE have been transferred appear relatively free from blemishes. LOST IN SPACE looks a tad over-processed to be considered particularly film-like.

LOST IN SPACE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Fortunately, LOST IN SPACE impresses at the sonic level- making it a far more enjoyable listening experience than it is a viewing experience. The film features an aggressive science fiction/action movie sound design that makes the most of all the discrete channels. Sounds whoosh out of every corner and ping-pong round the soundstage. Even the smaller sound effects are quite capable, things like the sounds of the space spiders skittering along the deck plating are highly effective. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is quite impressive; the musical component has genuine presence, plus the sound effects come across in a convincing manner. The bass channel rocks out with plenty of percussive force. Voices are cleanly and distinctly reproduced, plus the dialogue is easy to understand. A Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track has also been encoded onto the disc, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements, most of which were ported from the DVD release. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentaries included on the Blu-ray Disc; the first is with director Stephen Hopkins and writer Akiva Goldsmith, while the second features visual effects supervisors Angus Bickerton and Lauren Ritchie, producer Carla Fry, editor Ray Lovejoy, and director of photography Peter Levy. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Building The Special Effects (sixteen minutes) and The Future Of Space (ten minutes). Fans of the original television series will enjoy The Television Years portion of the supplements as it includes interviews with some of the original actors. Deleted Scenes, a Theatrical Trailer and a Music Video of the television series theme by Apollo Four Forty close out the supplements.

LOST IN SPACE is a movie that is more enjoyable in the home venue than it ever was in a movie theater. The video portion of the Blu-ray is under-whelming, but the audio is fun.

 
LOST IN SPACE 


Lost in Space [Blu-ray] (1998)

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DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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