The Robinson family are ready to save the Earth by traveling across the universe to open a gateway to a new world. Unfortunately sabotage is afoot by the eeeeevil Dr. Smith. Can they stop the evil genius from destroying humanity (and maybe find love) before it’s too late? Find out in… Lost in Space.
How?! It’s the year 2058 and the world is on the brink of ecological disaster. The only thing that stands in the way is the Robinson family and their brood of kids: whiz kid Will, angsty teen Penny, and the smoking hot Judy (don’t get any ideas Matt Leblanc). Unfortunately their physician, Dr. Smith, has his own plans and it involves getting a whole bunch of money from a rebel group to sabotage the trip. Saboteur! After they launch, he sets a robot to destroy the ship, but he is double crossed (double saboteur!) and left to die. Waking up just in time, he helps subdue the robot and is taken prisoner, but not before super pilot Matt LeBlanc (I guess his character was Major Don West… whatever), does some super pilot shit and uses their hyperdrive to shoot through the sun and into deep space. Uh oh! In a shocking coincidence they end up exactly where a time hole exists and they encounter a long dead ship from the rescue mission sent to find them. On the ship they encounter a CGI monkey (wait, were we supposed to think it was real?) and a bunch of spider aliums that totally bite Dr. Smith (but shhhh, don’t tell anyone). Escaping just in time they crash land on a plant where they once again encounter a time hole. Needing supplies to get off the planet they venture into the time hole to find that inside is their own ship from the future with a grown up Will Robinson living inside. He’s on the verge of finishing his time machine and aims to go back to Earth and stop the mission but uh oh! Dr. Smith from the future is there and he’s totally a gross spider monster. He’s ready to use that time machine to totally eat up Earth with his space spider friends (triple saboteur!), but Dr. Robinson has different ideas. He goes and karate chops that spider monster in the neck (probably, I can’t remember) and then saves Will, who in turn realizes that the only course of action is to use the time machine to send his dad back to the ship in time to get them off the planet. He once again engages the hyperdrive, gets them super lost in space again setting them up for the inevitable sequel for this megahit. Oh and Matt LeBlanc and Judy totally smooch and her dad is like “wtf, mate?” THE END.
Why?! Humanity, duh. The Robinsons just want to save Earth and their family. Per usual the motivation of the bad guy is much more interesting. In the beginning Dr. Smith is all about the benjamins (as the kids say) and wants that sweet rebel cash to destroy the mission. The point seems to then turn around and make a much more capitalistic mission that will save Earth but for a price. Anyway, it’s actually kinda funny that then when Dr. Smith is trapped with the Robinsons he’s almost immediately bitten by some space spiders that turn him into a monster then hungers only to eat Earth. It wasn’t enough that he already wanted to fuck up the only mission to save Earth, he then has to be bitten by some spiders that make him literally want to eat Earth. This is also not resolved in the film. He’s still alive and totally going to turn into a spider monster at the end.
Who?! One thing we haven’t really talked about in this section is the case where two actors portray the same character. It’s always funny when one actor portrays two (think JCVD in Maximum Risk AND Double Impact), but there are way more cases where two actors play the same character. Usually it’s via flashback. Here, though, is a classic time travel version of it where Will Robinson is portrayed by both Jack Johnson and Jared Harris and briefly coexist in time. I feel like there could be a really difficult cycle for us in here somewhere… perhaps collecting a bunch of interesting cases of such double dipping.
What?! I was disappointed there wasn’t a little more for this category. Perhaps they realize how old the rescue ship is because all the delicious Coca-Cola has gone flat, so while still refreshing (when isn’t it?), it’s just not the same. So Will invents a recarbonator so they can all enjoy some refreshing Coca-Cola’s before battling some space spiders (the space spider’s only weakness? Coca-Cola, duh). But that didn’t happen. It’s also hard to figure out if I was missing anything because the Netflix reboot TV series apparently had a ridiculously terrible Oreos product placement that dominates my Google searches. There are some fun props online, but it’s hard to tell whether they are on sale… like could Matt LeBlanc’s entire battle costume really me for sale? Doesn’t seem possible.
Where?! A+ Space setting for this one. They almost immediately zip right through the sun and start grappling with small metal spider aliens and meet a space monkey and crash on a snow planet. Really just the greatest hits from the space genre.
When?! We get a really nice intertitle exact setting on this as we are told that the attack depicted in the beginning of the film takes place on September 30th, 2058. Generally speaking I’ve given intertitles B’s in the past, but given just how rare it is for us to get something of this level I have to give it an A.
The more I think about this film the more I love it. It really tickled me in a lot of ways. It’s just so stupid and really convoluted and involves a time travel storyline where a (quite literally insane) future version of Will Robinson helps his dad save their space ship and as the space-time continuum collapses around him he screams “Don’t forget mmmmmmmeeee.” Like… you want him to remember the weird scraggly bearded version of his son that befriended a spider monster and nearly destroyed Earth? Do you want him to remember you as a cautionary tale? It’s bizarre. The entire film is bizarre. Add on top Matt LaBlanc not being able to act his way out of a paper bag (sorry Matt, I know you’re a reader) and a CGI monkey that is impressive only insomuch that they dared release it to theaters and I’m starting to think this might be a dark horse classic. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! Danger, Will Robinson! A classic phrase I’m sure every 12 year old was just a-clamoring to hear on the big screen in 1998. Let’s get into it!
P’s View on the Preview – Fun fact, I saw this in theaters in 1998 in New York City. Just thought I would mention that. And indeed, I never saw it again. Weirdly I could remember quite a bit of it. Like the Spider Smith at the end. And the CGI monkey. I have to say, muddled memories from over 20 years ago did not prepare me for just how wild this film would be.
The Good – The film never tries to be much more than it needs to be to kick off what was surely a trilogy of deep space adventure films. Oldman is at peak scenery chewing glory at times as well, which I personally consider a very positive note for the film. The design of the spaceship is fun. And hey, they went for it didn’t they? They really went for some stuff about two years before it was a good idea to go for them, specifically they reached on the CGI. But partial credit there.
The Bad – Straight up this might be the worst CGI we’ve seen. At times it is on par with A Sound of Thunder, but in this case they didn’t run out of money, they just tried to create multiple full CGI characters and it didn’t work out very well at all. Matt LeBlanc is terrible in the film, and his character is a real smarmy weirdo (in a children’s film! Man, the 90s were a wild ride sometimes). They hired Jared Harris to play an American without, somehow, realizing he couldn’t do an accent and had to dub all of his lines. Spider Smith I think is the reason I am scared of spiders, so thanks for that. The Space Spiders in general were just awful. And Penny’s fashion choices … this film is something to behold.
The BMT – It is something to behold and I love it? It doesn’t offend your sensibilities because it is kind of a kids’ film, so who cares right? But then you have Spider Smith, and the CGI monkey, and Penny as a character somehow 100 years in the future, but stuck in the late 90s, and Matt LeBlanc existing 100 years in the future but outside of the MeToo movement? Oldman chewing scenery, weird time travel story, a son and father understanding each other and learning to love again! Ah yes, that’s the stuff, it hits you right here (I’m pointing at my throat like in the A-1 Steak Sauce commercial, not my heart). Very BMT.
Roast-radamus – Whooooooo doggy. I think you could argue this is one of the better Setting as a Character (Where?) films we’ve seen as long as you stretch the definition to include the spaceship itself. It really is kind of a character, just needed a sassy AI voice. And what the heck I’ll throw in Worst Twist (How?) for the reveal of Spider Smith being the ultimate bad guy who gets eaten by his own Space Spider babies. And naturally a nod for BMT as the film itself is b-b-b-b-b-bonkers. That’s some good stuff.
StreetCreditReport.com – As usual with this cycle the cred is always there because Siskel and Ebert themselves declared this to be one of the worst films of the year in 1998. Besides that it is a bit hard to find other lists, but it is thrown into Time’s run down of the worst films based on television shows. It’s got the cred.
You Just Got Schooled – Naturally when you watch a film based on a television show you should watch an episode of the television show. And what better episode to watch than the first one. I only watched part one, I’m not a monster, but amazingly the first half of the 1998 film is almost identical to the plot of The Reluctant Stowaway (first aired September 15, 1965). The family is going to Alpha Centauri to colonize. Smith is trying to sabotage the ship for money but accidentally is taken away with the crew. He programs the robot to destroy the ship and then is unable to stop it before it wrecks things almost irreversibly. And he is kept around because he saves one of the Robinsons (this time the mother, not the daughter). The show is incredibly slow, much slower even than its contemporary Star Trek. But I imagine it is mostly the same style, a monster / exploration of the week type deal. Kind of admirable that they tried to stay so true to the original series in the first half there. B adaptation, should have stopped short of the Space Spiders.