A classic TV show from the sixties receives an upgrade in this box-office blunder from 1998. Or rather, the show is given a complete overhaul and modernized into one big extravaganza of computer-generated gibberish with 'Lost in Space.' At least the filmmakers were able to decently retain the skeletal structure and gist of the program's storyline, and it all plays out reasonably well, making this into a passable action flick. Nonetheless, the family adventure in the deep recesses of space is ultimately nothing more than a one-dimensional exhibition of sights and sounds, much too eager to show off special effects than an involving plot.
A big part of the charm in the original sci-fi series was its conscious display of camp, particularly after the first season. Taking inspiration from The Swiss Family Robinson, the one-hour program offered an easy, hokey diversion about interstellar survival. Fans are sure to remember the meddling conspirator Dr. Smith as a constant source of comic relief and flamboyancy. But in this big-screen adaptation, all the kitsch and gaudy fun is replaced with a more serious tone about a family on the brink of becoming dysfunctional. And the politics which lead to the spaceship's malfunction are never fully explained, creating a bit of confusion as to how any of this even comes about.
Gary Oldman's Dr. Smith is the same manipulative coward who sabotages the Jupiter 2, the spaceship meant to transport the Robinson family to Alpha Prime and start colonization. Although lacking in humor, at least the actor makes the character his own. Clearly trying to break free of his 'Friends' status, Matt LeBlanc does a fine job as Major West, except there are times when Joey suddenly makes an appearance for a second or two. William Hurt looks pretty uncomfortable in the role of the neglectful father, Dr. Robinson, while Mimi Rogers as his better half spends most her screen time reminding him of it. Unfortunately, for the rest of the cast, which consists of Heather Graham as Judy, Lacey Chabert as Penny, and Jack Johnson as Will, their characters are easily forgettable and don't do much, other than look concerned or scared.
The movie also does away with displaying the family's survival skills and fails to ever truly put them in mortal danger, which is funny to say considering they come fairly close to crashing into the Sun. Even as they are chased by a swarm of oversized daddy long-legs spiders (in outer space!), we don't get the impression that the characters are in a life-threatening situation as they quickly discover a convenient solution. The only casualty in this minor skirmish is Robot, which in all honesty doesn't really look all that cool anyhow. The entire narrative is simply too episodic to ever feel like a full-fledged motion picture, moving from one encounter to the next in an obvious attempt to set-up the sequel that thankfully never happened.
Director Stephen Hopkins ('Predator 2,' 'The Ghost and the Darkness') does a competent enough job with the material, focusing a great deal on the visuals, but there's no sense of excitement or thrill to be had in those so-called moments of peril. The script by Akiva Goldsman ('Cinderella Man,' 'I, Robot,' 'Batman & Robin') shows an effort to imitate some of the aspects of the original program, but lacks the spirit and adventure which has made the series memorable. All things considered, 'Lost in Space' is nothing more than sci-fi popcorn entertainment with the least amount of viewer investment. Oddly enough, the movie has admittedly grown on me somewhat since I first watched it in the theater (clearly not by much), but I can still think of better ways (or way better films) with which to squander two hours.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video brings 'Lost in Space' to Blu-ray on a BD50, Region Free disc and housed in a blue eco-keepcase. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with the normal selection of options.
Much like the movie, 'Lost in Space' crash lands onto Blu-ray with an average and inconsistent picture. Seems like the studio took whatever print was available and slapped it to a disc, because this 1080p/VC-1 encode (2.40:1) fails to impress and never looks like the sort of high-def material we'd expect from such a big-budgeted movie.
There are plenty of attractive scenes throughout, that's for sure. Contrast is satisfyingly bright, giving the image a welcomed cinematic appearance, while brightness levels are very well-balanced, showing precise, durable blacks. There are some great moments of sharply defined images and considerable clarity with appreciable depth, and details in the dark shadows remain strong. Primaries are also accurately rendered and bold while secondary hues display a warm array of colors.
Again, this is only the pleasing-to-the-eyes aspect of the transfer that occurs a few times throughout. But even at its best, it doesn't compete with other catalog titles we've seen, and the strongpoints are regularly canceled out by sequences that look no better than standard definition. These moments of poor resolution occur mostly in scenes with CGI effects, which are quite often.
In the end, the best parts clearly reveal what the video is really capable of, but with little interest shown in creating a new HD master, the presentation comes to Blu-ray with very average results.
Back when DVD was still a burgeoning format (discs officially hit the market the prior year), 'Lost in Space' served as one of the reference discs of choice, demonstrating the exciting possibilities of the new technology. Arriving on Blu-ray, the sci-fi family adventure remains the grand spectacle with this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, full of that same excitement we experienced the first time around. Except that now, the track can't quite compete with the best we've heard in high-rez and won't likely be one of the first choices to demo one's system.
Nonetheless, the lossless mix shows an animated and engaging design with the fronts pulling most of the weight. There's good movement in and around the soundstage with pleasing off-screen sounds. Although dynamics are never very impressive since there's not much clarity detail in the higher frequencies, the mid-range is consistently stable and well-balanced. Once in a while, we can hear discretes pan into the background or move into the foreground, and rear activity displays some noticeable ambient effects. But taken as a whole, they fail to generate a convincing soundfield and tend to feel rather gimmicky.
During explosive action sequences, however, this plays out a bit better, displaying a wider and more immersive soundscape. Low bass can also be very aggressive and forceful in these same scenes, but not as cleanly refined and polished as I would prefer. It often feels too boomy. Also, dialogue reproduction is mostly accessible and clear, but it can at times be drowned out by the rest of the noise. It almost seems as if the vocals are not perfectly balanced with the rest of the mix, but at least, it's not to the movie's detriment. All in all, the audio makes for an exciting listen on Blu-ray and a very good complement to the sci-fi action.
While a couple of things are missing, most all the special features from the DVD are carried over for this Blu-ray edition of 'Lost in Space.' There's really nothing special about this selection, but it's reasonable for fans who want to learn more.
'Lost in Space' is the big screen adaptation of the classic 1960s series that fails at capturing the campy spirit that has made the show memorable. With Gary Oldman, William Hurt, and Matt LeBlanc in the leads, the movie is really nothing more than a big-budgeted CGI spectacle, possibly finding an audience as another simple popcorn flick full of sci-fi action. The Blu-ray comes with average picture quality, a strong audio presentation, and the same bonus material as its DVD counterpart. While fans of the movie might be more forgiving of the drawbacks in the story and video, others might want to give it a rent first.