Another Blu-ray release from Warner Bros. this September 7th is Lost In Space – no, not the TV show, but the 1998 theatrical reboot of the franchise, starring William Hurt, Mimi Rogers, Matt LeBlanc and Gary Oldman. An unsuccessful attempt to modernize the franchise into a series of movies, it was a visually spectacular feature, but tried to do too many things at once.
While attempting to travel to another planet to help set up a colony for humans to escape the dying Earth, an act of sabotage results in a family traveling into uncharted areas, leaving them lost in space…
First off, this is one of the movies that Blu-ray is designed for – visually stunning, which only high definition can pull off. Not that the DVD was bad, but as I’ve said before the fine details in the visual work tend to get muddled or lost. Here the visual effects mostly benefit, although there are a few instances where it seems to enhancing the failings – notably with the visual mappings on the windows for exterior ship shots and the matte painting of the “old” Jupiter 2 on the cliffs. But in another instance, you can see water droplets streaking on the windows briefly as the Jupiter 2 flies upward through a “waterfall” towards the end of the movie.
As for the movie itself, it dispensed with all the camp of the original series (although the original series did set out to be serious). That does not mean there is no humor – what there is is mostly handled by LeBlanc’s one-liners. I often requote the “And the monkey pushes the button” line. It helps break up the seriousness of the movie, but if you were looking for a remake of the series you remember as a kid, forget it. In fact, the movie makes no assumption at all that you are familiar with the series, intended to be a true remake, although homages are spread throughout and the beginning has cameos from the original actors June Lockhart, Marta Kristen and Angela Cartwright, along with a slightly larger role for Mark Goddard and the robot is voiced throughout by the original voice, Dick Tufeld.
The characters are given more background and are less one-dimensional. In the original, they were a family but there were not apparent skills other than John Robinson being a professor and Don West a pilot. Here in this film they are more, and it makes a bit of sense – Judy is a medical doctor (there was no doctor in the original mission – Dr. Smith was an accidental stowaway), Dr. Smith actually has motives that at least make sense to him, Penny is at least trained in some ship operations, West is a military pilot who things his way is the best way, John and Maureen debate what is best for the family, Will is the bright kid acting out in his way due in part to his absentee father dealing with saving the world instead of his son, etc.
The plot of the movie, however, in trying to introduce everything AND get somewhere, gets a bit disjoint. There’s the exposition about why they need to go, why Dr. Smith sabotaged it, why they get lost, etc. There is also the intermediate stop at the the search vessel that seems to only serve two purposes – to show they somehow went forward in time (and thus introducing the time travel plot, which you could sense was coming with young Will’s time machine model), and to introduce the reason for what happens to Doctor Smith later. And perhaps to have a good “monster chase on an abandoned spaceship” scene. And the time travel stuff gets convoluted and the results predictable. And while there seemed to be some decent if not good science behind the movie at the beginning, it all goes out the window at the end.
It’s a watchable and interesting movie, and even though it was the movie that finally toppled Titanic off the #1 spot, it couldn’t gain the following that could get the franchise off the ground.
The Blu-ray release does have a number of extras:
Commentaries: One commentary track from director Stephen Hopkins and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, and another from visual effect supervisors Angus Bickerton and Lauren Ritchie, director of photography Peter Levy, editor Ray Lovejoy, and producer Carla Fry.
Building the Special Effects (15:56) – putting together so many visual effects for one movie.
Music Video (3:25) Lost In Space performed by Apollo Four Forty with scenes from the movie – rapid paced rock version of John Williams second original series theme song with dialog snippets.
Delete scenes (11:47) Taken from the digital edits and this the CGI is mostly unfinished, and shows the high compression in video artifacts. Most of it revolves around the time bubble “worlds” on the planet, especially Penny and Blarp.
Theatrical Trailers (1:23)
The Future of Space Travel (9:48) – The science beyond the story.
Q&A With the Original Cast – TV Years (7:35) – Interviews with June Lockhart, Angela Cartwright, and Marta Kristen.
It also offers DTS-HD English audio and DD5.1 Spanish, along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.