New Line // 1998 // 130 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Rogers (Retired) // February 4th, 2000
"But that could throw us anywhere!" "Yeah. Anywhere but here!"
Science Fiction fans everywhere rejoiced when word of a feature film on the classic series Lost in Space was announced. They flocked to the theaters upon its release, but audiences soon lost interest in the film as word spread. The story was a little slow, there was a subplot about fathers and sons that was somewhat dull, and the movie sputtered to a halt after about seventy million in US box office receipts.
It's a shame, really, because if you look past the less optimal pieces of the puzzle, there's really a quite enjoyable film hidden on this disc. Lost in Space is a pretty basic dramatic concept; heroes (the Robinsons) who have a task to Save The World, braving the unknown and dangerous along the way. This is a time honored dramatic formula, but the blemishes helped drive interest away.
The thumbnail synopsis is straightforward. The Robinson family is on its way to Alpha Centauri, Earth's nearest galactic planetary neighbor, when treachery causes them to become lost in the universe. The object of their troubles, Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman, Air Force One, The Fifth Element, Bram Stoker's Dracula) is trapped aboard ship with them as they struggle to cope with their situation. They investigate a derelict spaceship, crash on a planet, and then find themselves fighting to stay alive.
Really, if you can look past certain things that bring the film to a crashing, grinding halt (the Father/Son subplot, the silly little alien Blarp), there are some absolutely amazing sequences in Lost in Space. The special effects work is nothing short of spectacular, some of the best that came out of 1998's offerings. The space fighter battle that opens the film is a precedent setting piece, surpassing anything ever offered in Star Wars. As the Robinsons investigate the derelict, and discover and fend off the spider creatures, the technology brought to life by the FX is nothing short of stunning. And the spider-creature Dr. Smith was exceptionally well done.
So too, the cast is quite talented, every bit the match of the dollars poured into the computer graphics. Matt LeBlanc especially shines as Major Don West, taking firm hold of his character and completely individualizing him from his bumbling, lovable fool on Friends. His Major West is likeable, heroic, human and a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Gary Oldman is devilishly fiendish as the cunning, selfish Dr. Smith, continually opposing the family at every turn. And Heather Graham's (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Boogie Nights, Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me) Judy Robinson is delightfully smart and sexy, proving once again Hollywood needs to give her more attention.
New Line has staked out a very definite piece of the DVD industry, turning out one reference quality disc after another. If only the other studios would emulate their disc layouts, I have little doubt player sales would be percentage points higher than they already are. Lost in Space is one of the finest examples of their efforts.
Absolutely packed with features, it hardly falls short in any way. Interactive menus that load quickly and are easy to navigate. 24 Chapter stops. Featurettes on the special effects and the future of space travel. Not one, but two, audio commentaries; the first with director Stephen Hopkins (Ghost in the Darkness, Blown Away) and writer/producer Akiva Goldsman (Practical Magic, A Time to Kill, Batman Forever), and the second with a whole slew of people who worked on the special effects, editing, cinematography and production. There are cast bios on not only the cast of this film, but also on selected members of the original television show's cast, as well as Hopkins and Goldsman. Production storyboards that detail the film's sequences from start to finish. A widescreen techno music video by Apollo Four Forty that updates the Lost in Space theme to electronica. A slash page plugging the movie's soundtrack. And then a lot of deleted scenes, partially finished (mostly lacking finishing FX touches) sequences that are longer versions of scenes in the final cut and some scenes that comprise entire story subplots that were left out of the film. And finally, the theatrical trailer, a trivia game, and PC DVD-ROM capabilities.
That is an absolutely packed disc, and all of this material is squeezed onto a single side of a dual-layered disc. It's professionally polished, very engaging, and adds hours to your enjoyment of the film.
Atop all of this, the video and audio is extremely well done. Colors are strong and vibrant, blacks deep and solid. There are no visible instances of artifacting, pixelation or distortion. Edges are crisp. The sound stage pulls the viewer into the presentation nicely, using the full breadth of the surround field. Background audio is a tremendous bonus, very well executed.
Additional audio options would have been nice, a Dolby 2.0 track particularly. Subtitles, too, are missing from the additional features; present only on the film itself. But this is a fairly small quibble on an outstanding disc.
Regardless of whether or not you actually like Lost in Space, there are a lot of people who received this disc with their player. This is a great example of what coolness can be done with the format, and can easily be used to show off your system.
Director and writer are reprimanded for story decisions that slowed the pacing and tempo of the film fatally. Everyone else is commended for their fine efforts, particularly the studio. Case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2000 David Rogers; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 130 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Talent Bios
* Two Audio Commentaries
* Two Featurettes
* Production Storyboards
* Widescreen Music Video
* Seven Deleted Scenes
* Widescreen Theatrical Trailer
* Trivia Game
* DVD-ROM Feautures