In the near future, earth's fossil resources are about to be used up. In an attempt to save the human race, scientists have begun building a gate, through which faster than light travel will be possible - but only if there is a gate at the destination to receive the travelers. The Robinson Family has been chosen to travel to Alpha Prime, but Dr. Smith, a sinister man, sabotages their spaceship. When the Jupiter 2 starts falling into the sun, the only chance to survive is to activate the hyperdrive - without a gate at the other end. Lost in space, they have to reach Alpha Prime in order to build the second gate, or earth's only hope is gone.
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
. Starring: William Hurt
, Mimi Rogers
, Heather Graham
, Lacey Chabert
, Jack Johnson
, Gary Oldman
, Matt LeBlanc
, Jared Harris
, Mark Goddard
, Lennie James
, Marta Kristen
, June Lockhart
, Edward Fox
. Music by: Bruce Broughton
(Warning: spoilers ahead) Like many mature viewers I had enjoyed the 60's TV series before this film came out so I was prepared for kooky cardboard sets, an even kookier talking robot, and getting a new nadir of human mendacity revealed each week in my shameful anti-hero, the despicable cunning Dr. Smith - oh such Danger Will Robinson! As a teenage boy back then, I also registered the attractive mother Robinson, and even more so the disturbingly beautiful elder daughter Robinson; I have heard that I am not alone in this.
The film goes to great efforts to reverse all those impressions! It starts by throwing some of the most mind-blowing space battle special effects I have seen; the producers are obviously guys who have learned their lessons from 2001 Space Odyssey and Star Wars, and who have all the computing power they need. Silicon Graphics is a computer manufacturer who gets its name into the script, go figure.
Is this the point to carp at the unreality of the sounds made in space where you really can't hear any "whoosh" or "boom" as things explode, or at the fighters that manoeuvre in 3D, aim weapons and even nudge one another, all by manual pilot control? Nah, that's an accepted style these days so let it pass.
The puerile homophobic dialog between the pilots (after their fighters contact in flight: "Does that mean we are going steady together now?") I chose to forgive in view of the magnificent graphics, but unfortunately such lines come back again and again in the miscast trying-to-be macho Major Don West's (Matt LeBlanc) passes at the cold-fish elder Robinson daughter Judy (Heather Graham).
Sadly it quickly becomes evident that Major Don's pursuit of Judy is to be a running subtheme through the movie. I say sadly because this is not Hepburn and Bogart, nor a school prom B-movie, and the characterisation neither serves the movie nor the viewer. (Don to Judy: "I'll be happy to let you investigate my dimensions" - oh puh-lease!) There simply is no chemistry between these two and their lines are a yawn because we don't need them to romance in this movie.
I said that the producers make great efforts, and those on space graphics are successful. Other efforts are on the family relationships, so much so that I became convinced that Walt Disney scriptwriters must have been involved. The younger Robinson children characters work well: I liked the sulky rebellious teenage daughter Penny (Lacey Chabert) though the dramatic device of her wrist-worn video diary was strained, and I was rooting for the son Will (Jack Johnson) who nearly makes a time machine for a school project, and repeatedly saves the day by tinkering with or remote-controlling the robot, who has grown from the capable but relay-filled Robbie of the TV series (adopted from the pre-computing Forbidden Planet movie of 1956) into a mightier cargo-handling monster, a Rambler-Crane model we are told, that owes much to its brother that Sigourney Weaver drives in the second Aliens movie I saw. This Robbie is bigger but less interesting for all its weaponry; by this time we have a right to expect more from a robot than this one delivers.
Unfortunately the movie's main familial theme of How Can Father Robinson Show That He Really Loves His Son Will left me cold, though it may go down well with a certain kind of American audience. This is worse than just a failed theme, it is supposed to motivate the final denouement that I can't spoil for you because I still don't understand it! Suffice to say that it involves time travel (more by machinus ex deia than deus ex machina) with by now rather overloaded special effects, that serve to gloss over with thunderlightningearthquakes such paradoxes as persons meeting their time-travelled selves, that obscuration also having become a Hollywood cliche since movies like Philadelphia Experiment and Final Countdown. A shame because intelligent time-travel themes have provided, and will continue to provide, some wonderful movie scripts.
The whole movie is, like the Robinsons' spaceship, a concatenation of expensive items that are individually impressive and collectively ineffective. Not to be outdone are the horrid space spiders. These seem to be downplayed to limit their horror potential; I think we get just a tiny glimpse of blue (?) gore as a spider leg gets chopped. We think the Robinsons escape from the spiders, but in true Hollywood horror tradition we were only supposed to think that and one spider makes a surprising return in the denouement, and I can't explain that either. It is actually very strange to see a "thing" that seems to have strayed into the movie from another film set (The Fly? The Seventh Seal?) too late in the script to be meaningful in the plot, and apparently also with its horror potential kept down, I suppose to keep a juvenile audience rating.
Yet another yawn item to mention in the movie is a computer generated monkey Blarp that is a baby "she" (we are told, perhaps because a she-chimp is less demanding to model?). For all her blinky cartoon eyes, Blarp fails to impress me as cute or useful, and she also seems like a character that strayed in by mistake from another movie.
After watching all the movie action I feel I was served an assembly of highly crafted but utterly unoriginal elements. Yet for the earlier space graphics, which nearly rate up there with those in Starship Troopers, I can allow the rest as entertainment.
Can you believe that the end credits really spoiled the film for me? I don't think I am peculiarly sensitive about end credits, and I am as likely as anyone to leave the movie theater as soon as they start scrolling. But in this movie the end credits are used as an opportunity to dump a lot of inappropriate music and silly graphical effects, to no good purpose. In the light of some truly fine craftsmanship and set design that went into this movie, that ending was a cheapening that was almost insulting.
Review by Gaylord M'sagro from the Internet Movie Database.