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Film Review, Festivale movie section A Reel Life
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Festivale online magazine, April, 1998
Lost in Space movie review
Lost in Space

I have as fine an appreciation of bad movies as anyone I know. I own a copy of Bloodsucking Freaks, four Ed Wood movies, a few Troma releases and sundry 1970s nudie flicks. But big bucks bad movies put my teeth on edge. I have an expectation that when someone spends a hundred million dollars or more on a flick, they should try to get it right.

Of course, Lost In Space's source material was dreck. Irwin Allen, the guy who produced LiS, Voyage to the Bottom of the Ratings Sea and Land of the Giants would not have known good comedy, drama or science fiction if they had cavity searched him against a barbed wire fence. He was a television schlockmeister who could fool ten-year-old boys into thinking his shows were groovy but once puberty and some rudimentary level of perception hit the audience, forget it. He threw the Swiss Family Robinson into a flying saucer and forgot to take the rest of the story.

movie poster, Lost in Space, Festivale film review
movie poster, Lost in Space, Festivale film review

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Everyone knows this one. The family, Major Don West, Dr Zachary Smith, the robot and the cute pet all get lost in space in their sturdy saucer the Jupiter 2. That's the concept. Space adventures as they try to get home. It's way open and of itself, not too bad an idea. In the hands of any of fifty or sixty good science fiction writers, it would work gangbusters.

This doesn't. The movie's a combination of computer game and family psychodrama which looks good then slides off the brain. It has whooshing spaceships, flames in a vacuum and space spiders. Hang on, the space spiders are pretty groovy, unlike the CGI pet that Penny Robinson picks up along the way. Putting a cartoon creature in the middle of a movie like this is a jarring idiocy. It never looks like a real animal and acts like the cute beastie in Gremlins, without the coyness. It is a marketing device to sell cute dolls.

Even the effects, which are for the most part, awesome, have some flaws. There is a scene with a mile long spaceship - an impressive piece of model work and or CGI. It's a derelict Earth ship. Then there is a shot that looks down the length of the ship and it blurs in the distance, just like things do on Earth.

Alas, this ship is on orbit. Things don't blur with distance in space. They stay sharp because there's nothing between observer and object to stop us seeing it clearly. Check out Babylon 5 to see how things should look in a vacuum. Or, more mundanely, check out some footage from Mir.

And the climax, where the Jupiter 2 dives through a disintegrating planet to get a gravity boost is lame, too. Try dropping a paper clip through a ring-magnet for one. Then remember that the cores of planets are liquid metal and magma.

On the whole, the movie is no dumber than the TV show. Nor is it any smarter. To be fair, Mimi Rogers has some good moments and Gary Oldman is pleasantly malevolent (though how his character passed a security psych check is anyone's guess). Go and see it for the nostalgia kick but don't expect quality film-making.

Click here to buy films from one of the online stores in Festivale's on-line shopping mall Terry Frost

See also: Ali's review
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Science Fiction Film, the interesting old stuff, by Terry Frost.

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