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LOST IN SPACE ($15) is an example of the DVD being so much better than the film itself, that the DVD makes the movie enjoyable home viewing.  I am one of those who experienced LOST IN SPACE in a Movie Theater, and while my jaw hung open because of the astonishing quality of the visual effects, the film itself just laid there for most of its running time. Because of my experience in the Movie Theater, I wasn’t expecting much when I popped the Platinum Series DVD in the player. Sure, I was ready for New Line's usual level of excellence. However, I wasn't prepared for a presentation so good that I found myself actually enjoying watching LOST IN SPACE the second time around. No, the DVD does not negate the film's obvious script problems, but the Platinum Series edition makes them a whole lot easier to overlook.

I can't say that an episode of the campy 1960's television show is better written than the film, but the fact that the Jupiter 2 and the Space Family Robinson aren't half as lost as the film’s script is the biggest problem with the big screen version of LOST IN SPACE. The screenplay is a hodgepodge that tries too hard not to be campy, yet at the same time it wants to squeeze in enough "inside" jokes to appease fans of the original series. Another problem is that LOST IN SPACE wants to appear super cool, just so it can appeal to the teenage movie going demographic. Audiences really could have done without all that Penny Robinson teenage angst. Finally, the story doesn't resolve a number of key plot points, as though this film was just the launching pad to a new movie franchise. Sure a series of "good" LOST IN SPACE movies would be great, but there has got to be something more than great special effects to bring the audience back for second and third helpings. More humor and a tightly focused story line would have helped this first film immensely. 

And now for my personal pet peeve, the one time I'm actually looking forward to watching Gary Oldman shamelessly overact is the one time it just isn't allowed. Jonathan Harris' over-the-top portrayal of Dr. Smith is what made watching reruns of LOST IN SPACE so much fun. Believe me, Oldman could have chewed scenery with Harris bite for bite. Like Oldman's Dr. Smith, the rest of the characters are underwritten, although the cast members do try to make it fly. William Hurt isn't as bland as usual in the role of John Robinson; he even seems to be having something of a good time during the action sequences. Perhaps Hurt's good time stems from the fact that Mimi Rogers is portraying his wife Maureen Robinson. I know playing against Rogers could bring a smile to my face. Rogers' role in the film is perhaps the most underwritten, which makes her look as though she would rather be someplace else. Matt LeBlanc was certainly an interesting choice to portray Major Don West, the pilot of the Jupiter 2. LeBlanc has made a career of playing likable, but dumb characters. His semi-serious turn in LOST IN SPACE is a marked improvement over those other roles, but an Oscar statuette won't be gracing his mantle anytime soon. Out of everyone in the cast, Heather Graham comes off the best as Judy Robinson. Graham manages to do a lot with the few choice lines she is given. Lacey Chabert really can't do anything with the annoyingly written Penny Robinson, while Jack Johnson was entertaining enough as the "too smart for his own good" Will Robinson. Fans of the original series will be happy to hear Dick Tufeld providing the voice for the new robot, as well as seeing Mark Goddard, June Lockhart, Marta Kristen and Angela Cartwright in neat little cameos.

The plot of LOST IN SPACE follows the basic premise of the television series pilot, although a number of high tech scientific flourishes have been added. The Jupiter 2 is launched from Earth with the Robinson family and pilot Don West on board. They are all placed in suspended animation for a ten-year journey to colonize another planet. Dr. Smith, the base physician, turns saboteur and programs the ship’s robot to destroy the Jupiter 2 sixteen hours into the mission. Things don't turn out as Dr. Smith planned, and he finds himself an unwilling stowaway aboard the Jupiter 2 just as the robot begins executing his destruction program. Smith is forced to awaken the sleeping crew to stop the robot. With a number key systems damaged, the Jupiter 2 is forced to make a blind jump into hyperspace, where it literally becomes lost in space. The rest of the film finds the Robinson's facing danger as they are forced to battle space spiders and escape from a time travel paradox.

As a DVD, LOST IN SPACE should be considered an event in home theater- an absolute audio video spectacular. New Line Home Video deserves high praise for creating a true demonstration quality DVD. In fact, LOST IN SPACE has become my reference DVD. New Line has deployed dual layer technology to present LOST IN SPACE without interruption as well as offering the DVD's plentiful supplements without the need to flip the disc. LOST IN SPACE is presented on DVD wide screen only, which is fortunate since the film would be utterly interminable without its splendid visuals intact. The magnificent transfer restores almost all of the film's 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, plus it offers the anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. Detail is present in abundance on the crystal clear image. Blacks were deep and true, as were the richly saturated colors. There wasn't a trace of chroma noise or distortion anywhere on this DVD. Digital compression artifacts were a minor consideration thanks to the virtually flawless authoring of this DVD. 

You better fasten your seatbelts for the Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack, which is certain to rocket you and your sound system into outer space. The soundtrack is fully dimensional with the discrete channels used to the fullest advantage. Not only does the track envelope the viewer, each sound effect is deployed with pinpoint precision. Bass reproduction is deep and full, while dialogue remains natural sounding and intelligible, despite everything else going on in this phenomenally well mixed track. English subtitles have been provided on the DVD. 

The well-designed interactive menus (by B1 Media) are animated and feature sound. Through the menus one can access the DVD's tremendous array of supplemental features. Foremost amongst the supplements are two separate audio commentaries. One commentary features director Stephen Hopkins and writer Akiva Goldsmith. The other commentary features visual effects supervisors Angus Bickerton and Lauren Ritchie, producer Carla Fry, editor Ray Lovejoy, and director of photography Peter Levy. Both commentaries will be of interest to those who enjoyed the film. There are a number of deleted scenes from the film, presented with incomplete special effects. Some of those sequences were definitely better left on the cutting room floor. There are two featurettes, one on the film's special effects, while the other looks at the future of space travel. Fans of the original television series will enjoy The Television Years portion of the supplements. There is a synopsis for each episode of the television series and new interviews with some of the original actors. A theatrical trailer, plus a music video by Apollo Four Forty have been included, in addition to production designs and cast biographies for both the film and television actors. New Line has also included a number of hidden features for collectors to find. Finally, LOST IN SPACE is a PC enhanced DVD that includes a number of extras for those who have DVD-ROM drives on their computers.

LOST IN SPACE is truly a reference quality DVD, which will put your home theater system to the test. Not only that, LOST IN SPACE is a tremendous value on DVD, offering a wealth of supplements for a bargain price. Despite the weaknesses in the film's structure, LOST IN SPACE- the DVD is absolutely recommended.


Lost in Space - New Line Platinum Series (1998)



DVD reviews are Copyright 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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