Lost in Space

Lost in Space, directed by Stephen Hopkins, is just too silly for
words. In yet another cinematic updating of a long-forgotten TV series, William
Hurt plays Professor John Robinson, a scientist who has been chosen to emigrate
with his family to the planet Alpha Prime, which is ten years in a fast
spaceship away, but which offers what may be the universe’s only chance for
mankind to plant an extraterrestrial colony which will preserve human life after
the earth becomes uninhabitable two decades hence (it is 2028). That “earth’s
resources are limited” we all know, but although schoolchildren are told that
recycling will make everything, the truth is that “recycling came too late.”
Robinson has invented a method of traveling in hyperspace which will cut years
off the journey, but he has to install “gates” in hyperspace or anyone traveling
there could end up anywhere in the galaxy. He and the family will be
cryogenically frozen in “suspended animation” on the outward journey.

He is a workaholic and neglects his bratty and resentful kids. He misses a
science fair where his ten year old son, Will (Jack Johnson) wins first prize
again—with “that crazy idea he’s got about a time machine.” Bratty
daughter Penny (Lacey Chabert) sounds as if she is breathing helium. Oldest
daughter, Judy (Heather Graham) is brainbox doctor. Mom Maureen (Mimi Rogers) is
also a scientist of some kind. But Will is obviously the genius in the family. A
spy representing “The Global Sedition,” a terrorist gang whose aims are
completely obscure, kills the Robinsons’ selected space pilot, and they have to
draft in a space fighter pilot called Don West (Matt LeBlanc). Major West
resents his duty with the autopiloted Robinson ship and calls it baby-sitting.
“Eight years of flight training, fifty combat missions, just so I can take the
family camper on an interstellar picnic,” but Dr Smith (Gary Oldman) a stowaway
from TGS is on board. . .

Verbal sparring between the comely Judy and Major West, who is cocky and
self-assured and regularly disobeys the orders of his superiors, hint at what is
to come. So does Will’s science project and the fact that only he among these
highly educated adult technophiles knows how to tame the robot which, having
been surreptitiously re-programmed, has run amok. “Destroy Jupiter 2! Destroy
Robinson family!” it says in its machine voice, and Will stops it by saying
“Stop!” Nobody else seems to have thought of that. It’s easy being a genius when
you know how. When the robot rampage is halted, the family discover Smith and
take him prisoner. What to do with this evil killer with whom they find
themselves closeted millions of miles from home? “ Smith could still hurt us,”
says Dad. “Maybe we shouldn’t let him live.” But wise and good Maureen the
moralist gently asks: “How can we bring civilization to the stars if we can’t
stay civilized?”

Only in the movies, folks, could such foolhardy cant be intended to look not
only remotely plausible but also like moral profundity. Nor is Maureen finished
teaching her prim little lessons to the less advanced men on board. When Major
West and Professor Robinson are having a heated argument about which of them is
in command, Maureen appears and scolds them. “Here we are stranded on an alien
world and you two guys get into a pissing contest?” She reproves them for being
typical men and tells them if they don’t cut it out she will have them both
arrested by her daughter the doctor and she will take over command. Now,
“if you two have finished hosing down the decks with testosterone,” she says
firmly, they can get to work to do something useful. Major West whispers, “Wow!”

“Tell me about it,” murmurs Robinson so she can’t hear.

Funny, isn’t it? You travel millions of miles through interstellar space only
to find that the little woman’s still got you by the short and curlies. As Major
West says to Judy, a workaholic like her father, “If there’s no time for fun,
doc, then what are we saving the planet for?”

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