Lost in Space (1998) (part 2 of 6)

Meanwhile, John is bringing Don aboard the Robinsons’ spaceship, the Jupiter 2. The design of this ship is actually pretty cool, and of course, the next few lines are devoted to letting the audience know this. Unfortunately, the design is also very impractical. It’s disc-shaped, which means there’s going to be lots more air resistance when it takes off than if it was a typical rocket shape.

Here we meet the last member of the Robinson family to be introduced: Judy, played by Heather Graham. Graham is probably the least miscast out of all the actors in this movie, although she also seems to be the most aware of what utter crap she’s in. As such, she just sleepwalks through the role. Don, meanwhile, is busy spewing out excuses for not going on the mission. This also updates him, since the original Don West was pretty much indistinguishable, character-wise, from John. In a scene that wouldn’t be out of place on Friends (anyone want to bet that’s how it got put in?), Don makes an obvious pass at Judy in front of John, without realizing she’s John’s daughter. He shows no reaction when he discovers that she is. Don then says, “It’s gonna be a long flight.” Hey, it’s been long. Would you people just get lost in space already?

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John arrives home to discover his kids are in bed. He sees Will’s science fair project, which turns out to be the prototype for a time machine [!]. This consists of liquid in a sphere that bubbles when a switch is turned on. Hey, maybe I can turn my Mr. Coffee into a time machine. Maureen appears and reiterates all the problems the family has been having, including the fact that Judy’s become a “ghost” just like John. Well, that’s one way of describing their performances. After this, there’s a superfluous scene of John patting Will’s head as he sleeps that goes on at least five seconds too long.

Lost in Space (1998) (part 2 of 6)

“Hey, how you doin’?”

Lost in Space (1998) (part 2 of 6)

Time machine or water filtration system? You decide.

Meanwhile, Dr. Smith sneaks aboard the Jupiter inside a crate that has nothing else in it. Is there a need for empty crates in outer space? Before getting out, he stares at his hands for no apparent reason. He goes aboard the ship and chats with the ship’s robot, which looks nothing like the show’s Robot. It’s clearly inspired by 60’s Japanese Manga, and contrasts horribly with the 90’s design of the rest of the film. Smith’s monologue is peppered with alliteration, which is supposed to make us think that this guy is the same Dr. Smith from the TV show. It doesn’t work at all, mainly because this is the first and last time he will ever talk like this. After programming Robot to kill the Robinson family (which it annoyingly pronounces robotically as “fam-i-ly”), Smith says, “Give my regards to oblivion.” This line doesn’t really make sense, but it sounds cool, right?

While Smith is climbing through some air vent, a device in his shirt pocket comes to life and projects a hologram of the Sedition member’s head. I really wish they’d be consistent about these holograms. The head looks like we’re seeing it through a fisheye lens, making the actor’s Jamie Farr-like nose take on a life of its own. They have a pointless conversation, then the Sedition member bids Smith goodbye. For no apparent reason, this causes the holographic device to start shooting off sparks. Smith attempts to turn it off, but instead he falls unconscious with an image of the device burned into his hand. By the way, just how was Smith planning to get off the ship? It’s high above the ground, and presumably the lift that brought up the crates has descended. Anyway, it appears the Sedition has decided to kill Smith by trapping him on the Jupiter. That way, when Robot destroys the ship, Smith will be taken right along with it. You think there’d be better ways to accomplish this, especially since Smith’s presence is what ends up being the reason the Robinsons are saved later on. (Oops, hope I didn’t spoil anything.) Also, why bribe a medical doctor to sabotage the mission? It seems like one of their own terrorists could do the job better.

Lost in Space (1998) (part 2 of 6)

Dr. Smith demonstrates the wrong way to use a Sony MiniDisc player.

In the next scene the ship is being prepared for takeoff, and the Robinsons appear in their space suits. On the show these were just silver clothes, but here they’re anatomically correct rubber uniforms that seem to be specially made for all ages and genders (Penny’s suit has tiny breast cups, while Judy’s has larger ones). There’s some more lame brother-sister banter, and then Maureen messes with Penny’s hair, which is spiked at the front. Before they leave Earth, there’s one more 90’s reference when Penny says this hairstyle will be the “in thing” according to Vogue. Don and Judy exchange some chemistry-free romantic banter because someone needs to be in love besides the parents. Inside the cockpit, LeBlanc does some camera mugging more suitable to Joey Tribbiani than Don West. Then, we have a somewhat interesting pan over the whole family as the various stages of preparation for cryosleep are administered. Don flips a switch, and the ship blasts off. Here, we see that not only is the Jupiter disc-shaped, but it’s also being launched horizontally. This angle would cause even more air resistance and require even more thrust to overcome. I really can’t believe a spaceship would be designed like this, especially given Earth’s limited resources. Don alternately reports the ship’s progress and mutters about how the ship’s so easy to run that all of his pilot’s training is going to waste. I’ll be generous and say that this ultra-cornball speech was a nod to the campiness of the TV show, but since this movie is supposed to be a more serious version of the story, it doesn’t work. Just before Don is frozen, he says he has bad dreams in cryosleep. Originally, I thought this line meant we would eventually learn of some traumatizing event from Don’s time in the military, but it’s never touched on again.

Dr. Smith, who apparently slept through the launch, wakes up to some electronic noises (I have no idea what those are supposed to be). He does a very sudden turn to the window, which I guess is supposed to be another reminder of the original Smith. For the rest of the movie, this Smith is much more mature and menacing, so this scene and his later ones really do clash. Anyway, he sees that they’re out in space and freaks out. Just then, Robot comes to life, and Smith pokes at it with some kind of cattle prod (Yeah, those are real handy in outer space) but gets brushed aside. Robot gets to the control room and shoots the ship up real good, saying, “Destroy the Robinsons” over and over as he does so. Is Robot programmed to constantly repeat his orders like this? It must get annoying. For some reason, Smith can’t reprogram Robot to stop destroying the ship, so he frantically punches some buttons to wake the Robinsons up. An emergency icon appears on a nearby computer screen, so Smith elects to punch it rather than press it, smashing the screen. Smart, Doctor. When everyone wakes up, John goes for a gun and shoots Robot with no real effect. Robot stops and says, “That was a mistake.” I really wouldn’t expect this from what seems to be a machine with no capacity to think on its own. As it shoots at John, Will runs off somewhere and Robot shoots at him. This seems to have some effect on Robot’s programming, since it now only repeats the word “destroy” in a desperate tone. Either that, or it’s just lame writing and voice acting. Don jumps onto Robot’s back and messes around with some wires, but then is given a nasty jolt and flies off. Okay, you really can’t expect me to believe tampering like that wouldn’t have any effect at all on Robot, but that’s what happens. It then goes after Maureen and Penny, who pretty much just stand there and wait to die. Hey, John and Will got away by running, you could try it. As they just stand there, this (somewhat exciting in spite of itself) action scene is given an unbelievably lame anti-climax by having Will appear out of nowhere and tell it to stop while punching some buttons on another piece of “whatever” technology. Will says his lamest line:

Will: If the family won’t come to the science fair, [pause while punching more buttons] bring the science fair to the family.

Meanwhile, Smith is slamming his head against some metal object and smearing blood across his face in an attempt to make it look like he was accidentally stranded aboard the Jupiter. Or something. Don finds him and Smith claims he was hit from behind. Since his wound is on the front of his head, I don’t see how he expects Don to believe this. However, Don looks at Smith’s hand and knows the burn is from Sedition technology. Don prepares to kill Smith, when suddenly Maureen cries out that she can’t get Judy out of her cryotube. Dr. Smith beats up on Don, and then starts bargaining because he can save Judy. Why he couldn’t do this without whacking Don first, I don’t know. As they try to get Judy out of the cryotube, Maureen picks this moment to lay into Dr. Smith. How does she know he helped to sabotage the mission? Don confronted Smith about this alone. Smith waxes something about evil being a “philosophical choice”, and then inexplicably calls Penny “precious” twice. They get Judy out and take her away on a funky floating stretcher.

Lost in Space (1998) (part 2 of 6)

Dr. Smith closely approximates the experience of watching this movie.

With his daughter on the verge of dying, John decides this is a good time to pop open the helm windows to see where they are. As it turns out, they’re right in front of the Sun. Looking right at the Sun, especially from so close to it, should blind him, but instead it just makes him squint a lot. Also, the ship should be melting right about now, but since they still haven’t gotten lost yet, that can’t happen. John reroutes all power to the engines to get away from the Sun, although this would presumably also kill them by shutting off life support. This is something I might not have noticed if the ship’s computer hadn’t been kind enough to note that life support is shutting down. In sickbay, Dr. Smith overlays a CGI x-ray of Judy onto her body, and we see that her heart is on the wrong side of her body. (Yes, there is an extremely rare medical condition where this happens, but my gut feeling is that it’s just a mistake.) Given that whole “reroute all power to the engines” thing, all the equipment in sickbay conks out. Dr. Smith tries some CPR, showing off his ketchup-covered fingers that are supposed to look bloody. In the cockpit, John tells Don that the engines can’t escape the Sun’s gravitational pull (big surprise) so the only option is to use the Hyperdrive. Since, as we were told earlier, hyperspace exists beneath normal space, this will allow them to go straight through the Sun unharmed. The downside is that it’s anyone’s guess where they will re-enter normal space. But you can’t have everything, right? The Hyperdrive is activated the same way a nuclear bomb is launched: two keys are turned simultaneously. [?] Will wanders into the cockpit just as this happens (I thought this kid was a genius! Geez!) and John literally leaps out of his seat towards him. Everyone suddenly freezes in place, as the camera rotates around their motionless bodies and gives ideas to the F/X team behind The Matrix. This also gives us an extra-long look at the patented queasy face that Matt LeBlanc invented for Joey.

After five full seconds of nothing happening somewhere in space (this is a very long time when you’re watching a movie), the Jupiter appears with flames behind it. John heads down to sickbay, where Judy is now completely fine. It’s a real tribute to the film’s incompetence that we didn’t even get to see her regain consciousness. Judy blabs some science-y talk about why she had such trouble coming out of cryosleep, while it becomes clear that John just wants to hug her. Smith, being eerily prophetic, says, “Will every little problem be an excuse for familial sentiment?” This is supposed to make John angry with Smith (like he didn’t have enough of a reason before), but really, the audience is asking themselves the same thing here. John throttles Smith, but can’t kill him when he sees his family watching. This could have been a well-done moment, but Smith proceeds to articulate that, “You can’t kill the man without becoming the monster!” Thanks, Akiva Goldsman, I would have completely missed the point if you hadn’t put that line in there. John locks Smith inside the sickbay by slapping the button that closes the door, which then appears to short out. Somehow, after this scene, people are free to enter and leave this room at will.

Lost in Space (1998) (part 2 of 6)

This must be “The One Where Joey Instantaneously Crosses the Galaxy”.

Judy chastises Don about his “smooth ride”, although he had nothing to do with the predicament they’re in. The computer puts up a 3-D picture of their location, which Don doesn’t recognize. This means that they are… Lost In Space! Wow, that took much longer than it should have. Strangely, John says the image is from a map of all known galaxies. This means they know exactly where they are, and technically, they aren’t really lost. Leave it to a movie this idiotic to not even have an accurate title.

Ryan Lohner

Ryan lives in Sparta, New Jersey, a quaint little burg without much for kids to do except go to the movies. Thus began a lifelong love affair, as even back then he grew to love examining why a film worked, or didn't. He is a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, and currently studying for a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science. His hobbies include running, piano, and annoying people with that damn lowercase forum user name.

Multi-Part Article: Lost in Space (1998)

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