The Dumbest, Most Insane Elements Of 1998's 'Lost In Space'
When Netflix released their Parker Posey-less trailer for their upcoming Lost in Space reboot, I started wistfully remembering the last time that classic show was rebooted. So in a fit of masochism, I decided to sit down and power through the 1998 film version of Lost in Space (helpfully streaming on Netflix RIGHT NOW!) to see if it was as awesomely terrible/ terribly awesome as I remembered.
SPOILER ALERT — IT’S STILL AWFUL! Holy fuck, somebody needs to take my Netflix privileges away before I do something that stupid again. I’m not sure my IQ will ever recover. Like, I’m pretty sure I just lost the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s gone. I’ll never get that back.
The thing is, I didn’t really remember much about the movie going in. I mean, I had a vague recollection that the whole Matt LeBlanc/Heather Graham flirtation was awkward AF (it was!) and that the late 1990s cutting-edge CGI didn’t hold up (it didn’t!), but mostly what I remembered was that Gary Oldman’s Dr. Smith was weirdly captivating. And he was, but not in an “it salvages the movie and makes it funny” way. More in a “he’s playing a mustache-twirling cartoon villain WHO TURNS INTO A GODDAMN SPIDER and no matter how hard he throws himself into it, tonally it doesn’t work with the rest of the film” way. I don’t blame him, of course. I blame the writing, for giving him those dumbass lines to chew his way through, and for TURNING HIM INTO A GODDAMN SPIDER (fun fact: it was written by Akiva Goldsman!). I blame the other performances, from actors who do not go full-cartoon alongside him (though Lacey Chabert as Penny Robinson comes close, and not in a fun way). I blame the entire fucking enterprise, really.
So, just to really make clear how completely bonkers this flick is, I’ve gone through the highly scientific process of laying out the dumbest, most insane elements — complete with half-assed screenshots! I may have lost 2 valuable hours of my limited time on earth to this dreck, but you don’t have to. Instead, you can lose maybe 5 minutes reading this article, and gain a sense of superiority over how your life choices stack up compared to mine. It’s cool. I get it. You’re all winners, here.
So, in no particular order:
- John Robinson Is A Terrible Fucking Father
I need to get this out of the way upfront because the entire movie hinges on one man’s choice to prioritize saving the world over going to his son’s science fair or whatever. Basically, the Earth is going to become uninhabitable in 20 years due to pollution, and the government has been lying to the population about it (“no really, our new recycling plans are totally going to save the ozone!”). John (William Hurt) is some hot-shot professor who has built the Jupiter II, a spaceship designed to travel via hyperspace (the space below space? or something?) to colonize a new planet in a last ditch effort at saving humanity. So, like, I get it. He’s saving the world FOR HIS KIDS. But here’s the thing: The government decides that John himself should go on the colonization expedition, to finish constructing the other gate or whatever… and he only agrees to do it if they’ll send his family with him.
I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, that’s so sweet! It’s like an interstellar family vacation, and bonding time, and shit!” No, it’s motherfucking NOT sweet! He’s uprooting his children, the youngest of whom is a 10-year-old child prodigy, and risking their lives on a mission when he could just train a team to fucking do it. And here’s the thing — if he is truly the only person capable of ensuring the success of this mission, and there is nobody else smart enough for him to teach, then fine. But like I said, his own 10-year-old son is a prodigy who is developing a time travel device for a fucking science fair project — something John doesn’t understand or recognize, really (because he’s never around to pay attention). What I’m saying is, if there is already a fucking child who’s smarter than John Fucking Robinson, they could absolutely find an adult capable of handling this very important mission with a bit of training. But whatever, there is no Lost in Space without the whole Robinson family, so it is what it is.
HOWEVER. The end of the movie features an adult Will Robinson, played by Jared Harris, confronting his father, because it turns out Will has always been right about time travel. There’s, like, time bubbles and shit? It’s weird. Anyway, point is if John had just listened to his son in the first place, he wouldn’t have gone off and disappeared and left Will to be raised by the evil Dr. SpiderSmith, and Will wouldn’t have started building a time machine to get back to Earth and stop the mission — a machine that sends off time bubbles, which leads to half the movie’s problems anyway.
It’s cool though, because in the end Old Will forgives John, and is like “Now I know you always loved me!” mostly because John just told him. Like, literally John doesn’t even have to start paying more attention or acting like a father, he just has to say “I love you” more. Fuck me.
- Major Don West Is A Major Fucking Flyboy Creep
“That’s one cold fish I’d like to thaw.” This is an actual thing that Matt LeBlanc’s character, the pilot Don West, says to John Robinson about Heather Graham’s character… who is Judy Robinson, John’s daughter! AWKWARD. It’s cool though, he didn’t know. That time, at least. He then proceeds to hit on her 3 more times in front of her father, and then make out with her at the end of the movie in front of the entire family. I know this, because I kept score. Dude has zero chill.
- Major Don West Is A Major Fucking Flyboy Creep, Part 2
That screenshot, there? That’s my third attempt at capturing the creepy fucking wink he gave the Robinsons’ younger daughter, Penny. She’s super fucking underage, and has a crush on him. BUT HE DIDN’T NEED TO FLIRT BACK. WTF, dude? Why are you so goddamn gross? And I’m sorry I couldn’t get a better screenshot of the moment, but I just couldn’t bear replaying the exchange again in the attempt to capture a better one. I found my limit, and it’s watching Matt LeBlanc flirt with children.
- Speaking Of Penny Robinson…
She’s the worst. Like, I feel bad shitting on Lacey Chabert, who was young and shouldn’t take the full blame. But I will absolutely shit on the writer who thought giving her a personal “PennyVision” VLog where she could open entries with lines like “As part of her enslavement…” would be a really fun idea. I will also shit on the costuming and makeup department who decided that the best ways to express the fact that she’s an edgy teen mallrat was to put her in belly shirts and designer snowpants while not washing her hair for the entire shoot.
- Scratch That. The CGI Hairless Chameleon Monkey They Saddled Penny With Was The Actual Worst
But to be fair, she’s the one who heard it burp and decided that sound would be its name. So she named it “Blarp”. Goddammit, Penny, that’s the best you could come up with?
- People Punching Touchscreens
I don’t know why, but at least twice in this movie people full-on punched touchscreens. Like, screens that will respond the same to any amount of pressure, because they aren’t mechanical buttons that get stuck. Ah, the late ’90s — the era when we knew the shape of the future technology to come, but not how to actually fucking USE ANY OF IT.
- Just Fucking Kill Dr. Smith Already
Look, I’m not saying murder is right. But Lost in Space tries to make a whole philosophical argument around whether or not John or Don should kill Dr. Smith, the dude who sabotaged their ship when it took off and nearly killed them all. After deciding that they should be more civilized than that, they let him live, despite him saying OBVIOUSLY VILLAINOUS things like “Oh, trust me, Major. Evil knows Evil.”
But then dude gets scratched by a space spider (more on that in a sec), which starts to transform him into the aforementioned Dr. SpiderSmith. John has no fucking problem killing THAT thing, because it’s obviously a hideous fucking monster. But it’s also the future time-bubble version of Dr. Smith, which means regular ol’ just-scratched Gary Oldman is concurrently still running around pulling guns on children.
Friends. THEY SAVE DR. SMITH AND BRING HIM BACK TO THEIR SHIP, KNOWING HE IS TRANSFORMING INTO A MONSTER AND MANIPULATED WILL ROBINSON. It’s like they don’t even want to fucking live.
- Dr. Smith Got The Gun From A 10-Year-Old Boy
Maybe it’s just the times we’re living in (it is, it definitely is), but 20 years later the whole “Will carries a voice-activated gun around for safety” thing really hasn’t aged well. And that’s even given the fact that Will Robinson is the smartest, most responsible character in the whole damn movie. On one level, it’s just sad that this kid is so fucking unsupervised that he’s left hanging around the makeshift jail cell of the dude who tried to kill everybody at the start of the movie. In that sense, at least Will has the foresight to arm himself! On the other level… why the fuck did his parents leave the damn weapons unlocked where child geniuses could access them?!
- About Those Spiders…
Such is the lack of imagination inherent in this movie that, of ALLLLLL the possible alien threats the production team could have dreamed up for the Robinsons to contend with, they settled on fucking space spiders with sideways jaws. Bad CGI is one thing. Bad concept is another. But hey, at least it led to the creation of the only truly great part of this turdball of a movie: Dr. SpiderSmith!
Look, I’ve barely scratched the surface of stupid shit in this movie I could dissect for your edification. I could list the most hilariously on-the-nose lines uttered by Dr. Smith, or talk about Major West’s dumb fucking decision to unnecessarily blow up a stranded spaceship while the Jupiter II is RIGHT NEXT TO IT, sending them crashing to the planet below, or the time Dr. Smith performs chest compressions on Judy while she’s wearing a spacesuit with a hard, boob-molded chest plate — a chest plate hard enough to prevent chest compressions, for sure. Hell, I could just present more weird screenshots of shit that makes no sense, like these Alien Planet Testicles:
But instead, I’m going to share with you perhaps the single simplest detail that will show you exactly what kind of movie this thing is. If you’re wondering whether a movie called Lost in Space would be so desperately obvious that it would include a scene where a character says “We’re lost, aren’t we…” while staring at a 3D map of fucking space, then DING DING DING! You bet your sweet ass it is!
Of course fucking Penny is the one who says it. But at least her expression matched my own while I experienced a painful eternity in only two hours. You’re welcome, world.