Lost in Space:  The Film that fed a thousand animators.

   Somehow I missed this film when it originally hit theaters back in 1998.  My god I'm glad I did.  Brought to you by the same people that brought you Batman & Robin, this film was an adventure in it's own right.  From a digital monkey to Gary Oldman talking about his egg sac, Lost in Space ended up being a bit more unique than most special effect driven movies. 
Let me just get the "plot" out of the way, in case you're one of the lucky few to have somehow escaped watching this film.  The Robinson family is sent to create an off-planet colony so that the earth can migrate to it, since humans have completely screwed up the environment.  They put themselves in mini-freezers to hibernate for the long journey through space.  Things go wrong and, well, they get Lost in Space.  There are digital effects and animatronics galore (this becomes important later).  The film "stars" Matt LeBlanc (you know, Joey from Friends?), William Hurt (my boy from the movie Altered States), Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham, and the wonderful Gary Oldman, who can do no wrong, no matter how many times he has to play the evil psychotic, er...um, psycho.  The fact that you might recognize these names is evidence that this film "wasn't bad enough to destroy anyone's career."  (This previous comment does not apply to Matt LeBlanc, who already had a history of starring in films that buddy him up with a primate.  I'm talking about 1996's ED.  Here, Matt LeBlanc joins a chimpanzee in turning around the luck of a bad baseball team.  The irony here is that I can't shake the fact that LeBlanc looks something like a monkey himself.  But hey, he melts many a lady's butter, so who am I to talk?  I've always called this the "Marky Mark Syndrome." You can imagine my surprise when Marky was cast as one of the only humans in Planet of the Apes.  Maybe he doesn't look like a monkey.  Maybe its just me.

Then again maybe its not.  I'm getting off-topic here.  Back to Lost in Space...

 

 

 

The motivations for why this film was made are clear at the very beginning and the very end of the film; veritable bookends of epic proportions.  On my copy, the beginning of the tape was crammed full of previews and commercials, my favorite being the "Lost in Space" action figure series.  "Dr. Smith smashes! Joey from Friends Blasts! Watch real robot Battle Damage!"  The marketing is funny mainly because now I've seen the toys BEFORE I've seen the movie.  These kids are far too excited about playing with toy versions of Gary Oldman and William Hurt.  (To be fair, I would love to have a Gary Oldman doll on my shelf, but probably for the same reason I have a PeeWee Herman costume in my closet---I have problems.)  Yet watching these kids you really wonder how maladjusted they are...I mean sure I screamed at the top of my lungs about Skeletor and his assault on Barbie's Dream House but I could never do the same with a Matt LeBlanc doll. I mean, what did such an action sequence even sound like?

Skeletor:  Foul do-gooder!  I will crush you with my powers of darkness!

Joey:  (looks about confused, yet dreamy) whu-huh?

Skeletor:  Foolish Ninny! I will...um wait. You're not He-man, are you?  What are you doing here?

Joey:  Don't mind me.  I'm just the stunt butt.

Skeletor: Wow.  That's really lame.  And hell, if someone hasn't watched Friends then they won't even get that joke.

Jared:  Shut your face.

Anyway, what's not pictured here is the young "Will Robinson" (the young boy) action figure, which comes with real cryogenic sleep tank!  Now I know that I might not be the most normal of people as previously established, and I may not have had the most normal childhood...but what kid likes to put his action figure to sleep?  There's not many adventures to be had in a cryogenic slumber, unless you're plotting something devious...like playing "time to harvest Dr. Smith's organs while he sleeps."   But I digress...the point is this movie wants to SELL you something.  You may have noticed this with other films that have crazy marketing campaigns.  I hope you all enjoy your Shrek 2 green toilet paper (which was just repackaged Hulk themed toilet paper after all).

The proof that this film NEEDED to make money was evident through the credits.  More than 11 (read: I mean 12, but more than 11 sounds like more) different digital animation companies were used in the production of this film.  The technical part of the end credits literally keeps rolling FOREVER.  I think that somehow I am still watching that list.  Ranging from Jim Henson Studios to a company that did nothing but digitally render Gary Oldman's egg sac (more on that later), this film is an animator's dream.  I, being sort-of in the film industry (read: unsuccessful film-maker with a degree), can appreciate what this film has done:  It has made a lot of geeky computer/film nerds a lot of money.  Sure, they needed to fill the whole movie with "space age special effects" but it's sort of insane in this movie.  Entire sets seem to have been constructed only to be torn down later and then digitally re-created.  My favorite special effect would have to be the character "Blarp"...Jim Henson Studio's digital monkey from space.  Do understand that by the word "favorite" I mean that Blarp made me want to kill myself.  Yet Blarp, the obvious digital monkey, was part of Lost in Space's brilliant scheme.  He was there to distract you.  Whenever something weird was going on that made no sense, Blarp would dance about like a flaming Buddhist, daring you to even try to ignore him.  The second thing Blarp did was reinforce my "Matt LeBlanc looks like a monkey" theory.  Blarp instantly falls in love with Matt's character.  LeBlanc reciprocates by giving Blarp the banana-flavored "space" candy bar he has in his pocket.   The fact that the writers gave Matt LeBlanc's character the common bond with the monkey is purely coincidental, I'm sure.  :)  Hell, his character even calls himself a monkey for getting such a lame assignment!  :sigh: I need to stop the whole monkey thing.  Let's move on.

Blarp may exist, with a number of other special effects, for the sole purpose of distracting the viewer from how bad this movie is.  The special effects are, somehow, a more inferior tool for tricking the audience than the sound effects of this film.  Now, this is a science fiction movie, so mock-pseudo science is going to run rampant.  I'm not a huge fan of science fiction for this very reason. I can only listen to so much about the "quasar reactor cogs" or the how by "reversing the parallel quark output to the deflector shield my coffee should be done in about 5 minutes."  It all sort of translates to blah blah blah.  Still, sometimes the logic, or lack there of, is very clear...this is not always a good thing.  What's Lost in Space's solution to stupid mock-science?  Every single time the characters make a stupid crazy decision, there is ALWAYS some sort of sound effect that blocks out the dialogue.  For example:

"Professor!  We'll have to fly beep beep  woop beep woop zap woop beep trust me, it will work!"

The decision you're looking at above is the character's decision to FLY THROUGH AN EXPLODING PLANET.  There are a thousand other examples of this, but I find the cast's decision to fly a space ship into a cave, and then through the center of a planet to be one of the stupidest things in the film.  At least when George Lucas did it there were Jedi and digital whales. 

This movie did have one great thing going for it:  Gary Oldman.  How can you screw up Gary Oldman?  By turning him into a giant space-spider special effect.  Oh and this wonderful line spoken by the man himself:

  "Within my egg sac lies the fruit of an entire master race!" 

Well, the fruit within my egg sac may not be the master race but I'm rather proud of it.  This does not, however, justify my waving it around in other people's faces, as Gary Oldman (the special effect) does towards the end of the movie.  Still, if you want to listen to Gary Oldman talk about his egg sac, this film is definitely the one for you.

All in all, the film is pretty much what it expected it to be:  A way of keeping special effect technicians and digital animators employed.  Yet, as the film closed, there was one bizarre thing, one thing that I hope anyone who owns or rents this film could confirm just to prove I'm not making this up.  Once the credits start to roll, we, the audience, are graced with a music video using images and short sound samples from the film.  Besides hearing every horrible line that Matt "I am not an animal" LeBlanc spoke (Let's rock and Roll, Come get some,  No Whammi, etc), the techno mix ends with the following words:

"This movie sucks!"

I listened to it over and over and still....no other words could be wrought from those syllables.  So remember, I'm not here to rate these films.  I'm not reviewing these things to keep you away from them.  In fact, I recommend Lost in Space...its what I call a good bad movie.  Yet, I will let the film Lost in Space speak for itself.

"This movie sucks!"
I didn't say it.  The movie did.

   I want to go Home!

 

copyright Jared 2004, unless otherwise stolen