Saturday, May 5, 2018

"Lost In Space" Arrives on Netflix

A family of space explorers board a ship called the Jupiter 2, as they begin a mission to start an Earth colony at Alpha Centauri. Along the way, they encounter some deadly detours, courtesy of a powerful robot and a crafty saboteur. Sound familiar? The baby boomers among you will recall this as the basic setup for creator-producer Irwin Allen’s beloved television series, Lost In Space, which featured the adventures of the Robinson family. The original show ran from 1965-1968, and gained a whole new group of fans through syndicated reruns. The series was rebooted as a 1998 feature film, which was somewhat successful at the box office, but strayed a bit from the original concept, and alienated many longtime fans. In 2004, the WB network produced a pilot for a new series, entitled The Robinsons: Lost In Space. The project was directed by action maestro John Woo, but it never aired, and the series wasn't picked up by the network.

Now Netflix has produced a new version of the show, and it’s an enjoyable, old-fashioned science-fiction tale, written by Matt Sazama and Burke Sharpless. This time around, the Robinson family is part of a larger mission ship, the Resolute, which is filled with colonists searching for humanity’s new home after a disaster has caused the Earth to experience serious environmental issues. An alien vessel attacks the Resolute, and those aboard are forced to evacuate to a nearby planet in their smaller craft, which are called Jupiters. While stranded there, the Robinsons and their fellow travelers must survive in a hostile alien environment, and contend with the machinations of a stowaway who’s appropriated the identity of a doctor named Smith. Oh, and there’s also a huge alien robot who’s befriended young Will Robinson; but this particular robot has a dark side.

Molly Parker as Maureen Robinson (Photo Courtesy of Netflix)
The cast is headed by Molly (House of Cards) Parker, who is terrific as scientist Maureen Robinson. Toby (Die Another Day) Stephens plays her husband John, here recast as a former Navy Seal and, in a gender switch on Jonathan Harris’ iconic (and comic) villain from the original series, actress Parker Posey portrays the sly and scheming Dr. Smith. Also aboard are Ignacio Serricchio as pilot Don West (whose character is reinvented here as a con man and lovable rogue) and Taylor Russell, Mina Sundwall and Maxwell Jenkins are the Robinson kids: Judy, Penny and Will, respectively. The family’s relationships are interesting and the young performers are quite good, never slipping into that annoying kid mode that has plagued many shows of this type. The series is extremely well cast, and while some reviewers have taken exception to Posey's offbeat performance, I think she's quite effective as the manipulative Smith, who will go to any lengths for self-preservation. In fact, Posey and Parker have some great scenes together in during the season.

The ten episode revival pays homage to the original in ways that will delight fans, but also goes off in some intriguing new directions. One of the best things about this revival of Lost in Space is that it’s a fairly straightforward space adventure saga, and it's quite entertaining on that level. The show offers enough action, narrow escapes, plot twists and turns and likeable characters to interest viewers seeking an old school science-fiction story. The show also retains the family friendly vibe of the classic series. The special effects and production vales are impressive, and the excellent direction by genre vets such as Neil Marshall and David Nutter guide the solid cast through their paces. I tried to stay relatively plot and spoiler free for this piece, so you can enjoy the show (and discover its merits) on your own. Lost In Space is definitely worth seeking out for fans and newcomers alike. The series is currently streaming on Netflix. Here’s a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzmM0AB60QQ.

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