Roush Review: 'Lost in Space' Reboot Waits Too Long to Take Flight
Danger, all Will Robinson and Lost in Space fans. In this not-so-brave new world of reboots and revivals, some classic TV properties stubbornly resist rebirth.
While not as awful as the movie remake of 20 years ago, which was a low point in the film careers of Oscar winners William Hurt and Gary Oldman (if not Matt LeBlanc), Netflix's lumbering 10-episode misfire is just as forgettable. That’s something you’d never say of the cheerfully cheesy Irwin Allen original (1965–1968), a relic beloved by this child of the ’60s.
Recapturing that aura of innocent intergalactic campiness is likely impossible, but playing it straight saps the high concept—Swiss Family Robinson on a spaceship!—of its giddy sense of wonder and, most crucially, fun. Suffering from a profound case of Spielberg envy, with echoes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and Jurassic Park (although you may wonder where the dinosaurs disappear to after one random fight scene), the new version has an even more fatal flaw: It wants to be Lost in space.
Almost the entire first season takes place on a mysterious island—sorry, planet—where the Robinson family crash-lands while en route to the colony of Alpha Centauri in their Jupiter 2 vessel. Before long, they’re joined by other stranded travelers in their own Jupiter ships, all seeking fuel and a plan to get off this unstable way station. Somehow I expected perils more thrilling than rescuing a child trapped in the ice and, later, the estranged mom and dad (Toby Stephens as John and Molly Parker as Maureen) figuring their way out of a vehicle sinking in a tar pit while healing their marriage.
Hokey might be acceptable if it all weren’t so poky. The dreaded Netflix bloat, with some episodes lasting more than an hour, renders even action scenes sluggish, resulting in a curious lack of urgency.
At least there’s the Robot. You’d think. Looking like a Terminator married to a giant headlight, it’s basically a huge mechanical puppet, either friend or foe depending on who’s in control: young, bland, insecure Will (Maxwell Jenkins) or devious Dr. Smith (a miscast Parker Posey, unable to find menace within her mannered neuroses).
Only Ignacio Serricchio, as mercenary mechanic and unrepentant booze smuggler Don West, brings a spirit of infectious irreverence to these adventures. Otherwise, it’s a long slog to the climax, which ends where the series should have begun. The lesson: Space may be infinite, but our time isn’t.
Lost in Space, Series Premiere, Friday, April 13, Netflix