Review: ‘Lost in Space’ Netflix reboot trades camp for thrills and family drama

The Robot and Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space. (Netflix)
The Robot and Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space. (Netflix)
Published April 9 2018
Updated April 9 2018

If the original Lost in Space is like the cheesy, campy older cousin, then the reboot is the prestigious, lofty exploratory story in the vein of Star Trek.

The 10-episode Netflix reimagining charts a wildly different course than the Irwin Allen series from the 1960s. A 40-something-year difference between the two would clearly produce more sophisticated technology and science fiction style, but classic camp is noticeably absent in the new Lost in Space.

In its place are genuine thrills, not-so-futuristic tech, kid geniuses and family drama that helps keep the new series grounded in reality.

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And with spacescapes ranging from icy tundras, arid deserts and lush forests, Lost in Space is partly carried by its cinematic style.

The galactic dazzler is darker and deeper than the original and the oft-ridiculed '90s movie that came before it. These modern modifications are most noticeable in its characters.

The main Robinson family bears little resemblance to the original's aluminum suited space rookies. They share the same names, but that's about it.

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Molly Parker (House of Cards) and Toby Stephens (Black Sails) are Maureen and John Robinson, the parents leading their three children on a trillion-lightyear trip aboard the Jupiter 2 and heading to the Alpha Centauri colony for a new life. Their attempts to work as a cohesive family unit are often thwarted by the fact that Maureen and John are estranged, yet not divorced.

Daughter Judy (Taylor Russell) is the take-charge, 18-year-old physician, Penny (Mina Sundwall) is brilliant but often rash, and Will (Maxwell Jenkins) is the youngest and the most emotional, but he brings much-needed clarity to a group of geniuses lost in their goals.

Earth has become nearly uninhabitable due to a meteor strike and human pollution, so the next step for humanity is colonizing a galaxy close to the Milky Way. Of course, getting to the Alpha Centauri colony doesn't go as planned. The spaceship caravan the Robinsons are traveling in is attacked by an unknown entity, sending the Jupiter 2 and other ships of course and forcing them to crash land on an unknown planet.

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Being lost is only the first of many problems for the Robinson family. Through the series they face glaciers threatening to crush them and the Jupiter, deadly dropping temperatures, an unknown terrain of flora and fauna and curious creatures and Will's new best friend and protector — the 8-foot-tall humanoid Robot.

The original's Robot looked like a metal trash can combined with a vacuum. The new one more sleek, robotic extraterrestrial. Its limbs and gait are human-like, but it's body is covered in shifting gun metal slivers. Its only form of communication thus far is a face screen that changes colors like a mood ring and the iconic line, "Danger, Will Robinson."

The Robot isn't the only one who becomes a constant companion. The original's villain, Dr. Smith, has been gender swapped and played by Parker Posey. Her villainy takes form in her manipulation to serve her own sinister self-interest.

It's not immediately clear what Dr. Smith's goal is, but she's willing to go to cruel lengths to achieve her ends.

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Lost in Space has quite a few nods to sci-fi that came before it, including the original series, Star Trek, Star Wars and even Lost. The shapes of the ships are Millennium Falcon-esque, and it's hard not to anticipate seeing blasters and hearing the iconic "pew, pew, pew." And just try not to connect the series' adventure drama and existentialism to philosophical series like Lost and Star Trek.

Lost in Space is a fantastically fun new series, though it does contain a few plot holes. The biggest is its ignorance of class conflict in the race to save humanity from a dying Earth.

Maureen tells her children that only the "best and brightest" are chosen for the colonization mission, but the series doesn't address the fact that those chosen are more likely to come from privileged families. Wealth not only helps applicants gain the skills needed to pass the rigorous colonization tests, it also gets them a spot in a new world free from the war and climate change they most likely helped cause.

Despite its inability to address the real problems that would come along with a survival of the fittest space colonization plan, Lost in Space is a wild ride. It's another high-budget Netflix offering that's easy to get lost in.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.


Lost in Space

3 a.m. Friday, Netflix

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