The tv show, though beloved by its fans, was honestly not very good. The film, on the other hand, is beloved by few (none?) but is actually fairly decent, and continues to be enjoyable upon repeat viewings.
The cast is a solid 90’s ensemble of veteran screen stars (William Hurt, Mimi Rogers, Gary Oldman), young screen talent (Heather Graham, Jack Johnson) and two tv semi-stars looking for feature breakouts (Party of 5’s Lacey Chabert and Friends’ Matt LeBlanc) and the film takes advantage of the small cast in the best way possible. Each character is given distinctive personality and is allowed breathing room to develop them. Oldman is given his status quo as the manipulative, vile Dr. Smith and he settles into it comfortably like an old recliner, while Hurt’s Prof. Robinson is a surprisingly flawed father figure, and frankly a bit of a dick as the leader of the film’s protagonists. Matt LeBlanc is surprising as the rough and tumble pilot Major West in that he manages to eschew Joey and makes a viable action hero. The effects, the film now 10+ years old, still hold up well on the small screen, although the digital monkey alien doesn’t fare so well (thankfully its screen time is brief).
The film itself is decent sci fi with some intriguing concepts that are executed well (time bubbles, wormholes, hyperspace, Earth’s colonization endeavours) and a couple that aren’t (both involving flying through stellar masses). A sabotaged ship sends Earth’s first hope at salvation way off course to uncharted territory. Finding the saboteur Dr. Smith on-board, questions of morality are raised, frequently. Their unplanned voyage takes them to uncharted space where they find a futuristic ship and some friendly and not-so-friendly alien critters. A narrow escape sends them crash-landing on an alien planet where they investigate a time bubble that could save them or destroy them.
From the writer of “Batman and Robin”, Lost In Space manages to avoid cheese while presenting a really solid spacefaring SF movie that I don’t think gets enough credit for how well its executed. It perhaps doesn’t feel as big as Star Wars or Star Trek, but then it is about family foremost, which isn’t the same as Death Stars and Klingons. The ending of the film every time I see it (this would be number 3 or 4) makes me want more, but I guess I’m one of few.
I owned the DVD at one point, then sold it, but wound up with a give-away copy mid-last year. Yes, they’re just giving it away now.
[i should add that the ending - where the family who is supposed to be colonizing a new planet and building a hyper-gate thingy in order to save humanity instead decides to gleefully venture off space-faring at random - is a bit counter-intuitive, as is the let's put dad through the wormhole so he can get on the ship that we just saw explode... but I forgive it these trespasses]