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Lost in Space on Netflix blasts off with great pacing, CGI

Review: The new Netflix reboot of the TV classic fills the void with enough danger, adventure and mystery to keep viewers binging.

Netflix

In a polluted future Earth 30 years from now, the air is so bad people are leaving the planet to head to a brave new one, and one plucky family decides to join the exodus as colonists.

Lost in Space tells the story of the Robinsons, probably the most unlucky family ever in television history. They get stranded on an unknown planet filled with dangerous creatures and foliage, and have to figure out how to survive.

As with the original 1965 TV series and 1998 movie, Robot is central to the story, this time in a sleeker more dangerous-looking form that's disturbingly menacing. Evil scheming villain Dr. Zachary Smith (Parker Posey) returns as well, but with a neat twist.

The Netflix series, at least based on the first five hour-long episodes made available for review, isn't the sort of fun show you'll want to watch with your younger kids, though teens may appreciate it. It's dark and full of dangerous accidents, though our protagonists do just fine, thanks to improbable just-in-time saves or plain luck.

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Dr. Smith (Parker Posey) and Will Robinson (Max Jenkins) bonding.

Netflix

A series focused solely on the Robinson family and their exploits could have gotten dry, but most of the action of the reboot expands beyond the family with great side characters like Dr. Smith and Don West (Ignacio Serricchio), a character from the original series that's been reimagined.

That's not to say the Robinsons aren't compelling. In an interesting change of roles, the family is led mostly by mum Maureen Robinson, an astrophysicist played by Molly Parker from House of Cards. Parker portrays a strong matriarch and leader, filled with love for her three kids while tapping solid scientist-ish smarts to solve problems, especially in one epic scene that I won't spoil for you.

Toby Stephens perfectly plays John Robinson, the dad who's always away and wants back into the life of his wife and kids. While he plays second fiddle somewhat, action sequences of him fighting local critters and engaged in overall macho stuff show off his heroic side. 

Impressively, the real stars of the show are the three Robinson kids. Taylor Russell plays the eldest sister, Judy; Mina Sundwall is Penny, the second sister; and Max Jenkins plays Will, the precocious youngest kid. They get generous screen time, with Jenkins stealing most of the scenes he's in, but it's easy to love Russell's solid presence the most. I found Sundwall's Penny annoying with her all-too-smug looks and lines.

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Maureen Robinson, played by Molly Parker, is the awesome mum, astrophysicist and leader of the family. 

Netflix

The CGI is superb, with realistic spaceships -- the Jupiter spaceship the Robinsons are in looks like the kind of craft we could build 30 years from now, while glorious-looking space vistas and wondrous landscapes dazzle the mind. Netflix didn't skimp on creature animation either. Local fauna, such as giant reptiles, look completely realistic, and while flora doesn't look altogether alien you still instinctively know it's not from Earth. You'll also appreciate how amazing they all look on a large TV.

Lost in Space is a great reboot, much like Battlestar Galactica was, and while the contrived danger in each episode doesn't exactly thrill, it's the payoff of character growth, clever plot and pacing that really excites. You'll want to binge this, and if you're like me, you'll probably want more than the current one 10-episode season.

Lost in Space will be available for streaming on Netflix on April 13.

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