Watch Steve's supplemental video review at the bottom of the article
Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) was born on Mars to Sarah (Janet Montgomery), a committed astronaut, who died during childbirth alongside her fellow astronauts who embarked on such a brave exploration. Back on Earth, however, a devastated Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman), the head of the space mission, is trying to prevent a PR nightmare in how to handle both Sarah's death and the fact that there is now an infant child living on Mars. The ultimate decision is to say that Sarah died due to a suit-malfunction and leave Gardner's existence entirely unmentioned so he can grow up amongst astronauts in the vast emptiness of Mars. Most illogical.
It gets better. Gardner winds up communicating with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), an unhappy Earth-girl via social media, who desperately seeks companionship outside of her dour homelife. Eventually, Gardner has the opportunity to travel to Earth to meet Tulsa, but when he does, after a seven-month long journey, she's only even more upset given how long he has taken to get to her and that he is claiming to be from Mars. Being that Gardner suffers from a disease that renders his organs sensitive to Earth's gravity, which means he only has a limited time on Earth to try and find his father and fall in love with Tulsa.
The Space Between Us
Gary Oldman, Asa Butterfield, Carla Gugino
3 February 2017
Steve's Grade: D
The Space Between Us is so tepid and boring it belongs on daytime television with the other soap operas of its class. This is a film devoid entirely of emotion and connection, taking a mostly believable premise and squandering it for yet another plain, grating love-story between two characters so flat they might as well be cardboard cutouts. The film belongs to this new trend of romantic comedies that offer in grander scopes of illness, space, time, and reality-bending narrative structures, such as The Fault in Our Stars, despite falling prey to the emotional manipulation that works to hamfist these films back into their place.
It'll be a miracle if, even in the next ten years, mainstream romances can transcend this kind of glossy visual aesthetic, obnoxious orchestration-heavy score, and beautiful, youthful white actor formula that has succeeding in handicapping and disgracing an entire genre for far too long.
The point of encouragement for The Space Between Us is that, yes, it is an original story, not based off of a preexisting young adult novel (which was very surprising to me) or any kind of webseries of sorts. There is absolutely a deficit of original stories in Hollywood, especially those catered to young people, but The Space Between Us is so predictable and flaccid that it feels like a story that's already been told. The only difference is the scale has been radically increased now to include intergalactic travel and the idea of love transcending galaxies.
These are both concepts I'd be willing to accept if the film was committed to being realistic or at least more predicated upon Gardner and Tulsa's relationship in a more tender sense. Consider the scene where Tulsa explains to Gardner, who keeps telling her repeatedly that she's the most beautiful woman he's ever seen, that people don't go around telling their true feelings to others because if they're not careful "they might be happy." It's an idea worth exploring, but screenwriter Allan Loeb (Just Go With It, Rock of Ages) would much rather have a film centered around how much running both Gardner and Tulsa have to do in order to escape police and Shepherd, who are both in hot pursuit of them.
The Space Between Us is overly long for what little of a concept it has, terribly overwrought when it comes to anything resembling pathos, and mostly wooden when it comes to the chemistry between Butterfield and Robertson. Take note of how loud and obvious the music must be when the two are having a tender moment. I can almost visualize studio executives frantically pacing the floor, trying to comprehend how they will sell a chemistry between two leads that give performances that echo high school level stage-productions cobbled together at the last minute with a third-rate script featuring love and interplanetary travel. The idea exhausts me about as much as it did to endure The Space Between Us for two long hours.