Director: Peter Chelsom
Rating: PG-13 (for brief sensuality and language.)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Date: February 3, 2017
Los Angeles Media Fund, Southpaw Entertainment, and STX Entertainment.
Written by: Allan Loeb (screenplay); Stewart Schill, Richard Barton Lewis, and Allan Loeb (story).
The director of Hannah Montana: The Movie and screenwriters with connections to 1990s young adult television series “Charmed” come together to deliver The Space Between Us, one of the most baffling and inane films of recent memory.
The notion that a boy born on Mars, curious about and wanting to visit Earth, is an intriguing premise which, with the right writers and proper handlers, could be really all you need for a compelling movie. However, because we are marketing this movie to teens, we get what essentially plays like a pilot episode of a young adult television series on basic cable. And I don’t think this series would get picked up.
There is a decent enough, if not logically wacky, beginning: an astronaut (Janet Montgomery) discovering she is pregnant, while in flight to Mars, dies on the Red Planet moments after giving birth to a baby boy. When we cut to 16 years later, the baby, now a teenager named Gardner (Asa Butterfield), is surrounded by a bunch of scientists, a robot, and astronaut and mother-like figure Kendra (Carla Gugino), all on a colonized Mars.
The colonization is the brainchild of Nathaniel Sanders (Gary Oldman), a lifelong lover of space who turned his youthful dreams into his life’s work, the billionaire scientist keeping Gardner’s existence a secret from the public the entire time.
In something of another “WTF?” moment, Gardner spends his time using the universe’s greatest Wi-Fi, video-chatting with a girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson). He lies and indicates he has a medical condition that does not allow him to leave his Manhattan penthouse when she insists on meeting him. She buys it, they chat every day and she is smitten. So is Gardner. And this leads us to the moment when Gardner travels to Earth and meets her, as well as attempting to learn more about his deceased mother and possibly the father he has never met.
Complicating all of this is that you kind of want to like this thing for a little while. Director and co-writer Peter Chelsom has a story that just unravels quickly. Oldman however lends the film at least some credibility, so you may catch yourself trying to look past the irregular, gauzy, bleeding heart that starts to thump louder and overtake the proceedings the longer the film plays on.
Subtlety is literally out in orbit here and Chelsom relies on a generic Radio Disney-style song score and a rugged, over-the-top musical score from Andrew Lockington to try and elicit emotional swings and melodramatic sways.
The movie descends into pure lunacy.
For a film set in 2034, there are countless anachronistic errors that reek of laziness. The film is paced so haphazardly that few, if any, scenes exist long enough to make an impact. Allan Loeb‘s screenplay ends up a two-tiered chase film of sorts as Gardner flies to Earth and makes a connection with Tulsa, escapes from Space-Mom Kendra, and the duo go on the lam. We have car chases, pursuits by plane, piano ballads in grocery stores, a high school that apparently lets strangers come right in off the street and attend classes, and countless other scenarios that play out as vignettes, or a highlight reel from a bad television show.
In a science-fiction tale like this, nothing makes any sense at all. Even a surprising reveal late in the movie is telegraphed so obviously, we spend 100-plus minutes building to something we likely anticipated five minutes in. But hey…crowbar in more scenes of Wim Wenders’ classic Wings of Desire a few more times because that literally makes no sense whatsoever.
Originally, The Space Between Us was over 150 minutes long and the film was bumped from early December 2016 to a pre-Valentine’s Day 2017 release. In recent years, a Nicholas Sparks-themed movie has opened around this time, and this film is every bit as banal and cloying as the worst of those melodramatic, tragedy-laced Sparks romantic dramas we have all grown to loathe.
The ultimate problem here is that Chelsom and Loeb decided to just “teenage the hell out of this” and pander to a demographic smarter and more attune with pop culture than they realize or care to give them credit for.
All in all, The Space Between Us is full of hot air; squandering four good actors, while a pedestrian story fails to make us care about Mars, Earth, or anything that happens over the course of these apparently re-cut, and still mind-numbing 120 minutes.
This trip around the Universe never takes flight.
SHOULD I SEE IT?
- Well, look at this – Gary OIdman is back in a new movie!
- Admittedly, the premise is enough to spark an interest. Just be aware this is very much a young adult/teen focused movie.
- Those with an interest in Mars will likely be intrigued to see what the movie does with its intergalactic premise.
- While the four main actors are decent to good in the film, this movie is so poorly realized that nothing is memorable and nothing here sticks at all.
- This isn’t really about Mars at all. It’s a teen romance with Mars as a place we can travel to and from whenever we can get a spare rocket to send us into orbit.
- The movie doesn’t make a bit of sense, the editing and music is atrocious, while the delivering of a believable reality is executed in a slipshod and mawkish manner.