It’s hard to believe that The Space Between Us needed three writers to tell such a pedestrian story.
Director Peter Chelsom and Screenwriter Allan Loeb (who cracked the story with two other writers) deliver a film that had what could have been an interesting premise, but ultimately gets watered down and falls flat. Gardner (Asa Butterfield) is a human teenager who was born on Mars. His mother (Janet Montgomery) was an astronaut on a mission for a private space firm run by Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman). When she left, she didn’t know she was pregnant, so Gardner is born on Mars and his mother dies in childbirth. There is a cover up regarding Gardner’s existence in order to avoid bad publicity and he is raised by another astronaut, Kendra (Carla Gugino). For some reason, Gardner is allowed to communicate with a teenage girl on Earth named Tulsa (Britt Robertson) in some kind of pen pal program. Tulsa, of course, doesn’t know Gardner is on Mars, but the boy is smitten with her and when he has an opportunity to go to Earth, he seeks her out. He’s also trying to find his father and Tulsa helps him. However, Gardner’s physiology cannot hold up in Earth’s gravity and the kids have to race against time to get him back to Mars.
The Space Between Us is weak sci-fi window dressing around a teen romance that we’ve seen done a million times before and done much better. The sad part is, this could have been a very interesting film, had the filmmakers properly decided on what they wanted it to be. Instead, it’s a kind of mishmash of sci-fi, YA, and romance with neither of them really rising to the forefront. The filmmakers try to go with a fish out of water trope when Gardner arrives on Earth, but his befuddlement with the planet makes zero sense. Gardner is treated like an alien, but he was raised in a human colony with people from Earth, so he should know the animals and such. If he’s going to be as shocked by a horse as he is in the film, that shock should extend to the dog he’s perfectly cool with. There’s no consistency to the film, which is frustrating as a viewer. Also, the twist at the end – which Dirty A figured out five minutes into the thing – makes Gardner’s entire journey moot. I hate twists like that and I pretty much hated this movie.
I don’t know why Gary Oldman ended up in this piece of crap – maybe he needed a new wing on his house or something. I really felt sorry for Carla Gugino in her thankless role. She deserves better than this. Come on, ABC or Netflix or somebody, resurrect Gugino’s Karen Sisco series! We need a badass female detective noir on TV, stat! Butterfield is not that great here, but the script is terrible, so I can’t totally blame him. Also, Robertson is closer to thirty than she is to twenty and she’s still playing high schoolers? Enough.
Skip The Space Between Us. There’s nothing here worth salvaging, which is a shame, because we need more sci-fi films, but this is barely that.