Review: The Space Between Us
The Space Between Us was originally set to open in July 2016, before being moved back five months to December, and then again to the first weekend of February 2017 - often considered a point in the year for films to be scheduled when Americans are getting ready for Super Bowl weekend and not enthused about taking a trip to the cinema. That should tell you enough about how much confidence its distributor has in the overall film, as it amounts to a massively overblown sci-fi romance with a terrible script.
Asa Butterfield plays Gardner, a highly-intelligent teen living in a NASA colony on Mars amongst other scientists in the year 2034. Desperate to know more about his family, having to live with the fact that his mother died giving birth to him, Gardner convinces space project director Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) to let him return to Earth accompanied by the crew - only to escape and set off on an adventure to find his father. Gardner links up with his online crush Tulsa (Britt Robertson), a rebellious whip-smart girl who's been in and out of foster care her whole life, to aid him in his quest, and in the process they fall in love with one another. But as we soon find out, Gardner's heart is too big to withstand the extreme gravity of Earth's atmosphere - a story quality that feels too on-the-nose for this sort of film, adding a race-against-time component to the mix.
For the most part, the acting is standard, with Butterfield giving a rigid, sullen performance that feels right for the type of role he's playing. Its very weird to see Butterfield and Robertson as a teenage couple, not just because of their lack of chemistry, but even weirder when you factor in that Robertson is 27 and playing a character that's 10 years younger than she actually is.
The audience doesn't even get a proper introduction as to how these people became connected in the first place, which is weird given how their relationship forms the backbone of the entire film. Tulsa is literally dropped into the first act after we meet Gardner, and from that point onward we're supposed to assume these people have a rich and vested history. Given the way they behave and the level of diametric opposition in their personalities, especially once they finally meet face-to-face at the film's midpoint, its hard to believe that they could ever find common ground, enough to fall in love over. And to top it off, their journey to find Gardner's father involves them committing major acts of larceny, but I guess when you're in love (and technically not a citizen of Earth), the rules don't apply.
Gary Oldman, who for some reason gets top billing here despite not being the main character, appears to only show up to collect a paycheque, chewing the scenery to the extent that you're briefly taken out of the film's story every time he shows up on screen. I imagine that him signing on was what helped the film get made in the first place, but you're not going to find him giving a performance that's up to snuff with what we're used to seeing from the man.
But even considering all of these questionable elements, nothing feels more egregious than the screenplay which comes from writer Allan Loeb, who recently gave us the cinematic atrocity that was Collateral Beauty in mid-December. The script is packed with cheesy overly-sentimental dialogue and gaping inconsistencies that show the mark of someone that's more interested in sticking to a basic formula than anything. There's a twist in the story that any observant viewer would be able to catch from the first act onward, but once it unfurls in the film's last few minutes, it becomes so overbearing that you can almost feel Loeb shouting down at the audience.
I'm willing to bet that teenage audience members, who The Space Between Us was ostensibly designed for, will be less harsh on the film, and fall for the charms it presents. But its hard to overlook the fact that the film feels stitched together from a myriad of other sci-fi and teen romance films from the past few years, with nothing substantial enough to make it stand out. I shouldn't have expected much given the film comes from director Peter Chelsom, best known for Town & Country, the 2001 mega-flop that killed Warren Beatty's career, as well as The Hannah Montana Movie. You're much better off seeing almost anything else playing at the cinema, as this is the kind of film that will quickly be forgotten, like countless other genre pics releasing on Super Bowl weekend.