Firmly securing a slot on the list of movies that completely waste a compelling, original premise, “The Space Between Us” amounts to nothing more than a tween angst soap opera whose gaping plot holes consume itself like a massive black hole. The thought-provoking idea of a child born during a space mission, raised on Mars, and finally lands the chance to travel to Earth is unconditionally squandered in this forgettable film. It’s a sci-fi movie without any sci-fi, a road trip movie that’s stuck in neutral, and a romance that is far from romantic. It’s also an all around failure.
Weird astro-boy Gardner (Asa Butterfield) has spent his entire life on a space colony on the red planet. He fills his days chatting online with sassy teen Earthling girl Tulsa (Britt Robertson) but he struggles to keep his true life story a top secret mystery. When the head honchos finally decide to bring Gardner to Earth, it turns out the young man’s body can’t acclimate to gravity and he begins to die. It’s an imaginative idea that’s poorly written and directed, and it sadly devolves into a wishy-washy chase movie as the pair try to outrun “the adults” from NASA (Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino). The committed, strong performance from Oldman is at least a welcome surprise here.
There are plenty of predictable platitudes about living the best life you can, loving hard and following your dreams, but the characters and the love story are so sanitized that it flounders on every possible level. This it not a realistic teen love story that’s been done so much better in other young adult films (see “The Fault in Our Stars”). The movie lacks the self confidence to be honest with its characters and its storyline, flat out refusing to push its characters too far into the uncomfortable, slightly dark zone. This would have been a far better movie if everything wasn’t so sanitized and squeaky clean.
The ridiculous and optimistic conclusion is preceded by a steady, antiseptic diet of indifference. It’s hard to care about these characters when they are such one-note shells of real people. The Martian boy is bland and his equally dull romantic interest feels far too forced and fake. Case in point: she’s a foster kid who wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle! What a rebel! He’s a wide-eyed fish out of water who jumps when he first encounters rain and is startled by a horse. How wacky!
This is a very interesting, very ambitious premise that is ruined with rampant cornball, cheesy dialogue and sitcom-like situations. In short, it’s a disappointing waste of what could’ve been an engaging story.