In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
The Space Between Us, I assure you, has nothing to do with that similarly named Dave Matthews Band song. Or, as my old high school friends used to say “that ‘Dave’ song,” as if they were personally acquainted with the guy, so much so that they’d minimize the contributions of his band just to sound cool even though they’re 16 and Mom would be dropping them off at the concert anyway. Yeah, the lawn area of the venue is a great place to make out with someone on a damp towel, but it doesn’t give anyone the right to be on a first name basis with Dave Matthews. Sorry. Anyway, The Space Between Us is a joyless, consistently mediocre movie, with only the loosest understanding of plot mechanics and an even looser understanding of logic. There is no understanding of science to be found. It’s also just way way way too long.
Our story begins on launch day for the first permanent settlers on Mars. They will be spending the foreseeable future on the red planet, as explained to us by Gary Oldman, who must be short on his alimony payments or something, because he’s clearly just collecting a paycheck. Buuuut since a movie needs to happen (and only barely does), it turns out the lead astronaut is pregnant! And she’s going to give birth right when they arrive on Mars! And then she dies! In order to save face with the world or something, NASA decides to keep the birth a secret, telling the public that the astronaut died of a spacesuit malfunction. Her baby is healthy, but in the eyes of the world he does not exist.
16 years later we catch up with Gardner (Asa Butterfield, awkward), history’s first Mars-teen. He spends his days, um, gardening, and his nights chatting with an Earth-girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson, barely existing, always annoying) via future-Skype. We don’t know how they’ve met, nor why NASA hasn’t put the kibosh on their communication given that Gardner’s existence is supposed to be a huuuuuuge secret. Luckily for NASA, Gardner is happy to lie about his circumstances, telling Tulsa that he’s sickly and stuck in an apartment in New York. Luckily for Gardner, Tulsa has no friends, and lives with a perpetually drunk/asleep foster father. Luckily for you, movies are optional.
By some confluence of poorly conceived plot machinations Gardner is finally being shipped to Earth. His Mars-grown bones are enhanced with science injections, and soon he’s being held in quarantine at NASA. But then he escapes and embarks on a mission to find Tulsa and subsequently his own father. A road movie sort of happens. The romance is tepid, and the ticking clock mechanism (Gardner’s heart is just too big for Earth’s atmosphere! Guh!) is invoked on an as-needed basis, usually through the old House M.D.standby of spontaneous bloody noses. Scathing pop-tunes fill the air while Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino (Carla Gugino) chase the teens in a helicopter.
It all leads to a reveal that is obvious to anyone with a brain, and creepy to anyone with a brain.
Peter Chesolm, who also helmed Hanna Montana: The Movie and the admittedly delightful Serendipity directs the film with an unnoticeable, straightforward non-style, which perfectly matches the top-to-bottom mediocrity on display.
The thing that bugs me the most is how little sense any of it makes. For example: Gardner’s body is weaker on Earth due to his being carried to term in space (science!), and in one scene he finds himself disguised amongst a team of astronauts in training. They are all wearing weighted suits that mimic the difficulty of returning to Earth after spending a significant time on Mars. Yet Gardner, being a Martian, has no problem moving in the doubly heavy suit … which is the exact opposite of what should happen. Gardner, who can barely stand without doubling over to catch his breath, shouldn’t be able to move at all.
Did I mention that NASA, the company responsible for building a shuttle between Earth and Mars, can’t find two slow-moving teens who are constantly stealing cars, talking on phones, using GPS, and being aggressively ostentatious at every turn?
Don’t even get me started on the inconsistencies of the setting. One need only look at the wide array of technology to see how little thought was put into it. Some cars are self-driving. Others aren’t. Some computers are super futuristic, others are MacBooks. Sometimes the film seems to take place far in the future, other times in the present day. Sometimes, even, in the past. It’s not the kind of thing one would normally notice if the movie had any engaging elements, but as it is, these lazy inconsistencies explode from the screen.
Here’s a fun exchange that happens. I’ll keep the character names vague so as to not spoil this movie that you shouldn’t see.
INT. Super Futuristic Space Jet, high above the clouds.
Guy: Fly this futuristic space jet even higher into the stratosphere or else this other character might die!
Military Pilot: I can’t do that! It’s against my orders!
Guy: Then I will fly it!
And then he does. At that moment the military pilot ceases to exist. Presumably he just sits back and lets a civilian take control of his space jet, but the camera never lands on poor Military Pilot again, so we’ll never know.
Screenwriter Allan Loeb also wrote Collateral Beauty, so it stands to reason that is aggressively nonsensical. His movies are the cinematic equivalent of macaroni glued to a plate.