The Space Between Us is a colossal waste of a fantastic premise. During the first manned-mission to Mars, Captain Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery) learns she is pregnant. Months later, she bares the infant on Mars but dies during childbirth. Fearing the negative PR and that the child couldn’t survive on Earth’s drastically different atmosphere, NASA decides the keep the child a secret from the public and spend his life living on Mars. Thus, Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield), as he is named, becomes the first human where Earth is a second planet.
Now think of how many possibilities a great setup like this could produce! It could have been a visually ambitious exploration of mankind’s place in the cosmos or a magical family entertainment filled with adventure and humanity. Instead, it steers completely in the wrong direction and manifests itself as a pathetic road movie filled with uninspired themes and phony teenager dialogue. I was astonished how such a strong premise could dismantle itself into such a mess of a picture.
It follows the bland conventions of the misunderstood teenager movie formula. Gardner (Butterfield), now high school age, has lived his entire life on the Red Planet. This lonely tech wiz desperately yearns for human interaction and wishes to leave the Red Planet. He communicates (via video chat) with only one person on Planet Earth, Tulsa (Britt Robertson). Unsurprisingly, no other adult seems to understand this spirited, motor-cycle riding foster child either. Her character is very silly.
NASA decides to test if Gardner could survive on Earth, and bring him back. How is body will react to the change of Earth’s atmosphere is uncertain, therefore he must remain closely monitored to ensure his safety. Soon after landing on Earth, Gardner (like only a whiny and unoriginal teenage stock character could) fears he will be sent back to Mars and runs away. He locates Tulsa, and together they search for his unknown father. However, this puts his health at risk and NASA incompliantly chases Gardner and recover him before his health deteriorates. While Butterfield and Robertson have strong presences onscreen, they can only do so much with this dreary material. Gardner and Tulsa’s scenes feel like a bad Disney Channel reboot of Mork and Mindy.
Shockingly, despite the enormous potential of the material, the film’s images lack any aesthetic beauty. No shot contains a thematic idea. However, this slight doesn’t stop many new 2017 automobiles being prominently showcased throughout. Curiously, they always appear freshly washed and clearly display each vehicle’s manufacturer logo, front and center. You know a movie’s in trouble when it’s most pristine image is shameless product placement.
The Space Between Us has little to offer, playing like a big-budget Movie of the Week. It just doesn’t cut it on the big screen. The visuals are dull, the dialogue lame, the jokes fall flat, and attempts at sincere dramatic moments are silly. But all these disappointing elements are only made more frustrating by its failure to live up to such a great setup. Maybe one day we’ll get to see that movie. Until then, I would recommend skipping this lackluster effort.