Coming out of the month of January, there’s a certain exhaustion we movie critics feel. Jammed up with films that studios have zero hope in added to the inability to market their lackluster movies well, the first month of the year is a graveyard of ill-conceived choices mixed with the wide releases of award nominated films we already saw in the previous month. The new movie, The Space Between Us, falls into the same confused category as it saw itself shuffled out of a December 16th release date, so it didn’t get annihilated by Rogue One, and put into the very safe position of the beginning of February against, really, no competition but a horror reboot. Will this pay off for VVS Films or was it a delay of the inevitable failure?
The film starts out a few years into the future, with a space expedition to Mars for a four-year stay. Along the way, the captain discovers that she is pregnant, a first time for a human to go through the process in zero gravity. Once landed on Mars, she gives birth to a boy, Gardener Elliot, and dies immediately after. The creator of the program named East Texas, Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman), watches the whole ordeal happen from his headquarters on Earth and withdraws from the situation. Fast forward sixteen years later and Gardener (Asa Butterfield) is a brilliant young man raised by scientists and is rapidly outgrowing the research base that has ben established on Mars. He yearns to go to Earth to find the answers that plague him but most importantly to meet the girl he has been communicating with (Britt Robertson) and to track down his father.
More exhausting than the dog days of movies that start out the year, I’m equally as exasperated by all of these bland tween films that are just an obvious lure for a vapid niche in that demographic. For The Space Between Us, the offenses go beyond that, as the film’s sci-fi nature and increasingly preposterous plot are just a mask for a teen romance film, shoving the stars, Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson, into a contrived and incredibly awkward romance that does nothing but grind the story to a halt. This makes the pacing even weirder as Serendipity and Hector And The Search For Happiness director Peter Chelsom bounds from plot point to plot point at breakneck speed.
This film comes off as a vacuous exercise in exaggerated drama, leading you by the nose to each reveal and wasting the talents of both the young stars and a couple of veteran talents. Butterfield has had some success as a child but hasn’t quite settled in as a teen star, Robertson is yet to make a mark and Carla Gugino finds herself locked in a parental guardian role that is full of stale cliches. The saddest element is to see Gary Oldman start the film as a scientific dreamer who likes to push the boundaries of his limitations but by the end of the film become a shouting mess who runs scene to scene with a franticness that will convey nothing to the audience. Between this film and last year’s Chloe Grace Moretz forgetfulness The 5th Wave, teen sci-fi looks dead before it got going. 1.5/5