The Space Between Us Movie Review

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By: Jose Marin (@nfgrockerdude)

The Space Between Us is the story of Gardner (Asa Butterfield), born on Mars and kept a secret by NASA, and his subsequent journey to experience Earth. His mother died giving birth to him, and his whole life, all he’s wanted to do is visit Earth. He’s been in contact with Tulsa (Britt Robertson) via the Internet, and here lies the romantic journey from the title. Tulsa is a high school teen who has been through some stuff herself, and their lives interconnect on this short journey.

Peter Chelsom directs and as his resume includes Serendipity, one of my favorite romantic comedies, in addition to the fact I find both Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson to be talented young actors, I was really excited to watch this film. I was very surprised by Butterfield in Hugo and Ender’s Game. Likewise, Robertson was impressive in Dan in Real Life and Tomorrowland. While they don’t provide award-worthy performances in The Space Between Us, their talents are definite factors in carrying the movie; however, the overall acting is decent but not great. Gary Oldman (Nathaniel Shepard) has some great moments but a lot of them are cheesy and just too over the top. Carla Gugino (Kendra Wyndham) does a good job as Gardner’s “foster” mother, but the mother/son relationship between her and Butterfield just generally lacked chemistry. As mentioned before, the relationship between Gardner and Tulsa is easily the best. It’s not perfect; there are various scenes where the dialogue feels forced. The acting just leaves something to be desired but it’s definitely not the worst part about the movie.

The writing is average to pretty bad, depending on how you look at it. This is a big Hollywood movie. Sure, the budget was $30 million, which is small compared to big blockbusters, but the script is terrible and predictable. I would have given it a pass to be average had it been written by a first-time screenwriter. The story is unoriginal, the lines predictable, and even the “twist” can be seen from a mile away. I suppose the ending is the only thing that wasn’t expected but it is open-ended, left that way for us to imagine what happens after the screen goes dark.

I have to give big props to the special effects crew, who were responsible for about the only top-notch thing in the film. For a movie not really big on SFX, it really delivered. Sure, it’s set on Mars and in space, but the overall film is a love story – not really a sci-fi flick. Though in some moments it was clear CGI was used, it was overall really great work. From the Mars terrain to the shots of Earth, they did a great job.

Because I’m not sure who was responsible for the lack of structure, I’m including directing and editing in the same category for critique. Yes, there’s a beginning, middle, and end, but the movie fails at executing a good pace. A large portion of the film is spent setting up everything, but then the core of the film is rushed through. Sure, it’s nice to have background on the mission to Mars and the characters we won’t see much of, but they don’t even do a good job of developing that. We get quick tidbits in long form and then get put into the meat of it all. I think they could’ve used more of the two hours to develop the love story and should have focused on that; after all, it’s sold as a romantic drama. The editing is choppy and while it does do its job of informing us in sequence, it doesn’t give a flow. Maybe the director wanted too many things and too many themes and the editor did what he could with the material provided to him.

Finally, I want to mention the music. The soundtrack plays such a huge part in movies, especially romantic films. It helps influence our emotions and usually takes us on a more incredible journey than the words could ever do. The music in The Space Between Us feels so out of place except at the end. Even then, it felt cheesy and it was obviously put there to bring out viewers’ sadness. Music should blend seamlessly with the movie, just sitting in the background where we can listen and not really separate it from the rest of the movie. I found myself asking, “what just happened?” a lot and just being thrown off by the music selection. I’m not sure a lot of it was needed, and you can’t go from a soft soundtrack in a serious scene to something that plays in an action flick with heavy guitar. I think this defeats the purpose of the previous, serious scene. Sometimes, music isn’t needed at all – simple is sometimes better.

At the end of the day, I left disappointed. There are some charming moments and even a few gut-squeezing, tear-jerking monologues, but as a whole, the movie failed to leave me all warm and fuzzy. Maybe I expected too much? My biggest problem was the lack of focus. I think the biggest failure was the want to develop so many themes and not having the time to do a single one justice. It’s not a total loss. I think the movie shows two young actors continuing to demonstrate their potential, great CGI, and a tad of what the movie could have been. I know I’m being critical, but there was just so much I wanted to like about it. On a scale of “worth spending the price of admission at the theater” to “skip it,” I would put this at a lukewarm “watch it if it comes on TV,” whether on premium cable or just standard cable/network TV. I think there’s enough to see and enjoy but not enough to pay for, even at Redbox, but if you do miss it, it won’t be the worst thing ever.


    One Comment

  1. ScottMarch 31st, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Although a lot of people may say this was a cheesy film, I found intriguing how the science facts were bound with romance. Movie kept me interested and had a great plot. It also showed the message that people always want what they don’t have.

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