Film Review: “The Space Between Us” burns up in cinematic atmosphere

Grade: D

The 2010s have boasted a host of great films set in space. Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” is one that drove audiences wild, but Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” is more comparable to this recent attempt made by Peter Chelsom to score at the box office. Although “The Martian” far exceeds the greatness of Chelsom’s “The Space Between Us” in nearly every category of Oscar-worthy filmmaking, there are some points that make it hard to forget (in a good way). Nevertheless, the promise behind the film severely diminishes within a few minutes after the opening credits.

“The Space Between Us” tells the story of Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield), a boy who was born and grew up on Mars who has a desire to return to Earth to find his father despite his physical incapabilities (his body is strictly accustom to the gravity and environment of the Red Planet). Through a program that can fittingly be referred to as “Facetime on steroids” he communicates with a street-smart teenage girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson), whom he has never met. Gardner’s adventures with Tulsa take him all across the western United States in an effort to find his father.

The casting director brought on veteran actors Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino to play supporting roles as Nathaniel Shepherd and Kendra Wyndham, respectively. It’s an unlikely combination considering Oldman has a long list of prominent roles, such as Sirius Black in the “Harry Potter” series and Commissioner Gordon in “The Dark Knight” trilogy and some of Gugino’s most notable films were the “Spy Kids” trilogy. Equally mind-boggling was how awkward Oldman seemed during every scene. If his character demanded awkwardness, then he did a fantastic job. Otherwise, it was a disastrous trainwreck. Gugino showed promise from start to finish, but one solid acting job could not save the embarrassing supporting roles.

The highest marks acting-wise should go to Robertson, who took control of the steadfast personality of Tulsa. Her character leads a hard life of scraping by through long days at school and maintaining the family crop-dusting business, yet she lets her girly side get the best of her sometimes, much to the delight of Gardner. Robertson’s role is the forefront of this film and she has arguably has given it some much-needed brownie points, not to mention the chemistry that developed between the two lovebirds may have been the only highlight of the story.

If you were to compare this to any other movie featuring the Red Planet, for example “The Martian,” “The Space Between Us” would get knocked down and smothered into the iron-filled dust that coats Mars. Additionally, in terms of science, there is next to none of that in this film. Really the only science term uttered throughout its entirety is osteogenesis imperfecta, which refers to a brittle bone disorder afflicting his body and is used as Gardner’s only excuse for not visiting Tulsa, despite living only two hundred million kilometers away.

Deep down, what this really feels like is a high quality Disney Channel television movie and not one made for the cinematic screen. It’s marred with imperfections despite its promising science fiction nature. There are not a whole lot of romantic science fiction films out there that take place in space, but in any case “The Space Between Us” sets a very low bar. Undoubtedly, however, there are much better space films on the horizon.

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