I’m actually pretty embarrassed to admit I went to see “The Space Between Us” this weekend, not because someone made me, but because I thought it looked good. Just from watching the trailer, it’s pretty clear this movie won’t be nominated for an Oscar, but I thought it would be similar to other Valentine’s Day movies such as “The Vow” or “The Lucky One”: bad quality but still worth watching. Did it look cheesy? Sure. But did it still look decent? Absolutely. That’s what’s really impressive about this scheme they pulled off. The editing for the trailer was so well done that it somehow managed to look moderately okay and worth paying $12.50 for, when in reality this movie was shockingly terrible.
The movie centers around Gardner, an adorably oblivious teenage boy who is the product of a NASA experiment aiming to establish human civilization on Mars. After his mother dies giving birth to him on Mars, he becomes trapped there because his heart is too large to survive Earth’s gravity. He longs to travel to Earth so that he can meet Tulsa, a girl he chats with online with whom he supposedly has an intense connection and to meet his father who he believes is still alive. At the surface, the plot seems okay. It’s predictable and corny, but there is definitely room to have fun along the way with a cute relationship and some cool cinematography, if everything is executed well. Spoiler: nothing was executed well. This movie got a 5% on Rotten Tomatoes for a reason, and quite frankly I’m not even sure if it really earned that five percent. I’m writing this review because I want to prevent you from spending the $12.50 that this movie ticket cost.
Why did this movie suck? The whole premise of the film was based on Gardner and Tulsa’s relationship, how he would risk his life just to travel to Earth to see her and be with her — which is fine, there is nothing wrong with that yet. However, before Gardner makes the journey to Earth, he and Tulsa have exactly one conversation that lasts approximately one minute, and the only thing that this conversation establishes is that Tulsa hates the world and also hates her high school calculus class. It seems unreasonable to ask us to feel excited, therefore, when maybe twenty minutes later the two of them are being awkward and naked in a sleeping bag. They have no chemistry, and we haven’t learned their backstory or why in particular he has fallen for her instead of all the other girls he could have found online. Quite frankly, we aren’t rooting for them. It doesn’t help that Britt Robertson, who plays Tulsa, delivers every line in the same moody, angsty tone that does nothing to advance her character or the plot. By the end of the movie, I thought he might as well go back to Mars.
While Tulsa and Gardner’s lackluster relationship could be overlooked, the acting, pacing and dialogue of the entire film was enough to make multiple people leave the movie early. The dialogue was cryptic, banal and delivered poorly by the actors. The scenes that the director chose to tell this story were all irrelevant to the plot — three minutes of the film were dedicated to an angry Gardner riding around Mars on a motorcycle. The subplots were half-finished and unconvincing, and none of the characters were complex or dynamic in any way.
The one saving grace of the film was Asa Butterfield, who plays Gardner. He was genuine and compelling and was able to make Gardner believable. Gardner makes you stop and think when he asks individuals throughout the movie, “What’s your favorite thing about Earth?” He rejoices in the sight of the ocean and the discovery of horses, and his desperate defiance to stay on Earth despite what it will mean for his health shows how valuable and precious life is and how lucky we are to live on this planet. But mixed in with the painfully awkward dialogue and cringeworthy delivery of everyone around him, even these meaningful interactions were lost in the cheesiness.
“The Space Between Us” could have been a fun-loving, cheeky romance that made us want to find a cute Martian to love–if it had been in the hands of a different director. However, Peter Chelsom and his gang of misfits destroyed — absolutely destroyed — any hope of a halfway decent film. I am genuinely impressed that the marketing team of this movie was able to so successfully deceive us of the film’s technical inadequacy. I implore you not to see this film, unless you’re interested in mediocrity.