The Space Between Us, as of this writing, has a 15% on Rotten Tomatoes. There is no reason this film should be that low on the movie metric site. Of course, I can understand why. I am not going to recommend this film either, but I did not find it to be a bad movie. It was just one that had its share of problems and an unreached potential.
Set in the near future, a group of astronauts are on their way to set up East Texas, the first colony on Mars. Led by Sarah Eliot (Janet Montgomery), the crew successfully left earth’s atmosphere on the way to the red planet. However, there was a problem. As it turned out, Sarah was pregnant. They could not turn the ship around and return so the decision by East Texas backer Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) was to cover up the pregnancy and let Sarah give birth on Mars.
The decision is a tragic one as Sarah dies in childbirth. Flash forward sixteen years, we meet Gardner Eliot (Asa Butterfield), raised by scientists- especially Kendra Wyndham (Karla Gugino), he has become a capable young teen who wished for nothing more than to go to earth. His body, which had been affected by the different atmosphere of Mars, would not be able to withstand earth’s gravity.
Meanwhile, Gardner connected with a girl on earth via the computer (some kind of interplanetary Skype) he nicknamed Tulsa (Britt Robertson), a troubled teen in a foster home, and he formed a bond with her. He told her he had a disease and was confined to a penthouse in New York.
A medical breakthrough gave Gardner a chance to have an operation that might allow him to survive on earth. Desperate to take the chance to see Tulsa and to find his mysterious father, Gardner agrees to the surgery.
With the surgery a success, Gardner heads off Mars and toward the home world of his mother, a world he had never stepped foot upon.
Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson was, by far, the best parts of this movie. They were fun and engaging and had a solid chemistry. The only reason this film did not devolve into a slushfest was because of these two actors. Sure the story was cheesy and hard to believe, but the young actors sold it to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, their romance seemed to be rushed and was not given the proper time to grow the way it should.
There are several issues with the film, though. My biggest gripe is that the film is not consistent in the world that they are using for the setting. At times, the world is shown to be technically ahead of the times (such as a scene where a car is driving automatically while Gary Oldman slept behind the wheel) and other times it feels as if there is not one shred of difference between this world and the one on the screen. The movie seems to want to have it both ways and that makes it feel unbalanced.
The trip across country by these two kids and their seemingly amazing ability to steal cars and swipe internet service really stretched the reaches of credibility. There is a silly scene with an airplane that is tough to buy even before they land it and crash it. The resulting explosion belonged on an old episode of The A-Team. There is no way that small single engine crop duster would wind up exploding after driving into the barn like it did unless there was a massive meth lab in that barn. Silliness like this really took away from what the film was trying to do.
The Space Between Us could have been a really great film, but it switched out a potentially interesting science fiction story for a run of the mill Nicholas Sparks love fest. Gary Oldman’s character was both predictable and wasted in a background story chasing the kids, screaming at Gardner, much like Jack did at Kate on LOST, that he had to go back!
I did not hate this movie, but I should have loved it. I did not. It was, at best, okay. It does not deserve 14% on Rotten Tomatoes, but 40-50% would be reasonable. It is not a “fresh” movie. Asa Butterfield was charming, but charming was not enough here.