Asa Butterfield stars in this ambitious mix between The Martian and what I imagine Twilight to be like (given I’ve never actually read or watched anything in that franchise).
You’ve heard the story before. Earth is running on empty. We’ve abused and depleted and overpopulated the planet so it is imperative that we learn to reach for the stars. The first Martian colonists are on their way to become the first human residents of the red planet. The mission leader, however, has a secret. There’s an extra passenger stowed away, err. she’s pregnant. With no realistic way to turn back, she gives birth to the first true Martian and then promptly dies.
A publicity disaster, young Gardner is kept a secret from Earth’s public, and he’s kept contained on Mars with the unique situation of possessing a body not capable of surviving Earth. Fast forward sixteen years. Somehow and for some reason, it’s never made clear, he strikes up an online friendship with a random foster care girl in Oklahoma. I at first assumed he’d circumvented security and reached out to her, but then later it sounds like his guardians knew all along? That seems like a great idea for keeping him a secret from the world.
Of course you can see where this is going – he’s going to manage to get to Earth and hook up with “Tulsa,” (Britt Robinson who was already too old to play a teen in Tomorrowland). His behavior there is based on what he imagines Earth society behavior might be like despite having no real knowledge of it. Cleverly, the film itself reflects that – it’s a science fiction teen romance that seems to be written by someone based on what they imagine a science fiction teen romance might be like despite having no real experience with science fiction, teens, or romance.
Waffling back and forth from “awkward space boy functioning on Earth,” and overly earnest attempts at examining big picture questions from a unique point of view, the tone is all over the place and completely disjointed. The science seems to be about on par with casual comic book science, and the romance is something out of the pulpiest of teen novels. I’m supposed to see Fifty Shades Darker next week and this movie has me wondering if the sequel to literally one of the worst films I have ever laid eyes on won’t actually be the worst romance I watch this month. It also features what must be one of the most awkward zero gravity kisses ever committed to film.
Aside from plotholes so big you could fly a rocket ship through them, this film showcases painful character development, unrealistic and inconsistent situations and characters, and a plot twist that instead of blowing your mind is rather icky and easily guessed after the first five minutes of the film. Besides all that it celebrates teen sex, glorifies theft, and even threatens to romanticize suicide. It’s rampant with mixed messages and easily solves any issue with a pithy quote about the beauty of Earth or some such overly obvious message that sounds like it was a Hallmark Card reject. “You say you hate the world, but it’s all an act. Your beautiful music gives it away.” Priceless. There is also little to show that we actually have a reason to hurry off to Mars – Earth still looks pretty great, which is sort of a point the movie is trying to make, I think? Like I said, mixed messages.
Half the time a rule breaking runaway, half the time a prudent young man, Gardner’s character makes no sense. He has no problem hacking into a database, compromising security, and stealing his mother’s possessions – but when on Earth, telling a lie and borrowing a car without asking to accomplish the same thing he’s been after the whole time is a Big Problem. Also, just because he’s been raised by scientists, he somehow doesn’t understand sarcasm or have any real social skills like knowing not to blurt out what is on his mind. What is this – The Big Bang Theory? Likewise, we’re supposed to just accept whatever Tulsa does with the reasoning that she’s had a rough life and no real family, so, yeah. She makes almost no sense and pretty much exists to embody a number of conflicting stereotypes that a teen audience might find attractive.
There is actually an interesting story here that could have been explored to a productive end by someone else who had an inkling of what to do with it. It could have been worse. It could have been unwatchable – it isn’t (just cringy and laughable). It could have starred talent-less hacks – it doesn’t, (just miscast and misused). It could have been good. It’s not. At all.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film
Brother Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: Two out of five hats
The Space Between Us blasts off in 2,812 theaters February 3