“Aren’t you the clever computer stalker?”
Welcome to the most ridiculous young romance you’re likely to ever see on film. The Space Between Us doesn’t stop at being utterly absurd; its aspirations aim towards achieving a love affair of the most lobotomized nature. There’s a brain somewhere inside this numbskull of a motion picture, but it’s been severed off from the entirety of the frontal lobe. Gone are emotional reasoning, problem solving skills, appropriate sexual behavior. A lead pipe has been taken to the movie’s main control panel and all that’s left is an autonomous body of work moving around at its own free will without a thought or care or a fraction of plausibility. The Space Between Us depreciates the value of your mind the moment you drive it off the lot. This is a movie for people who don’t actually pay attention to what they’re watching.
The film starts harmlessly yet precariously. Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) addresses a crowd by quoting his 12-year-old self. He was fascinated with Mars as a boy. Now a head honcho for NASA, he’s managed to send humans there to study and live and learn. The crew, led by Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery), boards the Genesis and heads for the distant colony known as East Texas. But then Sarah is discovered to be pregnant, her due date set just after their anticipated arrival on the red planet. It’s there that she gives birth to Gardner and dies during labor; the first true Martian and space orphan. The Space Between Us has real moments of potential in this opening act, considering a pro-choice decision and the stakes of childhood isolation, as well as the influence of the media on NASA’s ultimate cover-up or exposure of the scandal. Too bad that’s all penned in easily erasable pencil instead of permanent marker.
Allan Loeb’s screenplay is disgraceful by nearly every measure, jumping forward 16 years without a single shot of growing up or a montage of life lived where people aren’t meant to be. A lot happens between inception and young adulthood on Earth, let alone on a distant planet surrounded by higher-learning. Opportunities to grow this character are squandered and stunted by futile exposition. And so we haphazardly meet the lanky Gardner (Asa Butterfield), a smart and inquisitive kid gone stir crazy. The only thing keeping him sane are angst-ridden online chats with Tulsa (Britt Robertson). How they meet via the web or why they continue talking is as defined as an ellipsis. By now East Texas has developed, more scientists have come to stay, and the folks back at NASA consider bringing the lost boy home. Shepherd objects because Gardner’s body has adapted to Mars and not to Earth’s gravity, specifically in danger due to his enlarged heart (in a smarter future where they apparently no longer offer heart transplants). Others say he’s being deprived of interaction. For Gardner, he just wants to meet the cyber love lady of his dreams.
What’s so enervating and aggravating about The Space Between Us is that it has the audacity to directly tie its storyline to Wim Wenders’ 1987 classic Wings of Desire. The film is an ambitious masterwork, following an angel who contemplates sacrificing his immortality to live and to love a trapeze artist. In Peter Chelsom’s film, a kid gets shuttled to Earth, subjects himself to literal heartache for a girl he has no established relationship with, and is willing to die for the moment. He becomes robotic at conversation and vapid even though he’s been raised by humans and is quite intelligent. Combine that mischaracterization, a Shakespearean love, plus the worst scientific fan fiction you could dream up and this finished product is the consequence. It features a duo with bad chemistry, disastrously directed performances throughout, and one of the most insidiously silly finales I’ve seen in years. The Space Between Us shoots for the heart but nails us in the head like a Looney Tunes anvil dropped from the stratosphere. This is a category 9 on the Richter scale of stupid, and about as believable as a future foretold by one of those grade school origami fortune tellers.
“You don’t have feelings.”
Rating: 0.5 out of 5