Let’s pretend you write movies for a moment. Big, expensive Hollywood movies that require a return on investment. Hollywood is ultimately about the bottom dollar, which means that any picture must have a commercial component to bring people in. That’s a news flash…if you’ve been living in a bomb shelter for your whole life.

You, the simple writer, get one of the most cherished things you can receive, an idea for a movie. What if a boy born on Mars fell in love with a girl on Earth? Not some sort of red-skinned freak falling for a kind blond girl though, but I’m sure there’s a good adult film market for alien “encounters”. No, I’m talking a good little boy that only exists on Mars because his astronaut mother and scientist father had an “oops” moment right before she went up to space. You would think that risking your child and yourself just to live on a far away planet for a few years is a really dumb idea; you’d be correct, as the scientist finds out via webcam that his girlfriend dies and Mars’ gravity has enlarged the boy’s heart. Turns out FaceTime could get a little more excruciating.

 It’s also a good way to keep the boy from seeing a cute little girl on Earth that he’s been talking too. How does he manage to communicate with a random young person in her classroom? Would such a conversation not be known by the people running the space station or settlement on Mars?  Yes, but logic is frequently skipped over here.

 Health seems to be your ultimate plot device, as the scientist father can’t go to Mars because he has a brain tumor, and the change in gravity could make it worse. This should’ve been titled I Love You, But I Have Medical Problems.

 So the boy must go to Mars to see the girl, and everyone signs off on it. He arrives at a NASA-hub on Earth, but escapes to meet his chat buddy. Her comes to her with a purpose though, and that’s to find a deceptively good-looking man that’s in a picture with his mother. He looks and acts like her husband, so that must be his father right? But the evil NASA scientists (including his actual father) are on his tail, determined to capture him because they’ve realized his heart can’t survive our gravity.

 And so the journey/love-fest/chase scene/overbearingness of it all really begins. The Space Between Us is an interesting romance sandwiched in-between (heh) lame family drama and toothless suspense. The commercials for this played up the love story; they were smart to, as it’s the only redeeming part of an idea that quickly goes sideways once actual logic is applied to it.

  Asa Butterfield, Hollywood’s resident alien-boy (thanks Ender’s Game) is well cast as socially awkward astronaut Gardner. He captures the social isolation of a kid whose best friend is the most generic robot sidekick you can imagine (voiced by director Peter Chesholm).  Britt Robertson gives an interesting performance as tomboy Tulsa. You can’t figure out why she’s so aggressively showy with every line of dialogue (“People that talk to me like that, they get their ass kicked!” after ranting about how she can’t trust anybody), and it doesn’t help that Robertson, a 26-year-old, is about ten years too old for the part, which might explain why she tries too hard to be spunky. It’s as if screenwriter Allen Loeb (the atrocious Collateral Beauty) doesn’t trust his own writing to establish his characters.

Gary Oldman plays scientist Nathaniel Sheperd as the father-as-man-hiding something, which means he gets to spend the whole movie shouting “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND” in advance of the inevitable plot twist. Carla Gugino does a nice job as an ice queen-y fellow astronaut named Kendra, who has child problems of her own, and her story comes to a nice conclusion that should’ve been pursued further (more on that later).

 Gardner and Tulsa journey to California to find his would-be father, where they steal numerous items and vehicles. It’s small potatoes, but you think the police would ever want to arrest people responsible for theft in multiple states? Then again, the guy that wrote this thought it was all write to exploit mentally ill people in Collateral Beauty, so I’m expecting too much.

 What’s interesting is along the way, despite all the poor writing and logical plot holes, you become interested in Gardner and Tulsa’s love story. Maybe it’s because Butterfield and Robertson try their best to sell dialogue that’s would make Nicholas Sparks cream his cheesy pants. But in spite of the million acts of grand theft auto they commit, you feel for the two outcasts and their bond makes you care for their mission.

  Which is why the ending is stupid.  Predictable and stupid because it goes back to a story line we don’t care about that much. Model-dad is actually is his uncle, which makes a dying Gardner attempt to commit suicide by falling in the ocean where he’s rescued by his actual father! This is played as one big twist, but I thought it was too stupid to give it that much respect in this review.

 They (Gardner/Shepherd/Kendra/Tulsa) all fly up to space together, where it’s magically discovered that less gravity doesn’t kill Nathaniel, and Gardner lives. He and Tulsa say goodbye, but Kendra adopts the girl into a new space program where she can go to Mars. Logically, this would mean the audience would get a cathartic “one year later” type of scene where the boy and girl see each other again, but Loeb decides to leave us on a shot of Gardner and his father on Mars.

Which technically, is the right thing to do. He promised a father/son story and he delivered on it. Except the love story is far more compelling. You can basically infer that Gardner and Tulsa will reunite, but seeing it would’ve made it much easier to swallow Gardner being at peace with living on the red planet again.

 I know it’s not good to switch up your movie’s focus in the middle of it, but that really should’ve been considered here. I’d rather watch an awkward kid and way-too-old-to-be-a-teenager-girl forge an interesting bond over an informerical over why you shouldn’t screw a female astronaut before they go into space. Take heed writer, know the best parts of your movie before you decide what your ending should be.  

Published by Jagger Czajka