“The Space Between Us” offers an interesting story, on the surface. A human child born on Mars comes to Earth to connect with other human beings while adjusting to the differences between the two planets like gravity, air, water, etc.
The problem is the execution of that idea leaves a lot to be desired. It’s pretty easy to understand why it got pushed back from an August, 2016, release date to then December and now Feb. 3.
With a lazily written and cliché-riddled script, “The Space Between Us” is a nonsensical story filled with plenty of eye-roll moments.
The cinematography is lovely and the movie could be taken as a nice love letter to NASA, but that’s about the only nice things you could say about the film.
There will be several spoilers to follow, but it’s for your own good.
The movie begins with Gary Oldman, who plays scientist Nathaniel Shepherd, giving a speech on his lifelong dream of creating life on Mars. A 12-year-old Shepherd “sent a letter to the president” and actually got a response. This is where the first red flag should pop up.
Gary Oldman is British in real life and, apparently so is Nathaniel Shepherd because Oldman speaks with a British accent. So, why is 12-year-old Nathaniel Shepherd writing a letter to the president? And, if he was living in the U.S. as a 12-year-old, then why does 60-year-old Shepherd still have such a noticeable accent.
It’s a minor thing, and had that been the only issue with the film, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But it was the first sign that the attention to detail of director Peter Chelsom was pretty terrible.
After Shepherd’s speech, we meet the six-person crew who will spend four years living on Mars in the colony of East Texas. It’s never explained why the colony is called East Texas.
There are a lot of unexplained events in the movie that make you think, ‘OK, they’re going to come back to that,” but then they never do. Like why the female protagonist, “Tulsa,” gets chased out of a high school music room by a group of boys as she starts to play the piano. For some reason, Tulsa is embarrassed when the boys at her school see her through a window sitting down at the piano. This is one of those scenes that leaves you wondering why, but you never get an answer.
We’ll get back to Tulsa later.
The leader of the six-person mission to Mars is a woman, the only woman on the crew, named Sarah Elliot. Days into the seven-month journey to Mars, she discovers that she’s actually two months pregnant.
That news creates a shitshow back at Shepherd’s company and they decide to hide the news that she’s pregnant because they’re worried about some kind of PR fallout that would result in his funding getting yanked.
Because it’s the first fetus that would develop in zero gravity, they decide to keep the baby a secret and that he must be raised on Mars because his bone density and blood could not handle Earth’s gravity and atmosphere. Sure, let’s go with that.
But then, of course, the mother dies in childbirth because it makes sense that a 30-year-old woman in prime physical condition – something that would be required through the rigorous training of becoming an astronaut – can’t handle the stress of labor. Never mind that fact that it’s 2018 (in the movie) and women dying during childbirth is a rarity in developed countries.
We then fast-forward 16 years because, why explain how they fed an infant without any other women around and, of course no baby formula or any other baby food because it’s not like those things would have been on their ship.
We meet 16-year-old Gardner, who knows of his mother’s death, but longs to go to Earth to meet his father.
This is still a storyline that still could have existed without the ridiculous melodrama of killing his mother.
Somewhere through his childhood, he “meets” Tulsa online and they video chat. She doesn’t know he lives on Mars and she’s another reason he wants to visit Earth.
When his caretaker on Mars, a Shepherd employee named Kendra Wyndham played by Carla Gugino, finally convinces Shepherd’s company to let Gardner come to Earth, there are some steps taken. He has surgery to implant some metal around his bones to strengthen them and he has to build up his physical endurance.
But in the seven-month journey to Earth, apparently nobody on the blue planet decided it was worth their time to think of what to tell Gardner when he arrived. Instead they perform a series of tests on him and, when he gets told they have to do another blood test, he panics and bolts.
He steals some clothes and money from a man at the facility and hides in the back of a truck. He seeks out Tulsa and then two of them play a little game of Grand Theft Auto while trying to get to California to meet who Gardner thinks is his dad.
Spoiler alert: The man he had seen with his mom in a video among her personal effects on Mars wasn’t her husband, it was her brother. When it’s revealed that the man is his uncle, you immediately know that Shepherd is his father, though he was twice Sarah Elliot’s age.
Back to the multiple stolen cars, apparently felonies are cool when it comes to teen romance, according to Chelsom, who also voices Gardner’s robot companion on Mars.
The most frustrating thing about “The Space Between Us” is that all those teenage felonies could have been avoided if someone would have actually fucking spoken with someone else.
Gardner makes it clear he wants to go to Earth to meet his father, but instead of Shepherd, who greets him when he lands, stepping up and saying, “Hey son, I’m your dad,” we get surface questions like, “What’s your favorite thing about Earth?”
Instead of poking and prodding the kid, explain your concerns to the kid. But those things would fall under common sense, of which this movie has none.
It is so predictable that you are saying the characters’ lines before they do. When it’s revealed early in the film that Shepherd has a physical condition that inhibits his own space travel, you know how the movie’s going to end 15 minutes into it.
Shepherd’s going to end up on Mars with Gardner and, that’s exactly what happened. Thanks for wasting everyone’s time Pete.