How far would you go for some ass?
Well it’s February, which means the time that comes forth a bunch of romantic comedies and dramas for couples to enjoy on Valentine’s Day or for a pack of single people to see so they forget about how crappy their love lives are. However, romantic comedies have become a rarity these days due to the deluge they experienced back in the 90s and 2000s (see what happened to Westerns and what will happen to superheroes eventually); and romantic dramas have spent years trying to replicate the Nicholas Sparks formula to their detriment. Because of this stagnation, we’ve seen in recent years young adult book adaptations take the center stage as the object of women’s film going habits, but even that genre is now facing the decline that plagued romcoms in their twilight years. So here comes The Space Between Us as a last chance gasp for relevance in the eyes of the viewing public…but given the theater I saw this with, I think this genre is now dead on arrival.
So this walking corpse begins with Gary Oldman as a billionaire tycoon proudly displaying his astronauts on a manned mission to Mars, when the captain finds out she’s preggers two months into the journey there. Thinking this will be a public relations nightmare, everyone from the astronauts to Oldman agree to keep this baby a secret until they figure out what to do with him, since the baby may not survive a trip back to Earth. However, a few months later the babe is born and the new mother dies immediately, leaving Oldman despondent and him to withdraw from public life.
The boy meanwhile grows up to be Asa Butterfield (late of Enders Game) and he’s getting to the point where he’s a rebellious 16-year-old and extremely horny for some ass in the form of Britt Robertson (late of Tomorrowland). While Butterfield’s character is constantly told he can’t go to Earth because the gravity could kill him (because…science I guess), the powers that be grant him his wish to return to the planet. Upon arriving to Earth, the scientists in charge of monitoring him find that he has an enlarged heart (get it?) that could kill him if he continues to hang out on this planet. However, he winds up escaping his confinement as NASA runs tests on the kid, because he really, REALLY wants to tap Robertson’s ass.
Forgive me if I sound a bit crude (I mean I could be more blunt, but I’ll show some restraint), but this movie is essentially a cheap rip off of The Martian for its first half before becoming The Fault in our Stars in the last half only somehow more inept and less memorable. See, a concept that many romances seem to struggle with is that they fail to create a connection between your two leads that feels believable or honest. Films like Loving, Moonlight, The Lobster and The Handmaiden may be heavy fare compared to this film, but they all understand to make you give a damn about the central relationship between the main characters.
They all demonstrated a physical chemistry between their respective pairs that sprouted forth from either the situation both found themselves in or they adequately showed how each found comfort in the other. But The Space Between Us doesn’t feature any of that, it just sticks two teenagers in several cars (that they steal) as they go on a road trip to find Butterfield’s father and expects you to just go with the fact that they want to bone each other silly. While Butterfield I can understand because he’s a clueless teenager who only had a robot as his own constant companion, Robertson’s falling in wuv with him is much harder to swallow.
Look, Robertson portrays a foster kid named Tulsa and she’s supposed to be a hard kid who doesn’t trust anyone in her life while acting cynical of the world (even though she looks like a Abercrombie & Fitch model who plays the piano). The film establishes that she bonds with Butterfield’s character over instant messaging chats…between Earth and Mars (seriously doubt it with the slow speed of telecommunications between the planets as established in The Martian but whatever). It’s apparently in these conversations (that we never witnessed) is how they got to know each other and ended up obsessing over each other.
On paper, this sounds like a small oversight; but in practice, you lack the necessary information to accept that these two characters share a connection because you don’t see the actual connection. The film tells you that they have a connection, but at the same time, it doesn’t even attempt to back that proposition up through thoughtful dialogue or exchanges. Even in movies with pre-established relationships, you can’t accept one can be genuine if the pair aren’t acting as if they even like each other. This can be both through the fault of the actors’ lack of chemistry and a piss poor script.
Robertson and Butterfield’s relationship is told entirely through the pair making moon eyes at each other rather than any charming banter. This is the Twilight method of establishing romance, which may work on 12-year-old girls but looks and sounds fake to anyone above that age because they’ve likely experienced some kind of flirtation and know this shit doesn’t happen. To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, check out this clip from The Adjustment Bureau. Putting aside that this film is as far removed from a conventional romantic film as you can get, note how Emily Blunt and Matt Damon are talking to each other. Note that they’re all smiles and they’re exchanging little jokes as they flirt on the bus. This feels more real than anything you witness in The Space Between Us, because you can buy that these two are interested in each other through natural chemistry and a flowing script.
Speaking of which, the dialogue in The Space Between Us is just plain bad. Maybe for tweens this kind of dialogue is acceptable, but I clearly remember anyone in middle and high school (read: me) that tried this shit would just look corny as all hell. Which makes the romance way less believable due to Robertson’s cold-hearted shtick in the first two thirds of the film because you’d think she would have heard all of Butterfield’s terrible lines before (and the film establishes she gets chased by boys all the time so we can’t call her a Bella Swan type character either). So she hooks up with him either out of pity or because the script writer forgot where the hell he was standing as he typed this drivel out.
Probably the latter because the whole “romance” part of this “romantic movie” doesn’t come into play until 65 minute mark when your main couple meets face to face for the first time…more than halfway through the flick. The first part of this film is basically a cheap recreation of The Martian‘s first few minutes before the storm that stranded Matt Damon took hold. And none of it is exciting because you keep alternating between Butterfield acting like angsty teenager on Mars and the politics of bringing the boy home on Earth featuring Gary Oldman. Incidentally, I actually like Oldman a little bit in this because he added some life to these proceedings. You eventually find out why he’s being so protective of this kid towards the end, but his acting perked what little interest I had in this movie.
Despite me banging on and on about the cheap production and terrible dialogue, I don’t hate this film…because I just don’t feel like hating it. Maybe it’s because I’ve been beaten over the head with some spectacular failures lately, because the film is nowhere near as bad as the other January releases I’ve slogged through. For the teenage crowd, I can see them eating this shit up especially as a Valentine’s Day date, but for anyone above the age of sixteen, this is a bottom of the barrel…