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Movie Review: Sci-Fi Sappiness in ‘The Space Between Us’

Read on for our movie review of The Space Between Us:

A female astronaut discovers she is pregnant during a spaceflight to a Mars colony in The Space Between Us, birthing the baby when she finally arrives. This is an amazing event of untold discoveries; the first baby that traveled through space in the womb and the first human born on another planet. The mother does not survive, but the boy named Elliot (Asa Butterfield) lives to be the first kid raised entirely in a space colony with no other children. What could have been a unique sci-fi scenario for an intriguing perspective on life somehow mutates into a teen road trip movie with a clunky coating of romance.

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Elliot becomes the first child raised on Mars in ‘The Space Between Us.’

Elliot forms a secret internet chat with Earth delinquent Tulsa (Britt Robertson), a girl he desperately wants to meet as much as his Earth father he never met. He cannot travel to Earth, as his body wouldn’t survive the difference in pressure and for the PR nightmare of the space organization that want to keep him a secret. These obstacles are quickly glazed over, however, as the movie would rather favor its mushy journey of young love than science driven drama.

When Elliot first arrives on Earth, he’s not the least bit worried about what this new world could do to his body. He’d rather run away from the scientists trying to help him with his enlarged heart so that he can disappear with Tulsa and find his dad. And given that the scientists who look over him are a Mars-obsessed coot (Gary Oldman) and a barely defined mother/mentor influence (Carla Gugino), I can’t blame him for running away.

Asa Butterfield proved himself to be well suited for science fiction when he starred in 2013’s Ender’s Game, but he’s wasted as the awkwardly ill-defined Elliot. On Mars, he’s a smart and curious teenager who can assemble robots, speak German, recite history and go on secretive spacewalks behind the back of the unaware scientists. On Earth, however, he’s a complete dolt of a fish out of the water who literally forgets what water feels like, even though he worked with irrigation on the Mars colony.

 
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Elliott experiences the joys of Earth via motorcycle.

Every single thing on Earth seems strange and alien to him from simple interactions to rain to cheeseburgers to horses. But should he really be this ignorant of Earth culture? The Mars colony apparently had movies from Earth, but all Elliot apparently has to work with for his Earth training is an old 1950s video on courtship. He studies this dated video carefully so that the movie can build to one cornball joke of him opening a car door for a lady with a dorky demeanor.

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But what type of future is this that the only training video Elliot can view is from the 1950s? This is a kid who can hack his way into a secret chat line, but had no interest in observing Earth through YouTube? Was online video abolished in the year 2034? Earth doesn’t seem to have changed much outside of slightly different cars and more slick computers. And yet there are odd characters such as a classically free-spirited hippie and a wacky looking bum straight out of Blade Runner.

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Their love defies gravity…and sense.

The time period of The Space Between Us becomes more muddled by the direction of Elliot attending a high school that plays more as a 1980s teen comedy; Elliot can apparently rattle off the history of Thomas Edison, but in the same scene ignorantly pulls the lever of an eye wash station. This movie cannot decide on a concrete setting, tone or even a soundtrack. It’s a world where crop-dusting planes explode into giant plumes when they hit barns and cars are left idling out in the open for Elliot and Tulsa to easily make quick getaways.

Britt Robertson doesn’t fair much better as the slick-talking bad girl Tulsa who steals everything to get wherever she needs to go. She’s a bad girl, but not really all that bad as she can apparently play the piano well when she’s not making snarky criticisms or speaking in a world-wise street tone. But do teenagers really speak with such phrases as “see you in the funny pages?” Tulsa admits that she doesn’t know what this phrase means as she heard adults say it before. She must have adopted her entire speech and personality from other adults as modern teenage girls, even the most wise and rebellious, would never speak as though they were a forty-year-old adult using dated slang.


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