BY ROGER THOMAS
I went into “The Space Between Us” with high hopes. The trailer is certainly appealing. The scenes on Mars are reminiscent of “The Martian,” but there can be more than one good movie set on Mars. As a matter of fact, the early scenes on Mars are the best part of the film.
In the film Gardner Elliot is the first human to ever be born on another planet. His mother dies during Gardner’s birth so he is raised by the astronauts who come and go at the space station on the Red Planet.
The early scenes of the film establish that Gardner has many questions about planet earth. One of the female astronauts has become a surrogate parent. Gardner also has an internet relationship with a teenage girl back on earth. She does not know how great the distance is between them.
As the trailer has already revealed, at some point, the first child to be born on Mars will want to see the world of his parents and possibly meet his father. So he comes to earth and the film becomes less than what it was.
My issues with the scenes on earth are many. First, a teenage romance is fine, but did the couple have to be on the run. How many vehicles do these two adolescents steal before they reach their destination? I certainly hope that law enforcement would catch up with one earth girl and a martian boy more quickly than it happens in the film.
I also think the film would have been more inspired if the love between the two teens had developed without all the action and explosions. I question how easily Gardner walked into the high school of his pen pal, but once they were together, the film could have gone in many ways. The chosen path did not work for me.
There are a few elements I enjoyed. Gardner is played by Asa Butterfield who always does fine work. This is a better film than his last one, “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,”
but not as good as “Hugo,” “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” or “Ender’s Game.” Among those “Hugo” is the one to seek out.
Britt Robertson plays Gardner’s earth pen pal, Tulsa, and ultimately his girlfriend; she is well cast. I just wish that rather than her being a tough foster child she could have been someone who was a guide to the first resident of Mars who has come to earth. There are so many ways their time together could have been spent. My version of the film would probably bomb at the box office; but the version that exists is not soaring with abundant tickets sold.
One other element, besides the two lead actors, is the mystery. I have to admit, I was surprised by one of the twists at the end while another was way too obvious.
Then comes the dramatic climax. I had many questions about that, but the answers would probably be too complex for my brain. I know nothing about space ships and shuttles and all those things. There were just so many other ways the film could have gone.
In the end, there is glimmer of what the film could have been. I wish it had been that. But alas, as I often say, “We do not always get the movies we want, or the ones we imagine as we watch trailers of things to come. As often as not, what seemed to hold great potential in a two and half minute glimpse ends up less than we hoped for.”
At least I can ponder the version of “The Space Between Us” that exists in my mind.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.