‘The Space Between Us” can’t quite fill the void

Gary Oldman and Janet Montgomery in ‘The Space Between Us’

“It’s not going to do any good to land on Mars if we’re stupid” – Ray Bradbury

In the not too distant future, “Nathaniel Shephard” (Gary Oldman – The Dark Knight Rises, Robocop) watches one of his dreams come true.  Thanks to his company, Genesis, a mission to colonize Mars is launched.  It is being commanded by “Sarah Elliot” (Janet Montgomery, Black Swan) and she’s taking an additional risk in blasting off for Mars.  Unknown to anyone else involved with the mission, Sarah is pregnant.

The dangers to the fetus of gestation in a zero-gravity environment are huge.  “Gardner Elliot” is born but Sarah dies in childbirth.  Fearing the damage to Genesis and the Mars colonization project, Nathaniel manages to convince everyone to keep the existence of Gardner a secret.

Sixteen years later the teen Gardner (Asa Butterfield, Hugo) is incredibly bright and frustrated at being confined to the Mars colony.  Astronaut “Kendra Wyndham” (Carla Gugino, San Andreas) has been the closest thing to a parent he has known as he grew up on Mars.  Upon discovering a photograph of his mother and a man, he becomes convinced that the man is his father.  He wants to go to Earth to find his father, and to meet the girl he has been chatting with.  “Tulsa” (Britt Robertson, Tomorrowland) lives in from Colorado and is about to age out of foster care.  She has been talking with Gardner via online chat.  His excuse for his inability to visit her is a disease that keeps him confined to the Manhattan penthouse where he lives.

After risky surgery to strengthen his skeletal system to handle the increased gravity of Earth, Gardner gets his wish granted and he travels to Earth with Kendra.  After arriving he escapes from the isolation facility he is being kept in and goes to Colorado to meet Tulsa.  They set out to find his father, while Nathaniel and Kendra search frantically for him, since Gardner doesn’t know that staying on Earth too much longer will kill him.

The Space Between Us had a great premise that somehow went far off course in the execution.  That is very surprising given that director Peter Chelsom has a proven track record in the rom-com genre; even if this is more of a romantic drama.  Serendipity was great and his English language remake of the wonderful Japanese film Shall We Dance was solid.  It doesn’t help that the chemistry between Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson is weak.  The bad science can be forgiven based on the notion of suspending disbelief when you walk into the auditorium.  Then again, seeing Gardner and Tulsa chatting online in real-time is a bit of a stretch given that the average delay in sending such a message from Earth to Mars (or vice-versa) would take an average of 13 minutes.

Asa Butterfield in ‘The Space Between Us’

Carla Gugino makes the best of this bad situation and gives an excellent performance.  Britt Robertson continues to demonstrate she is an actress who is going places.  The space travel imagery is done quite well and the other special effects are excellent.  But in the end this is a movie that does not deliver.

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