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What's on Tap

The Space Between Us Review: Teens are the worst humans on any planet

Posted February 3

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— I should probably start by acknowledging that I am not the target audience for the new movie The Space Between Us, which opens in theaters this week. That being said, the movie is still a giant turd.

Certainly, most teen romances can be described that way. The Space Between Us goes to a new level of awful though, with a bad script and even worse acting by its two young stars.

The movie opens with six astronauts being sent to Mars to establish the first manned colony. The mission is led by Sarah Elliott, the only woman on the ship. One has to assume if this group’s job is to set up Mars’ first permanent colony, Sarah is expected to be very, um…busy.

Anyway, while in transit it’s discovered that Sarah is pregnant. The company underwriting this mission decides it is too dangerous both physically and from a PR standpoint to turn around, so Sarah will have to deliver the baby on Mars. She does, and then like a mom in any good movie focused on a kid that doesn’t fit in, immediately dies.

By the way, the boss back on Earth is played by Gary Oldman. Not like Batman Gary Oldman with his American accent. This Gary Oldman is still British, despite a line that tells us he’s been in the U.S. since he was 12. It’s the first of many signs that little thought was put into this script.

Okay, back to Mars, but fast forward 16 years.

The kid is named Gardner (Hugo’s Asa Butterfield). He’s NASA’s little secret. He has odd jobs around the base and is raised by a combination of a robot he built, computers, and a NASA scientist played by Carla Gugino.

His only link to anything outside of the base is a girl named Tulsa (barf!) that he met in a chat room. Tulsa is played by Charlotte native Britt Robertson, who Hollywood can’t decide if she’s a sexy starlet or a kid, so she alternates those roles every other movie.

Gardner and astronaut Carla Gugino convince Gary Oldman that not bringing Gardner to Earth would be cruel. Gary Oldman reminds them that Gardner’s bones and organs won’t be able to handle the gravity on Earth. Gardner and space Gugino wine. BD Wong steps in as a humorless business scientist and says laws of physics and the health of a human being be damned! This is happening.

They make it to Earth. Gardner escapes NASA custody, because despite being a government agency with satellite surveillance capability, apparently no one in the organization knows how security cameras work.

Gardner goes to meet Tulsa, who we learn rides a motorcycle to school a la Tori Scott in Saved by the Bell. She also can fly a plane. You know? Like all 17 year old girls!

They decide to go on a cross country adventure to find Gardner’s dad. They steal some cars. They have some sex. They elude every U.S. government agency out to find them. Just regular kid stuff.

So you get it. There isn’t much special, in a good way anyway, about The Space Between Us. In fact, the most entertaining thing in the theater at North Hills on Wednesday night was that someone brought their baby and the kid was loudly cooing before the movie started.

The movie has a lot of problems, but it’s biggest and most basic problem is in the way Gardner and Tulsa speak to one another. It just doesn’t sound right. They use phrases like “see you in the funny papers” and Tulsa calls Gardner “bub” on more than one occasion. Clearly this script was written by the same 50-60 year old white guy that writes most of Tomi Lahren’s viral rants.

And to compound this problem, consider when the movie is set. We know from a memorial plaque on Mars (which I suppose was made in the sign shop NASA immediately sets up on every space colony) that Gardner’s mother died in 2018. Gardner is 16. That would mean The Space Between Us is set in 2034. Who even has physical memories of funny papers at that point? The cars, the clothes, nothing looks like the filmmakers put any effort into making me feel like I was in the 2030s. Hell, it seems on multiple occasions that they just plain forgot.

Last but not least, let’s talk about just how bad at acting Butterfield and Robertson are. Britt Robertson doesn’t act or emote. Her idea of playing this character is screaming at different volumes based on the scene. Similarly, Butterfield is also speaking mostly in monotone, but to prove he is a master thespian, he will occasionally raise his eyebrows.

Should you go see The Space Between Us? I mean, it’s pretty clear my answer is no, right? The only reason to watch this movie is to see how much Gary Oldman is starting to look like Eric Clapton and that certainly isn’t worth the price of admission. Wait two years.

Bookmark this page now. Maybe put a reminder for two years from today in your phone. I guarantee this thing will show up on TNT and you can watch it and say “Demetri was right. Gary Oldman really does look like Eric Clapton.” Then you’ll have experienced all of The Space Between Us that anyone should.


Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network.

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