Susan Granger’s review of “The Space Between Us” (STX Entertainment)
Originally intended for mid-December release, this teenage sci-fi adventure/romance was wisely moved to coincide with Valentine’s Day.
Because of the increasing depletion of Earth’s resources, Genesis Space Technologies, founded by eccentric visionary Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) – channeling Elon Musk/Richard Branson – is determined to colonize Mars.
Working with NASA, Genesis launches a pioneering team to settle for four years in an experimental colony called East Texas. The astronaut crew of six is confidently led by Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery), who declares: “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”
Complications arise mid-trip when Sarah discovers she’s pregnant. Afraid of losing vital funding, Nathaniel insists on total secrecy, even when Sarah dies giving birth to Gardner.
Skip ahead 16 years. Now a precocious, inquisitive teenager, Gardner (Asa Butterfield) has been raised by Kendra Wyndham (Carla Gugino) and her fellow scientists in an antiseptic, artificial environment.
Feeling isolated, Gardner strikes up a secret Internet friendship with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), a cynical, angst-riddled Colorado teenager, shuttling between foster homes.
Exuding adolescent fervor, Gardner is eager to meet Tulsa and explore his origins, but he’s told that since he was born on Mars, his internal organs (heart, etc.) could not adjust to Earth’s atmosphere. In short, it would kill him.
Predictably, Gardner boards a shuttle spaceship, breaks out of quarantine, finds street-smart Tulsa and they embark on a road trip, searching for his father. Pursued by Nathaniel and NASA officials, Gardner races against time to discover who he is and where he really belongs.
Melodramatically scripted by Allan Loeb from a cliché-riddled story by Stewart Schill & Richard Barton Lewis, it’s inconsistently directed by Peter Chelsom, making it difficult to sustain disbelief.
Nevertheless, it’s visually stunning and surprisingly tender. The most memorable moments reflect Gardner’s surprise and authentic amazement at Earth’s wonders, along with his ingenuous imitation of courtship, based his favorite movie, Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Space Between Us” is a sweet 6, achieving only a lukewarm launch.