Saturday, 23 December 2017

Movie Review: The Space Between Us (2017)



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The plot: In the near-future, NASA has teamed up with Genesis Electronics, led by CEO Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman), to colonize Mars. Gardner (Asa Butterfield) is the first human to be born on Mars and for the past 16 years, it’s the only life he’s ever known. However, when he decides to leave for Earth, he soon finds himself having to adjust to life on this alien planet. With the help of teenager Tulsa (Britt Robertson), the only Earthling he’s had regular contact with, they set out to find Gardner’s father, his only living relative.




Butterfield may be a good fit for the role, given how he’s shown aptitude for teenagers who are fundamentally different from everyone around them before, but MAN is he wooden in this thing. Try as he might, he’s unable to elevate his character or the dialogue into the realm of naturally awkward and ends up stuck in just plain awkward. Robertson, with every new film of her’s I see, gets closer and closer to convincing me that what I saw from her in Tomorrowland was a fluke. Aside from the Dawson casting at work, since she’s playing a character ten years younger than she actually is, her take on the Pixie Dream Girl ends up embodying everything that is wrong with that archetype, and she can’t even make it palatable on the surface. Oldman gives one of his worst performances yet, barely getting across the driven genius behind the main premise and not even coming close to the more “complex” turns his character takes from there. Gugino is probably the most tolerable of the main cast, doing well enough as the surrogate mother, but that’s largely out of comparison. Like everyone else here, she falls short of what I know she’s capable of.

This film’s script is credited to Allan Loeb, who was also responsible for this year’s earlier travesty Collateral Beauty. That connection makes itself known in record time with this one, as this also feels like it was written by someone with only tangential experience to actual human behaviour. Part of the reason why the cast feels as flat as they do is because it would take a literal living legend to make this shit sound appealing. It’s the same collection of lines that are desperately trying to be poignant from Collateral, complete with the same effect of aiming solely for the heart and completely bypassing the head. Normally, this could be excused by how the story centers on a character who has limited experience with Earth culture. However, that justification doesn’t work when everyone in the film spews out the most inexplicable dialogue.

Well, inexplicable might not be the right descriptor, since the intention of this… thing is quite clear: It wants to make us feel, not think. This would explain how much bad science can be found here, but frankly, I’m more annoyed by how insanely trite this can get. Gardner’s point in being in this film is to show a level of emotional intelligence that the real world is just too cynical to accept. There’s a conversation between Gardner and Tulsa about how Gardner can’t just say everything that he’s feeling all the time, because if he did, others would do the same and the world would be a better place. If that sounds disjointed, know that it’s not my writing style for once: That’s literally how it is termed in that scene. There’s also a running motif of Gardner comparing his life to the film Wings Of Desire, right down to this film framing him as an angel coming down to Earth… ugh. And we haven’t even reached the apex of treacle here. That comes with how Gardner’s enlarged heart ends up risking his life due to the ‘alien’ terrain. His heart literally can’t take it on Earth. This is why I’m not getting angry about the bad science on display: Because the textual reason for it being here is even worse.

As you can probably tell, this narrative is kind of all over the place. It’s a story about a human who knows nothing about life on Earth, it’s a romance between him and an Earthling, it’s an adventure to find his father, it’s a medical drama about his physiology being accustomed to Mars, it’s a fish-out-of-water comedy; or, more accurately, it’s a complete mess. Never mind how godawful these pieces are on their own, the way they are paced out in the story feels so slapshod that everything we see doesn’t register as coherent narrative. Instead, it feels like Allan Loeb and the slew of rewriters attached are trying for something, anything, that will get the audience to feel something. As a result, because of that myopic focus, the film keeps presenting these painfully ridiculous set pieces without even the slightest inkling that it realizes how stupid it is being. I have no problem with dumber movies that are at least self-aware, but when you’re being this inane and seriously think that you’re saying something meaningful, that’s when my hackles get raised. That, and how Gardner seems to have been characterized by Judith Newman in how dehumanized he is.

All in all, this is precious to the point of being physically painful to sit through. The acting is astoundingly weak, the production values are about what you would expect from the director of The Hannah Montana Movie, the pacing is disastrously cluttered and the writing combines empty platitudes with some genuinely insulting attempts at being “deep” to create weapons-grade ear poison. The only concession I’ll give here is that it’s still not as hideously misguided as Collateral Beauty… but it’s still way too close to that kind of manipulative dreck for this to recommendable under any circumstances.

It’s worse than The Mummy, which may objectively be a hell of a lot worse but I can at least look back on it with a certain bewilderment that could make it enjoyable for a bad movie night. This takes itself way too damn seriously for that to ever be the case. However, as bad as this is, I knew what I was getting myself into once I made the connection to Allan Loeb’s previous work. A Cure For Wellness kind of suckered me in and wound up pissing me off even more than this.

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