Monday, February 6, 2017

Review of THE SPACE BETWEEN US: Meeting a "Martian"

February 5, 2017

Honestly, this futuristic teen romance was my daughter's choice to watch, not mine. This genre is not really my cup of tea, but I was willing to give it a try. I thought that its unique plot line was a novelty worth seeing. It should be interesting to see what sort of high-tech sci-fi technology the filmmakers would use to set up and enhance an inter-planetary love story. 

The technology for humans to colonize Mars had been developed by Nathaniel Shepherd for NASA. Astronaut Sarah Elliot was chosen to lead the team in the maiden voyage and settlement. Her son Gardner was the first human baby born on Mars, but he always longed to return to Earth. Thanks to technology, Gardner met and became friends with a girl from Colorado named Tulsa via the internet. He wants to meet her, however, can 16 year old Gardner actually survive a trip to Earth to meet Tulsa given he has certain critical physiological limitations growing up in Mars since infancy?

Asa Butterfield had certainly grown a lot since we first took note of him in Scorsese's "Hugo" (2011). He had experienced being in sci-fi before in "Ender's Game" (2013). More recently we saw him as a teenager in "Mrs. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" (2016), where his character had scenes of puppy love. But here in "Space", Asa actually graduates to a romantic lead. I liked the wide-eyed and awkward innocence he projects when he is with Tulsa. He is very likable, audiences can empathize with his plight. 

Britt Robertson I only knew after she starred in "Tomorrowland" (2015). So far that was her one and only film of note, as far as I know, and I did not exactly like it. Robertson plays Tulsa as a sassy, street-smart girl, an orphan who knew how to survive on her own. Because of the maturity of her character, Robertson does look much older than Butterfield on the big screen. I was surprised to learn afterwards that she is actually 26 years old already (while Butterfield is still 19). 

I did not recognize that that was Gary Oldman playing the visionary Nathaniel Shepherd. Oldman is really quite a chameleon of film. Carla Gugino took on the role of Kendra, also an astronaut on Mars who took care of Gardner growing up. Probably reflecting the Chinese film producer of this project (a very frequent occurrence in Hollywood films of late), the role of Tom Chen, the director of the Genesis program is played by B.D. Wong. 

I did not agree with certain aspects of the story. There was a scene of pre-marital sex between two 16-year olds. (Call me over-conservative, but I was surprised that this was only rated PG by MTRCB despite the presence of this sensitive scene.) There were also a lot of scenes of petty and not-so-petty crimes committed that were made to look cool for teenagers. Shoplifting and stealing cars are never cool.

The whole road trip from "sea to shining sea" across the continental USA was a very scenic panorama. The science aspect was made to sound reasonable enough, especially the parts about how human growth and health is affected by significant changes in gravity. The romantic lines were as cheesy as can be expected, and that may be a good thing for the teen audience. Overall, British director Peter Chelsom made this story an engaging one to follow, and this was mainly thanks to the naive charm of Asa Butterfield in the lead role. 6/10. 

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