The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us bears faint echoes of other outer-space sagas but carves its own niche because its hero is a teenage boy. Asa Butterfield, whom we’ve gotten to know in such films as Enders Game and Hugo, gives a sincere performance as a boy who has been raised among American astronauts on the planet Mars. All he wants is to experience life on earth. He even has a long-distance relationship with a girl he’s been messaging—without telling her who or where he is.

In other words, in spite of its setting and spectacular visions of Earth from the skies above, The Space Between Us is essentially a coming-of-age story. It will probably play best with adolescents and tweens.

What makes it work for me, aside from the superior production design and visual effects, is Asa Butterfield as the boy and Gary Oldman as the mastermind behind this all-important Mars mission. In the opening scene, Oldman is commanding the stage at a press conference and he is (of course) completely believable. That credibility is crucial in a film that has so many fantastical elements.

I had a harder time believing Britt Robertson’s underwritten character as The Girl, who’s something of a malcontent …and frankly, I didn’t buy her as a high-school kid. (She’s 26.) But I did like Carla Gugino as the lone woman in the Mars colony who’s been a surrogate mother to Butterfield.

The Space Between Us is properly rated PG-13, which makes perfect sense for the audience it’s targeting. It’s a sweet, innocuous film nicely handled by director Peter Chelsom.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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July 2024