Review – In Space, No One Can Hear You Groan (“The Space Between Us”)

The title should really be, The Space Be TWEEN Us. Get it? It looks like story-writers Stewart Schill, Richard B. Lewis, and screenwriter Allan Loeb watched the 1984 movie Starman and thought, “Hey, that plot would make a dandy YA movie!” So, they essentially copied the format and gave us this drivel about two teenagers in love (one’s from Mars), stealing cars, and going on a cross-country trip while being chased by NASA.


It’s 2018 and waddayaknow, we’re going to Mars to colonized it! Why? Because, according to NASA project leader Nathaniel Shepard (Gary Oldman), Earth is going to be unlivable soon. Welp, Mars expedition astronaut, Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery) leaves this good planet preggers and gives birth to her baby son, Gardner, on Mars. Yay!! But she dies in childbirth. Boo! Seeing this as a P.R. nightmare, NASA keeps the whole baby-birth thing a secret from the public and Gardner grows up on the Red Planet surrounded by scientists and botanists. No, Matt Damon isn’t one of them.

Fast-forward 16 years and Gardner (Asa Butterfield) is a computer whiz-kid, with an unfiltered mind and mouth who secretly communicates with an Earth high-school girl via computer. No, we have no idea how they met, but just ignore that and all the other incomprehensible plot holes, okay? Anyway, the girl’s nickname is “Tulsa” (she was found as a baby in a Tulsa bus station) and she’s a rebel against people and the world… except when she dabbles in her music. Tulsa (Britt Robertson) and Gardner strike up a friendship (he lies and says he’s from NYC) and swears that soon they’ll meet one day.

Ah, but that day is sooner than he thinks! Gardner gets his chance and, against the wishes of Nathaniel, he travels to Earth with his surrogate Mars mom, Kendra Wyndham (Carla Gugino). Yeah, Earth is a pretty scary, but fascinating place for Gardner: blue skies, the ocean, sunlight, dogs, rain, and eating Mars bars. But Gardner has a secret agenda; he’s got a photo of his mother and father and he’s gonna find his dad, even it it kills him. Which it just might, after all, since his frail heart is not used to Earth’s gravity and pressure.

Escaping NASA’s hospital and finding Tulsa proves rather easy and the two hook up while Nathaniel and Kendra (flying in a 20th Century helicopter?) hunt the kids down. Well, those darn kids elude the cops and NASA long enough to steal cars, steal Ipads, go camping, make whoopee, go to Vegas, and finally reach their destination in California, only to have Gardener face some shocking truths. No, there are no aliens in the end, but there is a kinda mother-ship that takes the kid back home (if you follow the Starman plot line).

Allan Loeb has not had success with his screenplays like this one. Consider his box office duds Here Comes The Boom, So Undercover, and the recent Collateral Beauty, and you can see a pattern. A nonsense (ripped-off) plot, mediocre dialoge, and a dumb YA treatment that isn’t fresh or stirring. Not to mention ALL those gaping plot holes and ludicrous deus ex machina’s that conveniently show up! Oy! Director Peter Chelsom didn’t help much here either (remember Hannah Montana: The Movie?). He doesn’t even try to explain the plot holes or give us some real excitement/peril, he just points the camera and shoots like you’d see on any TV show.

The laughable made-for-TV production quality is even worse. Seriously, it’s supposed to be the year 2034 and people are still driving 2014 Chevy’s and 1980 Cadillac’s? The Earth is suppose to be ‘falling apart’, but it looks pristine, Ipads are still used, and those 2034 classrooms have NO dry-erase board improvements? At least you have Butterfield and Robertson to lend some credibility to this sorry story. Asa has the charm and charisma to pull off any role and Robertson is another Hailee Steinfeld in her on-screen fierceness and rapid line-delivery. Together they have decent chemistry; it’s a shame they weren’t given a decent script to boot.

Starman (1984)

“Do you seriously expect me to tell the President that an alien has landed, assumed the identity of a dead house-painter from Madison, Wisconsin and is presently out tooling around the countryside in a hopped up orange and black 1977 Mustang?”. One of the great lines from John Carpenter’s terrific movie about an alien landing here, falling in love, and going on a cross-country trek to go home. Classic. And copied. (see above review)

Jenny Hayden (cuter-than-cute Karen Allen) has recently lost her husband, Scott. BUT! An alien host has landed in Wisconsin in a fiery crash, rearranged Scott’s DNA, and re-birthed himself into another Scott Hayden (Jeff Bridges). Freaked out by this thing, Jenny is sorta-kinda kidnapped by her ‘alien-husband’ and is whisked away. Meanwhile, the government is going nuts and Army trigger man George Fox (Richard Jaeckel) hires SETI expert Mark Shermin (a delightful Charles Martin Smith) to track down the alien visitor. Fox is convinced he’s a danger and a threat; Shermin just wants to talk to him.

Alien Scott tells Jenny he must get to Arizona in three days to meet up with his brethren, or else it’s last rites for him. Jenny tries to get away at every chance from this lunatic, but Scott has the upper hand. . .plus his supply of silver alien marbles that can perform feats of practically anything from blowing up trees to bringing the dead back to life! Pretty nifty, huh? Scott gets to learn Earth-life: giving the finger to someone, eating yummy Dutch apple pie, driving a car, and the finer points of love and deception. Jenny learns it too, as she slowly falls in love with her captor (well, it IS her husband after all, in a weird kinda way) and in a dramatic turn of events, Scott saves her life after she dies in a fiery crash.

Finally caught at the end by Shermin, but let go so Scott can meet his buddies at a ginormous crater, the ending is bittersweet, yet poignant enough to work. Jenny is given a baby to carry on their true love and Shermin has his evidence of extraterrestrial life. Just a fantastic movie that isn’t dumbed-down or written on some sci-fi, whiz-bang level. Give credit to writers Bruce Evans, Raynold Gideon, and Dean Reisner for a truly excellent script that blends a love story with humor and science-fiction.

Mix that with the extraordinary talents of director Carpenter and all the actors involved, and you got yourself a winner here. Although a movie sequel was talked about for years (as this was a movie that begged for it: Jenny Hayden was left pregnant with alien Scott’s baby), it never happened; but a TV series did. Only lasting one season (1986-87) Starman, the series starred Christopher Daniel Barnes as a teenage Scott Hayden, jr. and Erin Gray as Jenny Hayden. It wasn’t very good.

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