The Space Between Us | Apparently “Romantic Science Fiction Adventure” Films Are A Thing Now?

My roommate and I went to the movies last week – yay for student discount days! – and saw The BFG. This post is not about that movie, however. I might write about it later, but then again I might not: It wasn’t that great but it wasn’t that terrible, either, so I don’t feel like I have anything particularly interesting or witty to say.

And besides, I’d much rather talk about a trailer that we saw before the movie. I’ve been thinking about it a lot these past few days because oh my god, it’s such a trainwreck. I keep thinking that it had such a good premise and then the writers really screwed things up.

This is the trailer for The Space Between Us, which is scheduled to be released in December. It bills itself as a “romantic science fiction adventure film,” which should tell you something about why I have some problems with it.

Let’s begin with what I DID like, though! I daydreamed a lot as a child, and many of my favorite daydreams centered around a theme of “exploring a place where no one has ever been before.” I particularly loved imagining what it would be like to visit the deep sea, such as the Mariana trench, or else another planet. Mars was a fairly common choice!

It’s always bothered me that I was born too late to set foot on the Moon and (probably) too early to set foot on Mars. Like, that was the theme of my final project in the Travel Writing course I took this spring: I get so frustrated that there is so much uncharted territory that we simply don’t have the means of exploring. Our technology hasn’t yet reached the point where it is possible for us to venture to those places.

So, yeah. I’m a sucker for basically any movie, book, TV show, et cetera whose premise revolves around the idea of exploring a place where we have never before set foot. It’s a form of escapism, I suppose, that works just as well for me as does reading, say, Lord of the Rings. Only this is a fantasy that has its basis in the real world.

This movie is about a kid who grew up entirely cut off from Earth culture, too, and that interests me as well. I like the idea of seeing what differences develop between the Earth and Mars – or the Earth and the Moon, or the land and the deep sea colonies, or whatever – over time, because those differences are inevitable. They were one of my favorite parts of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, for instance.

What would it be like to grow up on a completely different planet, knowing so few people and having no friends your own age? What would it be like to wake up every morning to a view that was so drastically different from the one that 99.9% of people see each day? What would it be like to then travel to that planet and encounter all kinds of things that are completely new to you but utterly ordinary to literally everyone else?

All that is present in this trailer. It made me go “!!!!!!” inside because this is EXACTLY the sort of thing I love. I daydreamed about this when I was little. (I still do today, sometimes.) I’ve written a few stories about this, and I have more planned.

This trailer also falls apart upon repeat viewings, unfortunately.

For example, it gives away basically the entire plot of the movie. Even if it had no other problems – even if this was its sole fault – I probably still wouldn’t go see it because I already know everything that happens in it. More and more movie trailers do this now, and I don’t understand it: Never have I ever heard anyone say that they like having the entire plot laid out for them in the trailer that way. In fact, they usually complain about it. Loudly. There’s no sense of suspense with trailers like these. Why spend approximately 1.5 hours watching an average-looking movie if you’ve already seen the three-minute trailer for it?

The plot is also… well, admittedly it’s kind of cool, but it’s also very contrived. Like, no one noticed that the protagonist’s mother was pregnant BEFORE she boarded the spaceship? That seems rather improbable, to say the least. Thinking about that distracted me from the actual plot of the movie/trailer and that isn’t good, because a good story is grounded in reality. It can be as fantastical as you want to make it, but if it’s not at least somewhat believable then it fails.

The writers also seem to have ignored basic physics. Now, physics is something I very nearly failed in high school but I do understand that there is a time delay when communicating from Earth to Mars, or vice versa. It takes anywhere from three to twenty-two minutes for either planet to receive messages from the other, which makes the characters’ live video chat implausible. This is something that really bothers me when watching science fiction movies/TV shows: I know it’s supposed to be more dramatic, but it’s also not realistic if you stop to think about the science of it all for even two seconds!

I’m not too happy with the fridging of Gardner’s mother, either. (Gardner is the protagonist.) There still aren’t as many female-led science fiction movies as there should be – especially in terms of the ones that are more grounded in reality, vs. something fantastical such as Star Wars – so I was momentarily excited to see a female astronaut within the first few seconds of this trailer. And then they killed her off.

Last but most definitely not least, there’s the problem of that romantic subplot that comes out of nowhere. It’s like, here is this fun adventure story and then, boom, you’re walloped by heterosexuality! A story about two cis straight white people and their “forbidden love”? Wow, so revolutionary.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably gotten the impression that I have read and watched enough straight love stories to last a lifetime, which is true. It’s also true that I get a little – OK, a lot – frustrated – when campaigns to write more LGBTQ+ characters get shot down and straight people accuse us of making everything about romance. Like, you never seem to have a problem with romance when it’s about people like you.

I’ve seen more than enough straight love stories. I’ve seen enough white love stories, too. To tell the truth, I don’t really have a problem with the romance in this story. Three genres in one story does seem like a lot to juggle, but that’s beside the point. Mostly I’m just like… hasn’t this type of story been done to death for characters like these? How many more movies about misunderstood straight white teens do we really need?

No discussion of the need for diversity seems complete without someone complaining that they’re being “forced” to write diverse stories, and part of me wonders how many writers would stop inserting romantic plots/subplots into their stories if it actually were possible to “make” people include diversity. (Just for the record, I don’t think it’s actually possible to force people to do this, but I also think it’s important that we examine why so many people regard the suggestion to, you know, include everyone as a punishment.)

I really wish straight people would stop telling us that social media campaigns such as #GiveElsaAGirlfriend and #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend are ridiculous – they eat this kind of plot up as long as it’s about them. When it’s not, they say it’s “pandering” or that “it seems a little forced” to have romance in a science fiction adventure film.

Concept: The same basic plot of The Space Between Us, but Gardner’s love interest is a boy. Also, the writers don’t fridge his mother. Also, better physics. But mostly… GAY GARDNER. “I love cliche love stories as long as they’re gay” should honestly be emblazoned on my forehead because OMG IT’S SO TRUE. We need more LGBTQ+ genre fiction. I want that male love interest to be all like, “There’s no way you’re REALLY a Martian” and I want the two boys to go on a wild cross-country trip to experience all the things that Gardner missed out on.

I want more diversity in EVERYTHING, essentially. And that includes cheesy, contrived, relatively low-budget romantic science fiction adventure films, too. I wish I had more choices when it came to picking out something to read or watch. Right now we’re still at the point where stories with LGBTQ+ leads – or, for that matter, POC leads – are so few and far between that they basically all become iconic. And very few of them are genre fiction, either.

Huh. I seem to have written 1500+ words about a movie I’m not even going to see. (Because the plot, as it stands, doesn’t interest me, and because I am continually broke due to spending all of my available money on books.) And I’m not even done, probably – I want to talk about some other recent movies in terms of race and gender and sexuality, so you can expect to see another post or two like this one later this summer.



About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
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