There have been a plethora of YA (young adult for those who don’t know) films out there so it’s sometimes nice to see a film with a YA feel but isn’t based on a book. There have also been plenty of fish-out-of-water stories as well . There have been a lot of films involving both but not many about someone from another planet.
Synopsis: Gardner Elliot, the first human born on Mars, begins an online friendship with Tulsa, a teen in Colorado. On his maiden voyage to Earth, the 16-year-old finally gets to experience all the joys and wonders of a world he could only read about. Problems arise when scientists discover that Gardner’s organs can’t withstand the atmosphere. United with Tulsa and on the run, the interplanetary visitor races against time to unravel the mysteries of how he came to be, and where he belongs in the universe. (Tribune Media Service)
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, and Gary Oldman.
Writer: Allan Loeb
Director: Peter Chelsom
Running Time: 120mins
The film may have a YA feel and be an original story but it does follow along those lines. It was about a teen born on a human settlement on Mars named Gardner Elliot (Butterfield). His mother named Sarah (Janet Montgomery) died while giving birth to him on Mars and he has lived there ever since. Because he was on Mars living with scientists, he was deprived of a normal childhood and normal social skills.
The film started off interestingly enough with a team of astronauts, led by Sarah, heading to Mars for a mission to colonize Mars, ran by a man named Nathaniel Shepherd (Oldman). Problems arose when Shepherd was unaware that Sarah was pregnant. Believing that Gardner’s existence would be bad PR, he was kept a secret. The film then jumped ahead 16 years to Gardner as a teen. This jump may have moved things along but it took away context from the story later on as well as from some character relationships.
Once Gardner was a teen, his only friend was a girl he met at some point named Tulsa (Robertson) whom he spoke with online. Through his interactions with Tulsa, he got to learn more about Earth and she got to vent to him her frustrations about the world. The film didn’t dwell too much on her backstory but she was a foster child with a negligent father who was made fun of in high school. This was meant to make her an outcast like Gardner but it didn’t really matter.
Gardner’s main caretaker was another scientist named Kendra (Carla Gugino). She became more of a mother figure to him after his mother died. The two were close as she couldn’t have children and their relationship helped to compensate for that. When he was older, Gardner became interested in his mother and his father. When the opportunity to go to Earth presented itself, he used it to escape and meet Tulsa and take her on an adventure to find his father. Worried about Gardner, Shepherd and Kendra go out to get him back because his body was not used to Earth’s gravity.
On their adventure, Gardner began to learn about Earth and its people. Gardner told her that he was from Mars but Tulsa though he was just some insane person. She didn’t trust the world that has lied to her for her whole life and he tried to get her to trust more. His sheer sense of wonder and awkwardness was fun to watch and over time, she learned that he may have been telling the truth. They were fun to watch together and over time, they fell in love with one another. This changed each of them since they were more believable when they were not involved romantically, making their chemistry feel a little off. What didn’t help their case was that some of their dialog was on the sappy side.
The film began to slightly fall apart near the end as it fumbled its resolution, resulting in the film being around 10 minutes too long. It was a sci-fi film, occurring in the future but it was never too flashy and felt grounded. The time gap at the beginning ruined the subplots involving Shepherd and Kendra, making it difficult to get invested in them. The acting was good all around with Butterfield standing out. He was very likable as Gardner and was great at playing his awkwardness, naivety, and sense of wonder as he learned about the world around him.
Overall, this was good sci-fi, romance film which was better at the sci-fi than the romance. It may trek through familiar territory but it was still a fun adventure to watch with likable characters and good performances.
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