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The Space Between Us
  • Composed by Andrew Lockington
  • Sony Masterworks / 2017 / 75m

Asa Butterfield stars in The Space Between Us as the first human born on Mars.  He’s now 16 and has been in the very small colony all his life – and he would like to go to Earth, in particular to meet a girl he’s struck up a long-distance relationship with, and to find his father (who he’s never met and who doesn’t even know he exists).  It all sounds intriguing enough but has been a critical and commercial disaster.

Director Peter Chelsom has worked with various good film composers, but rarely worked with any of them more than once; this time he turned to Andrew Lockington for the score.  The composer’s been around for a while now, scoring the occasional big picture, but it wasn’t until 2015’s San Andreas that he found a film that really struck box office gold.  Surprisingly, that hasn’t yet led to more of them (indeed, this is only his second film since, and the other one – Incarnate – was fairly low profile).

Andrew Lockington

You think you’re going to be in for a real treat while hearing the opening score cue, “I Want to Go to Mars”: it’s a wonderful blend of shimmering ethereal electronica with a dreamy romantic atmosphere (the latter like a lighter version of parts of Alien), vintage science fiction sounds.  Its six minutes are over far too quickly, the simple piano theme – one of longing – which only appears in the latter stages appearing likely to be an intriguing hint of what’s to come.

Unfortunately – while it’s all fine – the score doesn’t really hit those heights again.  The second cue, “Meet Gardner”, is one of a handful on the album that sound like pure Thomas Newman: the floating percussion sounds, the scattered strings and tender reed solos – all very good, but not as good as when the man himself does it.  “First Skype” has a bit of romance to it, but never quite unleashed fully, and that’s a feeling that comes from a few cues.

A bit of action – in a very modern style – arrives in “The Rover” but I much prefer the urgent sound of “Coming to See You”, which is a very different kind of cue but I find its high drama more believable.  The best cue after the opening is “Biplane”, a really first-rate piece of action/adventure with a the same kind of spirit (if not memorable melody) that James Horner brought to such pieces so often: the strings soar away, the brass brings the emotional release with the main theme at the end.  Things do fizzle out a little after that (there are still over twenty minutes to go) without much new material on offer; the highlight is the return of the ethereal sound in “Confetti to Vegas”.

The Space Between Us has two exceptional cues and the rest doesn’t really live up to them, but while most of it is not particularly distinctive it is perfectly fine, and I’ve found myself returning to it frequently: it’s just a pleasurable album to sit and listen to.  It’s a shame that there isn’t more like the opening track (and the one-off “Biplane”) because then we’d have a top-drawer modern sci-fi effort – it’s not that, and I don’t suppose it’s likely to end up on many best of the year lists, but there’s not much here that’s not to like.

Rating: *** 1/2

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