Asa Butterfield – The Space Between Us

February 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the sci-fi, young-adult romance “The Space Between Us,” actor Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”) stars as Gardner Elliot, a teenager living on Mars who travels to Earth to find his biological father with the help of his online friend Tulsa (Britt Robertson), who has no idea he is from another planet.

During an interview with me last week, Butterfield, 19, talked about staring in another sci-fi/fantasy film, why space interests him, and what he plans on doing when NASA astronauts finally land on Mars in the future.

You have starred in sci-fi and fantasy films before like “Ender’s Game” and “Hugo.” What is it specifically about these genres that attracts you to them or is it just a coincidence you’ve been in handful of them in your career?

I think it is just a coincidence more than anything. I read the script [for “The Space Between Us”] in the same week I read the script for “Ender’s Game” about six years ago. It’s kind of grown up as I have. It has changed and matured. I do love science fiction. I’ve always read science fiction books and loved the genre, but I don’t say to my agents, “Get me a science fiction job!” That’s not the case at all. I’d love to do something different from sci-fi because people tend to think I’m a science fiction actor and that’s the last thing I want.

What kind of conversations did you have with your director Peter Chelsom about the kind of movie he wanted to make? Did he mention other sci-fi films like “E.T.” he wanted to pay homage to or were you all starting on a clean slate?

“E.T.” was one of the film that did come up, but I wouldn’t even call this film science fiction, to be honest. I think more than anything, it’s a road trip, coming-of-age film with a backdrop in the future and with this romance entwined in it. More than anything, it’s about this boy learning to be a human being and trying to figure out where he belongs and what he needs to do to find somewhere to belong and find out about his past.

I know you shot this film a few years ago. As an actor, how do you feel when something takes a little bit longer to be released? Is it frustrating or do you just trust in the process?

I mean, you have to trust they’re doing it right. You can’t rush this kind of thing. It can be frustrating, but ultimately you’ve done your job and now it’s out of your hands.

So, did you ever wake up in the morning and think, “Where is that Mars movie I made three years ago?”

Sometimes. Yeah, sometimes.

As a child, or maybe even now, did space and the idea of galaxies unknown interest you? Was that a subject you enjoyed?

Yeah, I am massively interested in space and the cosmos. I love looking up at the stars at night, especially on a clear night. That’s one of my favorite things to do. It’s mind-blowing. I am very in touch with the natural world.

If you could get the answer to any question you had about space or nature, what would your question be?

There’s this star that is relatively close to [Earth]. It’s called Betelgeuse. It’s due any minute to explode into a supernova, which apparently is going to light up the sky for a few days. It’ll be like we have two suns. It’ll be amazing. So, I’d love to know when that is going to happen. But we won’t know because it might’ve already happened and we won’t know for however many light years.

If given the chance to travel to a place like Mars—say Elon Musk called you and said to get your bags packed today—would you take the trip?

No, actually. I’d love to go to space, but Mars is just a bit too far away.

So, where instead?

Maybe to ISS (International Space Station). That’s the logical place to go.

I’m sure you know, but movies set on Mars haven’t had a great track record over the years. Do you think it’s difficult for filmmakers to make a place like Mars cinematic and how do you think Peter did that here during the Mars scenes?

We filmed those scene in Albuquerque, which is a bit like Mars. (Laughs) I think we did a great job capturing the landscape.

You’ve worked with Academy Award-winning and nominated actors like Harrison Ford, Sir Ben Kingsley, Ethan Hawke, and now Gary Oldman. At 19 years old, does it still feel surreal to be working with actors of this magnitude or do you view it differently?

I don’t really feel that kind of pressure. I still occasionally get star struck, but I tend to stay pretty cool. I kind of have to because you can’t afford to look stressed or nervous on camera. Everyone else will see that.

Do you think someone landing on Mars will happen in your lifetime?

Yeah, I think it will.

Will it be as big of an event as landing on the moon was in 1969 or has the world changed too much for anyone to care?

I think it’ll be a big deal. I’ll be amazed. I’ll be watching it while everyone else will be too busy looking at their phones.

I’m sure there will be an app you can download by then to watch it.

Probably. Watch it live on your phone!

I’m sure you’ve gotten this question all week, but what is your favorite thing about Earth? (A question his character asks everyone he meets).

Which answer do you want? (Laughs) Just kidding. This time I’m going to say music. I love music, playing and listening to it.

I know you’re playing a musician in your next film (“The House of Tomorrow”). What was that experience like—to combine another of your passions into a role?

I filmed that last year. I always wanted to play bass guitar. I love the instrument. It was great to channel my inner punk.

This is your 10th feature film in 10 years. What do you ultimately want out of this career? Do you have a goal set? Do you just want to make good movies? Tell good stories?

I think it’s telling good stories more than anything and entertaining people and making them think. I think that’s what I enjoy doing. Making people rethink things or change their view on certain things. I think that’s really exciting.

The Space Between Us

February 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman
Directed by: Peter Chelsom (“Hector and the Search for Happiness”)
Written by: Allen Loeb (“Collateral Beauty”)

In space, no one can hear you scream—or let out a monstrous yawn. Such is the case in “The Space Between Us,” a tepid young-adult sci-fi romance that will likely cater to the same tween crowd who eat up tear-jerkers adapted from Nicholas Spark novels and think the dude they go to their homecoming dance with sophomore year will no doubt be the future father of their children.

That might be enough to placate some less discerning audiences, but “Space” contains so many eye rolling-worthy moments, even those starry-eyed high school girls might find it hard to contain their frustration over just how inauthentic the narrative is.

Asa Butterfield (“Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”) stars as Gardner Elliott, an intelligent young man whose astronaut mother died giving birth to him on Mars. As the youngest inhabitant (and only teenager) on the Red Planet, Gardner’s only real connection to people his age are the daily video chats he has with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), an Earth girl who doesn’t know she’s communicating with a Martian and, like Gardner, is alone in her respected world.

Although it is impossible for scientists (Gary Oldman hamming it up; Carla Gugino phoning it in) to allow Gardner to travel to Earth and experience life because of his weak bone density (huh?), screenwriter Allen Loeb (“Collateral Beauty”) seems to exclaim, “extraterrestrial health concerns be damned!” and figures out a way to drop an absurd plot point to get him there to meet Tulsa and go on a wild goose chase in search of Gardner’s estranged father (because without said absurd plot point, there wouldn’t be a movie, of course).

From there, it’s off to the races as scientists do everything they can to bring Gardner home before the Earth’s atmosphere destroys him and before he can find the truth about his past. Awkwardly directed by Peter Chelsom (“Hector and the Search for Happiness”), “Space” never finds its voice or decides what kind of movie it was to be. It is obvious Chelsom and Loeb have grand aspirations (the “E.T.” allusions are laughable), but if tapping into some kind of Steven Spielberg magic was their ultimate end game, they missed it by a few million light years.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

September 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Tim Burton (“Big Eyes”)
Written by: Jane Goldman (“X-Men: First Class”)

Filmmaker Tim Burton has made an entire career out of being “peculiar.” Even when its putting his own spin on an established franchise, Burton’s gothic, eccentric stamp (at least stylistically) is an omnipresent factor in most of his films. Even when making poor films, Burton is hired to be Burton and is rarely a director for hire. Perhaps that’s why it is so surprising that his new film, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” has zero identity.

After the loss of his grandfather, Jake (Asa Butterfield) decides to investigate a place that he has only heard about and seen in pictures. As a home for kids with certain “peculiarities,” Jake explores the vast land of special powered children and their leader, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). He finds, however, that as special as these children are, danger within them also lies ahead.

For having a decent cast of well known actors, nobody other than Green really makes a mark. Butterfield looks and feels too old to be convincing as the age of the character he is playing, Samuel L. Jackson hams it up as the main villain and Ella Purnell, while certainly looking the part, is bland. It isn’t entirely the fault of the actors, as the script is generic and boring.

“Miss Peregrine’s” feels like an odd hodgepodge of popular young adult series, and sort of meanders for its way too long run time. It flirts with some interesting concepts, and “powers,” so to speak, but at the end of the day, nothing happening on screen is interesting in anyway. The dialogue is dull and stilted and, narratively, the film goes nowhere.

There’s a scene at a boardwalk that is actually one of the very few, but very fleeting bright moments of the film. Bringing out some odd skeleton characters for a big battle, there is at least something intriguing happening on the screen that feels at least mildly entertaining. It is here, and only here, that the film actually feels like a Tim Burton movie.

When watching the film, Burton fans will be looking for his fingerprints, but will find nothing. In fact, it is the film that bares the least of his characteristics than any of his career. There is nothing special, let alone exceptional about any of it, and it truly feels like it could have been directed by anyone else. His artistic vision is unquestionably unique, but for Burton to be successful, his movies need to match his vision with a sense of whimsy. This film, however, is dead on arrival. The most peculiar thing about “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is how soulless it really is.

Ender’s Game

November 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfield
Directed by: Gavin Hood (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Rendition”)
Written by: Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi”)

Based on a well-regarded 1985 young adult novel by Orson Scott Card, the film adaptation of “Ender’s Game” has been a long time coming. The plot concerns a future Earth existing in the aftermath of a devastating attack by an insect-like race of aliens known as Formics. To thwart the next attack, the International Fleet trains the world’s children in an effort to find the next great leader of the armada capable of destroying the Formic threat once and for all. Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford, delivering a halfway-interested performace) believes young cadet Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) to be that child. Ender is shepherded to Battle School by Graff, wherein Ender exhibits a mastery of war games that leads to his being put in charge of the battle to determine the fate of the human race.

While “Ender’s Game” offers a glimpse of a moral compass often missing from space-faring sci-fi, screenwriter and director Gavin Hood never quite manages to get the film going. The whole endeavor feels like a a build up–which I suppose it kind of is, with a series of follow-up novels lined up should this prove to be a hit—and ends up as a dull slog through tropes we just sat through over the course of eight “Harry Potter” movies: the journey of a savior from child to a leader of men. As a result, “Ender’s Game” suffers the same fate as “John Carter,” another long-gestating sci-fi adaptation: it feels like a knock off.

From the first act, Ender’s “chosen one” status is never in doubt. Graff and Major Anderson (a wasted Viola Davis) see something special in Ender through constant surveillance—though the movie never really lets us in on what the big deal is with this kid. Sure, it tells us, repeatedly, through Graff, but it doesn’t show us why. His victories seemingly come too easily. His breeze through Battle School feels rushed and incomplete, problems undoubtedly the result of cramming a lengthy novel into two hours of screen time. Toss in an obtuse iPad-like game featuring an avatar of Ender’s beloved sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin) running around a strange castle that the film insists is full of symbolism along with some other confusing technology (so children are more capable than adults at commanding a spacecraft remotely, yet those remote vessels still need crews?) and “Ender’s Game” ends up as another anonymous young adult sci-fi snooze.