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Movie Review: “Ad Astra”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 9/20/2019

Theatrical Release: 9/20/2019

Synopsis

Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) lost his father at a young age. His father, H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), was a famous astronaut. He was the first astronaut to reach Jupiter, but communications were lost on his mission to Neptune. Roy's father is a legend throughout the world’s space programs. He is the reason many people became astronauts, so many of today's astronauts idolize him.

Roy and United States government have long since assumed Roy's father perished somewhere in space. However, after a series of surges send electromagnetic pulses across the world, new information arises that suggests Roy's father may in fact still be alive. The electrical surges came from deep space, but further analysis suggests that these surges came from Neptune specifically. Roy is an elite astronaut himself with a very impressive record, so the United States government tasks him with traveling to Mars in an attempt to make contact with his father.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Brad Pitt & Daddy Issues (+8pts)

Liv Tyler (-2pts)

Humanity in Space (+4pts)

The Crew (-4pts)

Video Game Plot (+4pts)

Tommy Lee Jones & The End (-4pts)

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Pro: Brad Pitt & Daddy Issues (+8pts)

This should really come as no surprise here, but Brad Pitt delivered a strong performance in this movie. Roy was dealing with a ton of daddy issues, and those daddy issues had a significant impact on the character's mindset. When we met Roy at the beginning of the movie, he was essentially bragging to the camera about his ability to stay calm in extreme situations. He was a master at compartmentalizing his thoughts and emotions, and a lot of that can be contributed to his issues with his father.

Throughout the movie, as Roy learned more about his father and the mission to contact him, Roy began to become unhinged. His father's death devastated him, it drove him to become an astronaut, and allowed him to become emotionally detached. The recent news, more or less, flipped Roy's entire life on its head. I liked this character's story, and I thought Brad Pitt did a great job bringing the character's evolving emotional instability to the screen.

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Con: Liv Tyler (-2pts)

I have no idea why this character was in this movie. Liv Tyler played Roy's ex-girlfriend, and she was clearly intended to serve as Roy's emotional connection to Earth. However, the filmmakers did little to setup Roy's relationship with her. We learned that they used to be a couple, but she was not able to handle his constant long trips to space and his emotional distance when he was home.

Nonetheless, the filmmakers kept giving this character screen-time, and it was screen-time in which she did not do anything. There was just a lot of her staring blankly at Roy, and there was a video she had recorded for Roy years prior, but this recording did not add anything to the story. The character was useless and I really think she should been taken out of the movie entirely. She was not in the movie much, and when she was on screen, it felt like a waste of screen-time.

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Pro: Humanity in Space (+4pts)

I knew this movie would be set in the future, but I was really surprised with how much the filmmakers thought out humanity’s space program. From massive space satellites to turf wars on the moon and the underground space station on Mars, the filmmakers really thought out how humanity might exist in space in the future. There was even a moon base with a Dunkin‘ Donuts and an Applebees. Sure, I saw the blatant product placement that this was, but I also enjoyed seeing the filmmaker’s vision of humanity’s possible future in space. I do not want to give anything away, but I think this element of the movie will be appreciated by any fan of space, science, or science-fiction.

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Con: The Crew (-4pts)

The filmmakers definitely missed an opportunity with these characters. They were the crew that Roy traveled with on his journey from the Moon to Mars. For starters I thought their reaction to him on Mars felt unjustified as there would not have been any consequences if they just went along with it. I also thought Roy’s line regarding their inability to make it without him was wildly untrue, they very obviously could have. My main issue was really with the missed opportunity.

These characters could have served as dramatic tension between Roy and his father. They could have forced Roy into more difficult decisions in the movie’s final act. They also could have simply given the movie more dialogue during Roy’s long trip. There was a lot of potential regarding these characters and how they could have impacted the story, especially during the climax. Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to throw that potential out the window, as they took these characters out of the story in a really illogical way.

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Pro: Video Game Plot (+4pts)

Roy started this movie as an emotionally detached man who could effectively compartmentalize his thoughts and emotions. Then, through learning more about his father’s fate, the man became progressively unstable. I liked that story, but it had the risk of feeling slow. The filmmaker’s solution to this was to add some over-the-top action sequences that felt like they were taken right out of the plot of a video game. You know when you are playing a game and have what should be a mundane task, only for some crazy thing to pop up that forces a more action-packed and engaging experience? That sort of thing happened a few times in this movie.

Roy had to drive from one side of the moon to the other. This very easily could have been a mundane assignment, so the filmmakers introduced space pirates. There were a few more examples of this and I do not want to give them away. The filmmakers clearly threw these things in here to keep things exciting, and it worked. These things were entertaining, and while over-the-top, they did not feel random or out-of-place. These things were not crucial to the story, but they fit within the universe that the filmmakers established, and they kept me engaged throughout the movie.

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Con: Tommy Lee Jones & The End (-4pts)

This character was the main objective of the story, so I will not say much about him, because I do not want to spoil the movie. Unfortunately, after all the build up, the ending was definitely a let down. Throughout the whole movie, we saw Roy becoming more and more emotionally unstable, but there was no emotional fallout from this. You will have to see the movie to find out if Roy was ever reunited with his father. All I am saying is that the entire movie focused on building up to this potential meeting, and the filmmakers delivered an almost emotionless climax.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B- (81pts)

After seeing the raving reviews for it, I was pretty optimistic going into this movie. I had no idea what the movie was about, and I just knew it as “the Brad Pitt space movie.” While I usually keep up with trailers and upcoming movies, I somehow avoided most of the marketing for this movie. Sometimes it is nice to go into a movie with a blank slate, and I was excited to have that experience with this movie.

Brad Pitt was great. Ad Astra was a character story about an astronaut named Roy who had a heavy dose of daddy issues, and who was the son of a legendary astronaut who had long since been assumed dead. The movie was about Roy coming to terms with the possibility that his father may be alive and orbiting Neptune, as well as Roy’s evolving emotional instability as a result of that news. There were also plenty of space action sequences that kept me both entertained and engaged, and I really enjoyed the filmmakers’ vision of humanity’s possible future in space. The weaker parts of the movie were the missed opportunity that was the crew, Liv Tyler’s character being a waste of screen time, and a conclusion that felt like it lost sight of what the entire movie was building toward. Ad Astra had some significant issues, but I thought that the good mostly outweighed the bad, as I still thought this was a decent movie.

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