Movie Review: “Ad Astra”
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 astronauts idolize him.
Roy, along with the intelligence that United States government has, has assumed his father has been dead. However, after a series of surges send electromagnetic pulses across the world, new information arises that suggests that Roy's father may still be alive. The electrical surges came from deep space, but further analysis suggests that these surges came from Neptune. 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.
The Pros & 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)
Pro: Brad Pitt & Daddy Issues (+8pts)
This should really come as no surprise here, but Brad Pitt delivered a strong performance in this movie. The character is dealing with a ton of daddy issues, that have really had a significant impact on the character's mindset. When we meet Roy at the beginning of the movie, he is essentially bragging to the camera about his ability to stay calm in extreme situations. He is a master at compartmentalizing his emotions, and a lot of that can be contributed to his daddy issues.
Throughout the movie, as Roy learns more about his father and the mission to make contact with him, Roy begins to come unhinged. His father's death devastated him, drove him to become an astronaut, and has allowed him to become emotionally detached which has been perfect for his line of work. The recent news has, more or less, flipped Roy's entire life on its head. I liked this character story, and I thought Brad Pitt did a really good job of bringing the evolving emotional instability to the screen.
Con: Liv Tyler (-2pts)
I have no idea why this character was in this movie. Liv Tyler played Roy's ex-girlfriend, and 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 basically learn that they used to be a couple, but she could not handle his constant long trips to space or his emotional distance.
Nonetheless, the filmmakers kept giving this character screen-time. However, it was screen-time in which she did not do anything. There was a lot of her just blankly staring at Roy, and there was a video that Roy saved, which she had recorded and sent him years prior. The character was useless and I really think she could have, and should have, 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.
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 space station underground on Mars, the filmmakers really thought out how humanity would exist in space. I mean there was even a moon base with a Dunkin‘ Donuts and an Applebees. Sure, I see the blatant product placement, but I also enjoyed seeing the filmmaker’s vision of humanity’s 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 even science-fiction.
Con: The Crew (-4pts)
The filmmakers definitely missed an opportunity with these characters. They were the crew that Roy traveled with from the Moon to Mars. For starters I think 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 definitely could have). My main issue, however, was 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 more dialogue during Roy’s long trip. My point is, there was a lot of potential regarding these characters and how they could have impacted the story in the film’s climax. Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to throw that potential out the window, by taking these characters out of the movie in a really illogical way.
Pro: Video Game Plot (+4pts)
This movie was very much a character story. Roy started as an emotionally detached man that could recognize what he should feel, but was able to effectively compartmentalize. Then, through learning more about his father’s fate, the man became progressively unstable. I liked that story, but it was a character story, so it could have felt really 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, which is a mundane assignment, so the filmmakers introduced space pirates. There were a few more examples of this that I do not want to give away. It may sound like I am complaining about this, but I am really not. The filmmakers clearly threw these things into the movie to keep the story from feeling slow, and it worked. These things were entertaining and, while over-the-top, they did not feel random. These things were not crucial to the story, but they kept me entertained and engaged.
Con: Tommy Lee Jones & The End (-4pts)
This character is the main objective of the story, so I will not say much about it, because I do not want to give it away. Unfortunately, after all the build up, the ending was definitely a let down. Throughout the whole movie, we see Roy becoming more and more emotionally unstable, but there was no emotional fallout. Does he meet his father or not? You will have to see the movie to find out. All I am saying is that the entire movie focused on building up to this potential meeting, then the filmmakers did nothing with it and delivered an almost emotionless climax.
Grade: B- (81pts)
After seeing the raving reviews, I was pretty optimistic going into this movie. I had no idea what it was about, and 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 for this movie. While it definitely was not without its issues, I definitely enjoyed Ad Astra.
Brad Pitt was great. Ad Astra was a character story about an astronaut named Roy who has a heavy dose of daddy issues, and is the son of a legendary astronaut who has 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 future in space. The weaker parts of the movie were an illogical crew that felt like a missed opportunity, 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 outweighed the bad, and that this was still a decent movie.