Ad Astra REVIEW
Ad Astra REVIEW
Director: James Gray
Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland
PAT PILCHER tried so hard to like Ad Astra but decided cat videos on YouTube were more interesting than watching a disengaged Brad Pitt
Pitched as a post-millennial film for fans of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ad Astra is a sci-fi adventure flick from director James Gray that tries so very hard but completely fails to engage the viewer.
In the movie, a “let’s find ET” exercise, the Lima Project, goes wrong. The spaceship (powered by an antimatter drive) vanishes, only to be rediscovered much later in Neptune’s rings (at least it wasn’t in Uranus!)
Enter stage left, Brad Pitt, who plays an astronaut whose dad (Tommy Lee Jones) is aboard the missing spacecraft. Things kick off with mysterious power surges that almost kill Pitt. He then finds out that daddy is in deep space and the space agency people want him to bring daddy home.
I cringed at this as it’d never happen in real life for obvious reasons. Getting someone who’d be too emotionally involved to take part in such a risky mission would be a complete no-go in the real world, but hey, it’s Hollywood.
“Circumcision with a blunt bottle top is more of an entertaining option”
Fast forward through a pile of mostly dull set pieces that are punctuated by a few exciting bits. Eventually, Pitt is off on a trip into deep space to be reunited with daddy. Cue the montage. Yep, it is that formulaic. Which is why circumcision with a blunt bottle top is more of an entertaining option than watching this movie.
The film itself offers up some great visuals and really does seem to capture the look and feel of what I’d imagine spaceflight would be like if it were available to plebs like you and I. Unfortunately, Pitt’s acting is about as engaging as a clothes peg. As he is pretty much the only character you’ll see throughout much of the movie, there really isn’t a lot to give a shit about. (Unless seeing Brad Pitt sulk is your thing. Hey, we’re not judging you, honestly).
“Unfortunately, Pitt’s acting is about as engaging as a clothes peg.”
Pitt’s character seems to be made of ice. From falling out of the stratosphere to earth at the start, his pulse rate doesn’t break 80bpm (I’d need a change of pants if that was me). The opening scenes where he is knocked from an improbably tall tower look fantastic. My pulse, however, was going full tilt as Pitt plummeted earthwards. I also marvelled at the spaceflight sequences.
Crucially, I took in little of the actual plot for the rest of the movie as it failed to make much of an impact. Ad Astra simply lurched through a series of predictable set pieces and culminated with what was at best a deeply dull ending.
If you’ve seen other sci-fi movies such as Solaris or Gravity, you’ll appreciate the realism of the spaceflight stuff. That is if you’re not lulled to sleep on the journey.
You’d think that there’d be moments of emotional angst and so on, given the family ties and a long lost dad. But nope, Pitt sulks at the camera, remaining cold and detached. All told, he is hard to relate to. Within the first 30 minutes of watching it, I started not to give a shit about how it finished. I just wanted it to end so I could do something exciting like mow the lawn or do a DIY cranial lobotomy with rusty knitting needles.
“Within the first 30 minutes of watching it, I started not to give a shit about how it finished”
The space flight stuff was polished and looked plausible. Yet there were moments when it also paid not to think too hard. One such scene such was Pitt’s encounter with lunar pirates. These appeared for few other reasons than to recreate Steve Mcqueen’s Bullit car chase on the moon, complete with impossible-looking moon buggy space leaps. Another thing that bugged me was the lunar buggies. They looked like relics from the Apollo era, which would have been at least 80 years before the events of the movie were set. I guess Hollywood has to appease kids with the attention span of goldfishes. Oh well.
With its spaceflight eye candy, the movie does an admirable job. Sadly, the rest of the film feels stunted and disjointed. A little more polish with the storytelling and perhaps a different lead actor, and Ad Astra might have been worth the effort.
As it stands, wait till this stinker is on Netflix or JB Hi-Fi’s bargain bin before watching. It doesn’t warrant paying stupidly high cinema ticket prices for.
* Ad Astra is screening now in New Zealand cinemas.