Ad Astra Reaches for the Stars, Lands on Neptune

Stockton Grunewald

As the summer box office comes to a close, it seems true to form that a space film would headline the fall lineup. “Ad Astra” is uniquely positioned between its’ contemporaries, as it straddles the line between a more realistic space saga (“Gravity”) and a philosophical voyage into the cosmos (“Interstellar”.)

“Ad Astra” is set in the “near future” and follows Maj. Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), an astronaut and technician, as he travels to the stars in search for his missing father, legendary explorer H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones). The elder McBride set off into space nearly 30 years prior to the events of the film, in an attempt to reach the edge of the Solar System. among this excursion, the elder McBride was in search for intelligent life, but before reaching the edge he was designated as lost. Recent events have compelled the United States Space Command, a militarized version of N.A.S.A., to recruit the younger McBride to find him. Maj. Roy McBride is well known for his calm, deliberative behavior (“His pulse has never gone over 80”, is repeated multiple times). Roy is sent to the far reaches of the galaxy alongside his father’s colleague, Col. Pruitt (Donald Sutherland), and with a handful of virtually nameless supporting characters.

Without a doubt, the movie’s strongest features include breath taking visuals – the blue hues from Neptune struck me, particularly – and an exciting, yet methodical, soundtrack that keeps the viewer engaged. Pitt delivers a very good performance as the cynic Roy, whose traumatic loss of his father in his youth continues to plague him throughout the film. Pitt convincingly delivers dialogue that could have gone through a couple of more drafts. (Watching Donald Sutherland squirm through similar ham-fisted lines is incredible jarring). Additionally, perhaps some of the most interesting moments come from the director James Gray’s imagination. Gray cited his desire to create, “the most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie” as the driving force behind his 2019 epic. Gray includes such depictions through, commercial flights to the moon being normal, the International Space Antenna seemingly taking the place of our I.S.S, and nations fighting over resources on both the moon and Mars, respectively. (There is even a battle between U.S. Army troops on Land Rovers and Space Pirates!) Despite the apparent outlandishness, this future version of Earth feels very grounded and a result of the natural march forward of progress.

Unfortunately, these interesting pieces fail to complete the whole puzzle, and are offset by poor pacing, two or three odd sequences (you’ll know it when you see it) and a message that we’ve heard before. Still, it certainly merits a watch, and is a worthy entry into the recent handful of space exploration epics. 3.5/5 Stars.

Chitwood, Adam (April 10, 2017). “James Gray Says His Sci-Fi Movie ‘Ad Astra’ Starts Filming This Summer with Brad Pitt”ColliderComplex Media Inc. Archived from the original on June 24, 2017. Retrieved June 24, 2017.