Arts movie review

‘Ad Astra:' Into the stars but not interstellar

‘Ad Astra’ delves into the psychological implications of deep space travel and presents a plausible future for space travel

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Brad Pitt stars as Roy McBride in 'Ad Astra.'
Courtesy of Francois Duhamel/Twentieth Century Fox

Ad Astra
Directed by James Gray
Screenplay by James Gray & Ethan Gross
Starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland
Rated PG-13, Now Playing

When it comes to space movies the bar is set high. With blockbuster hits such as Interstellar, Gravity, and the Martian just within the past six years, it seems that every top tier actor wants their own space movie. While Brad Pitt attempts to present a similar story of survival in deep space, viewers may be left disappointed with a storyline that is not up to par with the big names in sci-fi cinema. The two-hour film consists of jaw-dropping sounds and visuals but a shallow storyline, leaving only those with an appreciation of cinematography pleased. Director James Grey with Ad Astra presents what space travel will look like in the near future which leaves viewers excited about the science of space travel, but not necessarily the film.

Ad Astra follows the story of Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), a member of the Space division in the US Air Force. McBride is the son of a world famous astronaut who presumably lost his life near planet Neptune in search of extraterrestrial life in deep space. After McBride almost loses his life due to a mysterious power surge upon the “International Space Tower,” McBride learns that his father may be the cause of these mysterious power surges, and he may not be the man history remembers him as. 

Throughout the movie, McBride is shown to be in constant battle with himself, attempting to cope with childhood trauma of losing his father and dealing with dangers of being an astronaut. The film narrates McBride’s inner dialogue, which is redundant and overdramatized in afashion that leaves viewers bored and longing for something new. Being unable to find closure with his father’s death prevents McBride from forming other relationships and leaves him alone to his thoughts. As McBride goes against all odds to journey into space to see his father one more time, the film accurately characterizes the bond between a parent and a child and how far we are willing to go for those that we love. 

For those who are uninterested in learning about McBride’s emotional trauma, they can always watch the movie for its breathtaking visuals and sounds. Throughout the film, viewers will free fall from the edge of the atmosphere, then journey to the moon, Mars, and even all the way to Neptune. Other visuals include, but are not limited to, a battle with space pirates and commercial “flights” to bases on the moon and Mars. In Gray’s words from a 2017 interview with Collider, Ad Astra is "the most realistic depiction of space travel that's been put in a movie and to basically say, 'Space is awfully hostile to us.'"

Unfortunately, the irony resides in the fact that the film intends to provide realistic depictions of space, but it is also littered with purposeless scenes that leave viewers asking, “Why?” A vast majority of the movie consists of slow-moving dialogue that attempts to build-up to a nonexistent climax. It is not a question of Brad Pitt’s acting, but one of a plot which failed to deliver due to a lacking screenplay. 

While this may not be the next space movie you were looking for, it is certainly a joyride that takes you out of your seat and into the unknown.