Ad Astra means “to the stars.” That how the story went for this strange Brad Pitt production.
Ad Astra Synopsis
Earth is besieged by a series of mysterious power surges. Upon investigation, the U.S. Space Command (SpaceCom) determines the source to be from the Lima Project, a deep-space mission lost in orbit near Neptune 16 years ago. To contact H. Clifford McBridge, captain of the mission, SpaceCom enlists Roy McBridge, son of H. Clifford and himself a respected astronaut. As Roy travels to the Moon to perform a secured communication process targeting the Lima Project, he realises SpaceCom might not be entirely truthful about their findings and objectives. His estranged relationship with his father also resurfaces, forcing Roy to once again confront the man who both shaped and scarred him.
I had a weird time watching this last evening.
The first half was pure audio-visual indulgence. Apart from the symbolism-laden sets and masterful cinematography, Roy McBride’s soliloquies enlivened the story with a deep cynicism. A pessimism that in turn facilitated superb intrigue.
Before the half-hour was through, I even thought, oh wow, this isn’t just your usual one-man-saves-everyone hero drama at all. Neither is it space opera, alien horror, or sci-fi spectacle. It’s all of these genres skilfully and tastefully assembled into one. What a true delight and pleasure to be able to watch this spectacular production on the widescreen!
The second half of Ad Astra, on the other hand, was entirely another matter. Questions and mysteries established were swiftly discarded. All plotlines were also unceremoniously reduced to a straight-forward case of, well, parent-child dynamics.
While that sort of theme is still potent, it simply doesn’t balance the weight of what happened earlier. As in, what about the many conspiracies? The lunar resource conflicts? That monkey. What were all those about? Were they purely to exemplify director James Gray’s April 2017 statement that “space is awfully hostile to us?” With little to do with the actual story?
Hate to say this but I was struggling not to yawn in the final third. Lots of viewers in my row were rubbing their faces too.
I don’t mind space dramas lacking laser fights and big ships. But I do mind mysteries that end up not being anything. It’s too mundane for a weekend movie excursion.