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‘Ad Astra’ slow-moving but not without its charms

Sean I. Mills
Staff writer
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Posted 9/29/19

If you like quiet, somber, contemplative films about Brad Pitt looking off into space, then “Ad Astra” is exactly what you’re looking for. Movies don’t get much more quiet and contemplative …

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‘Ad Astra’ slow-moving but not without its charms

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If you like quiet, somber, contemplative films about Brad Pitt looking off into space, then “Ad Astra” is exactly what you’re looking for.

Movies don’t get much more quiet and contemplative than “Ad Astra.” But the movie is not without its charms, its themes and its tense moon-pirate car chases. The action scenes are brief but enjoyable. The real draw of “Ad Astra” is the mundane beauty it applies to space travel, and the depth of the character drama.

Of course humanity is going to put an Applebee’s on the moon someday. How could it not?

In the near future, space travel is so commonplace that Virgin offers commercial flights to the moon, and and you can grab Subway at the spaceport after you land. But then the Earth and its intergalactic colonies come under attack from a mysterious energy weapon, and the government believes the attacks originate from a long lost, experimental spacecraft that they sent to Neptune nearly 30 years ago to search for intelligent life.

The government recruits Major Roy McBride, the son of the astronaut who led that fateful Neptune mission, and who has become a pretty impressive astronaut in his own right. McBride is sent on a covert mission to Mars to send a radio signal to his dad, hoping to appeal to him to cut it out.

The trip also gives McBride plenty of time to deal with all of his lingering daddy issues.

“Ad Astra” takes its time with everything is does, which is both the film’s greatest strength and its greatest hindrance. Don’t go into the film expecting a hip, action-packed, space exploration flick like “The Martian” or “Gravity”. There are a few brief action scenes, but most of the movie is about Brad Pitt’s character being stuck in his own head as he goes through his laborious journey.

Though one action scene — a car chase/gunfight with moon-pirates — is pretty darn cool.

In taking its time, “Ad Astra” really lets you feel the weight of Pitt’s thoughts, feelings and actions, making the drama more real. This also allows the movie to present a new and fascinating look at space travel, one which has still lingered with me days after seeing the film.

Most space movies are all about the flash and the bang, about lasers and blast-offs and the potential fun of zero gravity. But “Ad Astra” is more measured than that. This movie goes through every deliberate step that’s probably going to really exist when humanity colonizes the moon. What’s the lunar equivalent of the TSA going to be like? What kind of desk jobs are there going to be on Mars? “Ad Astra” takes the time to explore these ideas and it’s pretty neat.

“Ad Astra” is a slow-moving, but no less interesting, movie about Brad Pitt in space. That’s not half bad. Also, in case you were curious, the title means “to the stars” in Latin.

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