Ad Astra, latin for “into the stars,” or as my wife prefers to refer to the movie — Brad Pitt in SPAAAAAAAACE! To be fair, it’s also Tommy Lee Jones in space — again. And Liv Tyler being sad over an astronaut — again. But was it good? Let’s dig in.
I like science fiction. You will find no bigger Star Trek fan (seriously, I won a t-shirt in a Star Trek trivia contest at the biggest Star Trek convention on the planet). I don’t know if that makes me an expert on science fiction, though. Art is art I suppose, and it means different things to different people. Ad Astra, unfortunately, means almost nothing to me. It’s trying to hint at some profound meaning, but it mostly just misses its mark.
It’s not for lack of trying. Someone spent a pretty penny on truly impressive special effects. Not to mention a cast that delivers as much as can be expected. The weight of the movie falls on Brad Pitt’s shoulders and none of my gripes about this movie could be blamed on him. The world is also impressive, hinting at a very near future where we’ve moved further out into the stars, but still haven’t quite developed technology to make such travel elegant. And even the directing can mostly be praised here, focusing on the grandeur of space and the claustrophobia of traveling through it.
Thus, the problems of this movie can only be blamed on the incoherent plot. The movie is just over two hours and easily feels like four. So much of the goings-on ultimately don’t inform the story or propel the plot forward. Character setups end up not mattering at all, and plot points are dropped on the floor before you even get to the climax. The slow pace of the movie had me convinced that I was in for a profound twist ending about the meaning of life, but alas I found nothing at the end. Maybe that was an intentional choice. It does mirror the plot in some ways (the details of which I won’t get into).
It’s certainly an artsy film — not an entertaining one. But to excel at the former, it would have needed just a little more meat on its bones, a little more conviction for its premise, and a tighter edit of its meandering run time. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of Interstellar, but worse. And I didn’t even like Interstellar…
I have a hard time telling anyone to rush out and watch this one, but it may be for you if you like slow, plodding space operas. It doesn’t offer much in the way of plot or profundity, but it is a spectacle at times and the world it hints at has a nugget of awe that can be fun to chew on. Watch it if it still interests you, but don’t let anyone tell you that it’s “must-watch” cinema.
Rating: 3 stars
Should you watch it? If you like really slow space movies (surely someone does)
Should you take your kids? They won’t be scarred for life, but they will be bored out of their poor little skulls.
What you should watch first: No preparation required. Watching other recent space movies (Interstellar, Gravity, The Martian) will just make it more clear what this movie is lacking.