Review: AD Astra
I truly wanted to love this film but they had to go and jump the shark.
AD Astra was one of the only films this year I knew very little about with the first trailer providing virtually no spoilers, this was a rarity since most blockbusters give away the best bits inside a 3 minute window. Starring Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones (I’ll exclude Liv Tyler for reasons explained below), the story is a simple one – Tommy Lee Jones (Pitts characters father) disappeared during a mission to the edge of our solar system. Brad Pitt has grown up following his fathers foot steps until the government step in with shocking news.
The film is beautiful and there is no denying the effects are beautifully realised and when on-screen, suck you in to the depth of space along with Pitt. There was a feeling of awe and wonder as we were propelled through the vast depths of space, often leaving me the want to pull out old books of astronomy and view the pictures of space I pawed over as a child; I make no effort to hide the space geek inside of me, space is awesome. I find that often films over do ‘teching the tech’ leaving the viewer the feeling of ‘more could be done if they can create tech like this’ and in this case, sets weren’t over designed and technology wasn’t dissimilar to what we have now.
It would be possible for me to label the story boring or even bland BUT like many films (Arrival for instance), the deeper you allow yourself to get in to it the much more invested you become. Those of you expecting to be thrust in to a Hollywood action film will be sorely disappointed and at no point did the studio lead you believe this would be the case; to the two women in front of us who were vocally disappointed – this is what happens when you choose a film based on a ‘hot’ actor.
Commercialization of the Moon begins to give us an insight into what this films true motive is, we may reach for the stars but Earth is our one and only home. Arriving on the Moon base and being confronted with Subway, DHL very much reminded me of ‘Silent Running’ and it’s sponsored space ships; big brands taking every opportunity to get in to view of the public and along with it, bringing some of the worse traits of humanity. Negative connotations to one side, the vision of Virgin Space was precisely how I pictured commercial space travel to look including the $125 price tag for a pillow and eye mask.
My issues with the film might not be shared by others, this is why I have thought long and hard prior to touching the keyboard.
Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland are massively under used. The film centers on Brad Pitt and the search for his previously lost father, it’s therefore understandable that the film concentrates on him foremost. However, when you have the acting pedigree of Jones and Sutherland, I expect more of the roles provided to them. For example, Sutherland’s character could have been replaced with further ‘family’ or ‘work’ footage of Jones. This would have allowed a better understanding of the family experienced by Pitts character or even provided a glimpse in to the reasons of why he is how he is.
Approximately half way in to the film we are given Space Monkeys. The idea of animal and medical testing taking place in space isn’t as far fetched as many might believe, limits on liability should a virus escape, legal boundaries being pushed whilst not on earth all make sense but for this film? The scene goes to provide nothing to the story except for killing an astronaut and showing up another. Again, the time could have been used expanding our knowledge of the family issues.
Ultimately the above didn’t ruin the film for me, I enjoyed it and was invested (even with Space Pirates on the Moon). It wasn’t until Brad Pitt returns to his own ship by pushing himself through the rings of Neptune, shielded with a piece of space craft that I thought, ‘oh no’. There are limits to be pushed in every film. Gravity, as an example, let’s itself down by having TOO MANY things go wrong. In the case of AD Astra, it’s the necessity to have a Hollywood ending. The aim of the film, and again this is my opinion, was to open our eyes to the damage we are causing the Earth and that no one but us can be held accountable. The idea that Jones’ life’s work shows that there is nothing else becomes a perfectly acceptable reason for his decline in to psychosis. Having Pitt end the film remaining on the Lima Project, understanding that his father was the root cause for his own emotional decline but remaining to stay by his side as the ship goes down could have been beautiful. Instead we are left with Liv Tyler back in to his life (yes, this is the most we see of her) and apparently no consequences for the laws he broke.
I genuinely enjoyed this film even with the parts I consider negative, I just can’t bring myself to say I love this film. Like Arrival, I shall revisit this film to spot all things I didn’t first time round.