Ad Astra

After surviving an incident caused by vast space surge, Major Roy McBride, He goes into space in search of his lost father. He is informed by Spacecom, the U.S. Space Command, that the surge is from the “Lima Project.” A project created to search for intelligent life lead by Roy’s father H. Clifford McBride. Spacecom lost contact with Lima Project for 16 years; Roy’s dad is conducting this experiment that is threatening the entire solar system. Roy must try and reach the “Lima Project” by Neptune and stop his father from destroying the solar system.

This was my first impression after watching Ad Astra on 9.28.2019. You can see that and other first impressions I have of other movies on my YouTube page

Ad Astra is a film that is not going to be for everyone, or like other types of science fiction space movies, like Star Wars or Star Trek.  Ad Astra is kind of like Apocalypse Now In outer space, but different Sci-Fi movie tones and themes. It is tranquil in outer space with hardly any sound, except for a background music soundtrack that plays, which makes Ad Astra kind of like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Brad Pitt did a great job with this role and was the only actor that was on screen for most of the time. The end of the film kind of fell flat compared to the rest of the movie that did such a great job building up the effect of what deep space may do to the mind of a human and Roy’s journey to find his father. The end of the film felt rushed but ended well.

***SPOILER WARNING***
The following article contains spoilers from this point on.

While Ad Astra is kind of like Apocalypse Now, where there is more than what it seems to the story and in terms of Journey, there was other mentioned themes and situations that had happened that kind of didn’t follow Apocalyse Now. I read and agree that there are tones of other space sci-fi movies, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Gravity. There is a big theme of the journey, and we see that with Roy as he goes to space looking for his father. The space exploration felt very slow and real, with no type of warp drives or teleportation to get to Neptune. I always like to watch this kind of space exploration movie, and it feels current to how our world explores space vs. the fantastical way of space exploitation sci-fi movies show an audience.  

Despite the dark colors used in the movie, it somehow felt very rich in color tone to me.

The movie takes place “in the near future,” but don’t know when in the future. It’s hard to understand as the film could take place either decades or centuries from now. We don’t get much mention of what’s happening in current events of the story. We get brief snippets of the impact of the flare caused by The Lima Project around the world, and the areas of space that we visit. We got a quick battle on the dark side of the moon of space pirates attacking Cliff’s escort to the Cepheus, a ship that is supposed to take him to Mars for the next leg of his journey. The pirate attack was the only significant action sequence that I felt the movie had. While there were other scenes in the film that had action, there were no more than a handful and not too memorable to the story, like Cepheus responding to a distress call, and Roy infiltrates the Cepheus to get to Neptune and the Lima Project. While I wish more mention of what is going on in the background, I’m I’m kind of glad that the focus stayed on Roy’s mission to find his father.  

The space pirates chasing Roy and his escort team was the only action scene for the movie. I wish I knew more backstory with the pirates, but they are killed off and Roy isn’t chased again but other pirates. At least we got some space blaster guns.

Ad Astra was enjoyable to watch and seems to have more profound meaning and symbolism. With movies like this, I wish I was able to pause, go back, and rewatch some scenes again. I felt that I missed a lot the first time of symbolism, foreshadowing, and hidden meaning in the movie. There were a lot of drab colors and darkness, which makes perfect sense since the film does take place in outer space. There was also a lot of focus on shots with Roy’s space helmet that occasionally showed the reflection of the sun. It felt like a reminder of home and what Roy was losing on the journey to find his father. I also thought that the idea of humans and the further away from the Earth we get, we can become distressed and even lose humility and empathy.

This film dealt with the impact of someone being in outer space and further away from one’s home, Earth, and even the Sun. This movie didn’t seem to have a lot of emotions shown by the actors. It felt kind of stiff, uncaring, and no range of happiness or sadness. A lot of the interactions Roy had with people the further away he got from Earth, the more robotic everyone seemed to become. They came off as robotic and followed their orders without question. If there is one thing that didn’t consider in space movies is the psychological toll that space travel could have on a person. There is a lot of psychology evaluations going on with Roy, and as he is getting closer to Neptune, we see a more significant breakdown of his mind. He was stated as the right choice for deep space as his heart rate never seemed to spike above 80 beats per minute and ability to remain calm under stressful situations.

Tommy Lee Jones plays H.Clifford McBride. Roy’s father and is responsible for the death of his crew when they attempted to mutiny to continue the mission. In a way it’s kind of scary to see how robotic humans may become the further away from what Earth and home.

Brad Pitt was great in this movie. He was the only major character shown in this movie, most of the time. I thought it was strange at first because other actors in the film like Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones, and Liv Tyler would have had more screen time. I believe that they weren’t in the movie that much at all. It’s not “blink, and you’ll miss them” in the film short, but each actor is maybe in Ad Astra for 10-15 minutes or so. Which is fine with me since the focus should be on Roy and the journey that he is going through to meet his father. The voice-over work was excellent and well written to fit what was going on in Roy’s head as we see the story unfold.  

This is the image that stood out that I tried to point out. Whenever the sun would reflect on his visor, it seemed to get smaller and smaller. I’m seemed to show Roy getting further from himself the closer he got to his father and “Lima Project”.

The primary focus is Roy and his journey to find and stop his dad. I had to look up what the title meant, and it comes from the phrase “per Aspera ad Astra” Latin for through hardships to the stars. Roy did face a lot of difficulties that I saw. He was one of the best astronaut’s space com had. As the mission when on, Roy learned that he couldn’t keep a cool head when his family came to the fore. The best example was when he was on Mars, and he made an emotional plea to his dad. Going off-script, Roy asked his dad to stop and is taken off the mission after his connection vs. the purpose of his mission was apparent. He never also seemed to have a great relationship with his father and was looking to confront this as well. Roy also did everything alone. He inadvertently killed the crew of the Cepheus after infiltrating the takeoff and having to make the journey to meet his father alone for almost 80 days. While feeling long, him reflection on how he got to where he was and the camera work was some of the best in the movie. Most of these actions plus the cold harshness of space made this a trip worth watching, I thought. 

I kind of thought that with the build that they were doing when Roy finally caught up with his dad, it would have been more than his dad taking his life by untethering himself from his son and dying in space. I kind of except his dad maybe finding life on other planets would have been found, and perhaps a cover-up about the finding would have taken place. Possibly even Roy killing his father to hide that we weren’t the only ones living in this solar system. Then Brad Pitt floating through the rings of Neptune into his ship and heading home. It felt like a rushed ending to a long but substantially built story and theme that was set up. It’s a satisfying ending, but I wanted more from this. Plus Roy gets back to Earth and is greeted by his wife, who looks to have not aged a day. I would have figured that being in space for as long as he has that everyone around him would have aged significantly due to time dilation. He was a far as Neptune, and while he didn’t age, I get that, the rest of the people on Earth seem to remain the same age as well. At least that’s what I got when they showed Eve, Roy ex-wife at the end of the movie, going to meet him. But somehow, I still felt I got a satisfying conclusion to the story.

Thank you for Reading. Check out more of my blog posts at: www.tommoscato.com. 

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