Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra” (Photo Credit: Francois Duhamel/Twentieth Century Fox).
A Little More Drama Required
Journalism is a lot like music.
One cannot take credit for someone else’s work without giving the proper credit.
After watching “Ad Astra,” one Houston media member stated that “Ad Astra” did not just contain the usual themes of a space movie, but that it combined space themes with family drama and some western themes.
All of those attributes adequately define “Ad Astra,” not to mention boasting great performances by Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones.
But not enough drama existed throughout “Ad Astra” to make it that special.
Nevertheless, the stellar performances by Pitt, Jones and others, as well as the stunning visuals might be enough for “Ad Astra” to reach the stars in the stratosphere.
In “Ad Astra,” Roy McBride seemed destined to follow in his father’s footsteps, becoming an astronaut.
But outer space now represents a different reality than in the past.
Human beings never wonder about life on other planets, instead they have attempted to leave the problems of Earth behind as they seek to make a new life on the moon and beyond.
Unfortunately, the human condition is the human condition no matter what planet human beings populate.
Therefore, the wars, the greed and the violence that human beings thought would not exist in other areas of the galaxy, have only multiplied.
Nevertheless, Roy remains optimistic about the world and his purpose in it.
He became an astronaut, not just to continue his father Clifford McBride’s legacy, but also to save the future of mankind.
However, when an international space station mysteriously explodes while Roy and many of his colleagues work on a space walk, mankind’s future appears suddenly in grave danger.
The explosion comes from a global surge that originates from rays coming from the planet, Neptune.
If scientists and astronauts cannot stop the surges, the apocalypse will ensue.
The fact that the global surges come from Neptune represents a dilemma for the rest of the world, and particularly Roy.
The last astronauts to attempt to travel to Neptune were presumed dead.
Decades earlier, Clifford took a crew of astronauts to Neptune as a part of the Lima Project and no one has heard from them since.
However, government agents somehow believe that the Lima Project reached its destination decades earlier, and they believe that Clifford survived the trip.
Unfortunately, no one can reach Clifford to communicate with them.
Therefore, the government comes to the realization that the only person that Clifford might respond to is his son, Roy.
Wanting to honor his commitment to save the future of mankind, Roy takes the mission, which will take him to Mars, with a layover on the moon, to deliver the message to his father who might be alive on Neptune.
But the only caveat is that the government has supplied a statement for Roy to read, which may or may not do the job.
Furthermore, does the government have an ulterior motive to get in contact with Clifford?
Moreover, what will Roy actually say to Clifford if he is alive after living the majority of his life believing that his father died in the line of duty?
But the initial question in Roy’s mission to Neptune is can Roy survive the trip in the first place?
While Pitt gave better performances in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and the Ocean’s movies, and had a more important role in “12 Years of Slave” considering the subject matter, his performance in Ad Astra is nothing to sneeze at.
And although Jones gave better performances in roles like “The Fugitive” and “Lincoln,” any performance by Jones will result in legendary status.
But what “Ad Astra” does is give a couple of lesser known performers the opportunity to spread their wings into a genre that fans will not expect to see them in.
Kimberly Elise has a history of playing the naïve and somewhat simple character in roles like “Set it Off” and “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”
But playing an astronaut in “Ad Astra” shows a different side to her skill set.
Furthermore, Sean Blakemore has built an audience playing serious and fatherly roles in television shows like “The Quad” and “Greenleaf.”
Like Elise, “Ad Astra” allows him to take his talents to the science fiction and space film arenas.
Despite the stellar cast and superb performers from A-list and B-list stars, “Ad Astra” has too many dull moments to measure up to some of the better space movies like “The Martian” starring Matt Damon.
But kudos has to go to “Ad Astra” for going where few space films go and adding a little more layers to the characters.
Many space films orbit around Mars.
But seemingly fewer focus on planets like Neptune.
So to not rely on the typical Hollywood script to produce a space film deserves the praise that “Ad Astra” has received from many critics.
Additionally, adding voiceover from Pitt gives “Ad Astra” some more depth and understanding as to what Roy faces in his attempt to save the universe from the global surge.
But “Ad Astra” still seems lacking because too much of the film deals with solitude and private thoughts.
More fights, more explosions and little more family drama would have made “Ad Astra” an even better film.
Nevertheless, the visuals will serve to distract moviegoers from the slower moments in the movie.
Cinematically, “Ad Astra” dazzles to say the least and it contains a hybrid of several film genres to quote or steal from an esteemed colleague.