Thursday, February 27, 2020

Ad Astra: Good Cast, Great Effects, Poor Story

Movie Review: Ad Astra (2019)
Version: Library borrow

Let me begin by describing Ad Astra this way: It has a good cast, great effects, but a poor story.

Ad astra in Latin means "to the stars". This film, Ad Astra, doesn't take us there. It takes us in-flight from Earth to the orbit of Jupiter where astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) seeks his long-dead father Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones). Said to have died in a failed mission to Jupiter in search of extraterrestrial life, it is now thought he miraculously survived and is trying to communicate with Earth. His ship orbits Jupiter and is somehow sending deadly radiation to back to Earth and authorities want Roy to go to Mars to get him to stop. When that mission fails, Roy tries to hijack a sniper mission to Jupiter for a face-to-face encounter.

There is much to admire about this film. It's casting is superb, although I've never envisioned Pitt as an astronaut type. Tommy Lee Jones makes for a pretty good psycho scientist who would leave his family behind to live out life isolated and alone for decades -- kind of typecasting for him. And Donald Sutherland makes for a convincing father-figure scientist keeping his eye on the lost son seeking redemption with his father. Liv Tyler makes a brief appearance as Pitt's love interest, a role she played well in Armageddon. Also, the visual effects are fairly good. But what turned me off the film was the science and the overall premise of the film. First, that this small, puny ship can spew that magnitude of life-threatening radiation toward Earth from that far away is ludicrous. Second, the time frames in the film are all out of whack; they make little effort to show realistic travel travel lengths between celestial bodies for human travel or suggest why short travel time is possible. Third, that Pitt's father could live that long (decades), physically or mentally, on his own is ridiculous. Fourth, the way Pitt's character saves himself at the end is both impossible and implausible. Give me a break!

So, if you choose to see Ad Astra -- if you want an excuse to see it -- here is what you've got. You have a crush on Brad Pitt. You like watching Tommy Lee Jones play a crusty old man. A teary-eyed Liv Tyler is a turn on. Space special effects give you goose bumps. You like picking apart movies. That's about it.

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