Ad Astra; A Family Drama Set In Space

Brad Pitt at a movie premiere. Photo Credit: Jonathan T Mare via Flickr

By Richard Heaton

Do not think of Ad Astra as a film about space. It is a film about the relationship between father and son that just so happens to take place in space.

The film which stars Brad Pitt follows an astronaut’s mission to the planet Neptune after finding out that his father, who has been presumed dead for years, might still be alive. Not only could he still be alive, but it is believed that his father is the cause of surges that threaten to destroy the entire solar system.

The mission is to destroy that threat, and with it, his father. This leads to an interesting dilemma for Pitt’s character, Roy McBride, as he becomes the one to pursue the mission.

The film then briefly changes from a film about space to an emotional story about a father who became a national hero and who seemingly left his son. We also learn that not everything is what it seems in a heart-wrenching fashion.

It has been a while since we have had a truly immersive space story. The “Golden Age” of space films that were not focused on fantasy was at the start of this decade. From 2013 until 2015, films such as Gravity, Interstellar, and The Martian were released.

Between The Martian and Ad Astra, First Man was the only such film to be released. So it was nice to be able to revisit the genre with a unique spin.

Seeing it in theaters, or even in a large format such as IMAX or Dolby makes the film even better. There are plenty of scenes that take space exploration to a whole new level and really drives home the idea of how big, empty, and dangerous the universe is.

Right at the start of the film we see Pitt literally falling off of a space station in the atmosphere trying to repair something. We watch him fall for miles with the planet quickly coming into focus and not being able to tell which way is up for more than a second at a time.

After that, the film slows down a bit but is still wild ride of beautiful space shots and scenes that just make your heart stop. When you see his tiny pod passing through debris orbiting Neptune, you have to wonder if this is what it really looks like because of the immense amount of detail put into creating the setting.

One amazing aspect of the film is that it teases all sorts of amazing advancements in civilization without explaining them. Ad Astra mentions what is new in the world and then passes onto the next topic, leaving the audience to wonder what the world was like. Space stations that start on the ground and reach miles into the sky, passenger rockets to the moon and paying for products by scanning your palm.

The film does not spend an hour talking about how these advancements came into existence or how they work, we only know about their presence and that’s it. Not only is this a unique way of storytelling, but it’s all grounded in reality as well and it portrays a futuristic look into space that might one day be possible.

Another solid aspect of the film is the music and sound, or at least the lack of. Whenever there is a film about space, sound editors always do a great job at editing what we hear on screen due to the nature of space.

Usually in a film about space, you see the vast emptiness on screen and there is an absence of sound. Half the time, that will give you chills. Ad Astra was no different, making sure to use sound in ways that make it far more immersive.

Overall, Ad Astra is just as much fun as it is emotional and thrilling and it might even be Pitt’s best performance in years. Personally, out of all the space films listed here, I would put it as second-best and give the film a 9 out of 10. 

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