You’re just Going to have to Decide for Yourself.
Luke, I am your father… Another movie about an astronaut with daddy issues—at least that’s what I came away with after seeing Ad Astra. But there’s real issues explored here, and the near future panoramic journey to the Moon, Mars and Neptune gives us enough to think about. There is one very pertinent question above all others, though. Is it worth the very introspective 123 minute journey?
Brad Pitt as Roy McBride barely has a pulse—literally. We are introduced as he goes extravehicular to do some repair work on a space station in low earth orbit. Stressful enough, a cataclysmic event sinking the entire station still doesn’t get his heart rate above 80.
That’s left to us as we wonder if there’s a parachute to soften the highest skydive ever. There is, and soon after, we see what we are up against.
An electromagnetic pulse has been initiated from Neptune and caused havoc on earth—including the destruction of the space station. The source is believed to be from the Lima Project, a multi-decade endeavor in search of extraterrestrial life and headed by McBride’s father (Tommy Lee Jones).
The son’s mission: Go to Mars, transmit to Neptune and ask Dad to cut it out.
Long presumed dead, though, the mystery deepens. In other words, has the pulse been initiated as a result of the search and now emanate from an extraterrestrial source?
Either way, Roy takes in the uncertainty with the same cool level of aloofness that facilitates the pursuit of his day job. Nice for an astronaut, but his father’s permanent exit at the age of 16 created abandonment issues that hinder Roy’s ability to nurture relationships.
So Pitt ruminates and reflects throughout, and his vocal and expressive discourse pulls us along with the slow moving storyline. His delivery also helps pile on the pain. But not so much as the overload that Neil Armstrong heaped on us in First Man, so you’re not dying to be jettisoned from a cinematic nightmare.
Set in our place, we are off to the moon, but are forced to encounter several diversions. Donald Sutherland stands in for the first one.
A contemporary of H. Clifford McBride, he does provide some vague clues about Dad. But in the end, Pruitt’s appearance only elevates, because you wonder if this is a sequel to Space Cowboys and whether Clint Eastwood will appear.
We also get a rover chase on the moon and mayday rescue call that adds a little suspense and shock to the slow pace. In a larger sense, though, the drama lets us know that just because we’ve established a firmer foothold in space doesn’t mean we’ve left behind the earthly problems below.
Unfortunately, the scenes add nothing to the overall plot. Now that can be overlooked, but when faced with two hours of Brad Pitt emoting angst, the 15 extra minutes borders on too much.
Of course, all can be righted if father and son’s reconnection ties everything up into a neat little bow. However, you first have to allow for a serious suspension of the laws of physics to tie the not. Brad Pitt’s spacewalk around the rings of Neptune without a jetpack is quite an oversight, but the EVA does play importantly in the ultimate unraveling.
Still, a jetpack would have done the trick, but despite the fail on the planetary motion, how does the message and the mystery measure up.
I will first first turn to RogerEbert.com for a take. “Ad Astra is deeply moving with lines and ideas in its final scenes that worked on my emotions in ways I wasn’t at all expecting. Be patient with it. Invest in it. The destination is worth the journey,” opined Brian Tallerico.
And then there’s this.
“You leave Ad Astra feeling dazzled and befuddled, moved and frustrated, and perhaps wishing that its maker had cast his own preoccupations aside and taken a deeper, headier plunge into the void,” wrote JUSTIN CHANG in the LA Times.
But what about me. I don’t know. I’m still thinking about it and you’re going to have to decide for yourself. What am I your father?