Ad Astra is billed as a paranoid thriller in space, and stars Brad Pitt as astronaut Roy McBride who’s on a mission to uncover the truth about his missing father. The trailer was glossy and promised much, including what appeared to be a space elevator. I went in with high hopes. Unfortunately, these were quickly dashed.
For starters, the space elevator turned out to be an “international space antenna“. I have problems with this. Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t block radio waves, so there is no good reason to build a massive antenna. Even if radio waves weren’t strong enough to reach… wherever, it’d be far better to use the ISS or build a radio station on the Moon. These ones exist solely for Brad Pitt to climb and add tension. Obvious plot ploy is obvious.
Then they mentioned how it was necessary to go to Neptune to get outside the heliosphere. *sigh* Look, yes the heliosphere is a real thing, No, one cannot go to Neptune to avoid it – its influence doesn’t stop until outside the orbit of the planets. So the astrophysics of Ad Astra are a massive flail.
But there were observatories on the Moon! I got quite excited by this, even though any observatory ought to be on the dark side to maximise the signal range. In the light of the rest of the movie, this is a very minor quibble because
I presumed this is humanity on a different planet and therefore at a less advanced stage. The chances of extra-terrestrial life in our galaxy are slight. Extra-terrestrial life that exactly followed our evolution? Yeah, so not going to happen. And then Brad Pitt kills one by exposing it to the vacuum of space, where it explodes.
FFS, aren’t we past this? Rapid depressurisation does not make you explode, people. It makes your blood boil as your skin freezes and you’ll live long enough to suffocate. Exploding might actually be better…
By the time Pitt got to Mars I was pretty fed up. Then the EDL (entry, descent, and landing) was just wrong on every level and my frustration shot through the roof. Oh, and there might be enough water on Mars to swim in if it wasn’t, you know, frozen.
In short, Ad Astra is a good film if you know nothing whatsoever about space. It looks divine (except some the somewhat ropy CGi in places) and Brad Pitt delivers a stoic, measured performance that’s far better than the script deserves. It’s quick frustrating to know that with some research, the whole thing could have been, um, stellar. As it is? Very disappointing.
Photo credits: Plan B Entertainment · Twentieth Century Fox · Regency Enterprises · New Regency Pictures