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Yasmeen Mamdouh
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Ad Astra: On Space and Emotional Baggage

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Ad Astra invites you to explore not only space, but also examine the effects of an absent parent on their child; can it deliver those heavy themes adequately?

The film follows astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), as he goes on a mission to Neptune to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones) who disappeared on a space mission named the Lima Project and was thought to be dead. Now Roy has to overcome the surprising obstacles of the journey, as well as deal with the baggage of his father’s constant absence from his life.

The plot is definitely of epic proportions. However, it suffers from several significant holes, unanswered questions, and implausible factors. For starters, there is a flesh-eating/blood-sucking ape on a spaceship that Roy McBride and his team answer a distress call for. The thing is Ad Astra deals with this incident so casually as if it is not even strange that there are vampire apes in space. The audience is just left to wonder whatever reason brought those creatures up in space, or whether they had been subject to a brutal experiment.

Also taking Roy McBride to a completely different planet just to record a voice message to be sent to his father is inexplicable, especially as it could have simply been recorded and transmitted from earth. The obvious reason why Roy McBride needed to go on the journey is that the producers had a movie to make.

The father’s absence and its effect on his son take up much of the film, so it is disappointing for the audience to only get to meet him for a short time; delving deeper into his psyche is what the whole movie has been building up for in the first place.

Meanwhile, the film explores Roy’s psyche through his self-narrative throughout the entire movie, which is insightful but can be overly expositional sometimes.

The most impressive aspect of the film is the stunningly mesmerising visuals, and not just when it comes to the outer space scenes, but also subtly in the lighting of simple shots.

For the acting, Brad Pitt fits the role of a melancholic man, showing his acting skills, specifically in the emotionally-charged scenes relating to the character’s father. Tommy Lee Jones’ performance was short yet powerful, as he walked the fine thin line between a mad man and an ambitious genius, making the audience wish he had more on-screen time.

Ad Astra is magnificent to look at, and the father/son tragedy is compelling, but if you think narration ruins films, or you care where space monkeys come from, you will have issues with it.

Like This? Try

Gravity(2013), Interstellar (2014), The Martian (2015).

360 Tip

The title means to the stars in Latin. It is often used as a shorthand for "Per Aspera Ad Astra" (Through the hardships to the Stars).

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