Ad Astra – A masterpiece about space
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We have seen these familiar images on the most classic footage on space. But in Ad Astra, the latest film from director James Gray, they do not follow that cliché. Ad Astra brings about a simple story set in a real-world context with the knots and evolutions that create a completely new feeling without losing the main character lines or the meaning that it wants to convey. Therefore, it is one of the greatest movies about space.
Brad Pitt played Roy McBride, a very capable, energetic astronaut. Roy was the son of the most famous astronaut of all time, Clifford McBride (starred by Tommy Lee Jones). Decades ago, his father flew into space in hopes of finding intelligent life outside of the earth but never returned. Roy followed his father's path and became a space explorer. One day, he found himself in a situation where he had to leave to find out what had happened to his father.
Written by Gray and Ethan Gross, Ad Astra took place in the 'near future'. In the movie, you could buy a ticket to travel to the Moon. Additionally, there was an outpost to settle on Mars and a US government agency called the Space Command was tasked to run this outpost while seeking intelligent life.
Ad Astra painted a future that would be both feasible and unbelievable. The scene where Roy was anchored to an alien-exploring space station right outside the Earth's atmosphere is an example. The moon was habitable and became a tourist attraction. It was also a war zone between nations on Earth scrambling for land, pirating and plundering valuables.
Instead of choosing Mars or any other planet in the infinite universe as the ultimate goal, Ad Astra selected Neptune as the target. It is a planet in the solar system but billions of miles away from us which is far enough to feel refreshing but close enough to feel sensible, just like this movie itself.
The action scenes of the moon pirates, the goal of finding extraterrestrial life, choosing a planet that most space films missed, all of these made Ad Astra unpredictable and full of charisma. Every action scene in the movie seems to be inspired by classic movies “First Point Break”, “Mad Max”, “Indiana Jones”, and “2001”. The combination of 'wow' scenes with foundation elements and character development is a way for Ad Astra to create its own highlight.
Leading most of the film is Roy, a complex but attractive character and Brad Pitt has perfectly played the role. In the most dramatic situations, Roy is cold, unconcerned - typical of most of the film's length. But thanks to that we understand Roy's emotional state when he lost his father at a young age and his dedication to the work that ruined his life. Inside, Roy was a person full of trauma, but outside he was always calm and collected.
Ad Astra completely focused on Roy, not exploiting any other characters. Liv Tyler had one or two lines as Roy's fiancé. Ruth Negga, the head of the Mars base is also a very interesting character. However, she was merely a 'link' to accentuate Roy's story. Most other characters had the same function.
Ad Astra gave too few clues about the final message the film wanted to convey. From the beginning, Gray clearly wanted to take the audience on an endless space adventure. Roy's detailed narrative, as well as the routine psychological tests, made Gray's intentions very clear.
Yet, throughout the film, a series of big topics appeared in narrative. At the climax, Gray's idea was spoken out loud as if it had already been solved, but in reality, it was not.
Although the balance between emotions, actions, and the storyline may not seem perfect, Ad Astra still makes it impossible for the audience to stop thinking about it. Roy gained more than he had expected from the journey to find his father and the touching moments took place gently and quietly.
However, such moments were not suitable for wild action scenes like Ad Astra but the movie still stimulated thinking and many conflicting emotions of the audience. Ad Astra was a bit out of balance at the last minute, making us both excited and ponder about the knots and their meaning.
These days, space-themed movies are so popular that you'll see something like Ad Astra in each one of them. All of the familiar, well-exploited elements were present in this movie, but they were shown from a completely new space adventure perspective. The action was extremely intense but realistic. The characters created a provocative atmosphere and led the movie. The film's message had a great impact. All of these characteristics make Ad Astra an excellent, inspiring and entertaining movie.
By: Garry Pena