By: Ryan Farrell, Staff Writer
James Gray’s new film Ad Astra brings a unique vision to the science fiction genre by emphasizing on extraterrestrial exploration. It functions as a psychological analysis showing how far mankind will go to find alien life. The incredibly realistic effects make for an immersive experience. Unfortunately, the journey is far more interesting than the destination.
Ad Astra follows the notorious astronaut, Roy McBride, who lives in a futuristic society that is determined to find intelligent life beyond Earth. Bases established on the moon and Mars are dedicated to extraterrestrial research. After McBride survives a close encounter on a communication antenna, he is summoned by the US Space Command for a mission.
McBride is informed that electric surges have been appearing across the galaxy at an alarming rate. The source of surges is revealed to be the base of the Lima Project, an exploratory mission led by Clifford McBride, Roy’s father, who disappeared sixteen years prior. US Space Command believes that Clifford McBride is still alive on the Lima Project base near Neptune. Roy McBride must find his father across the dangerous Solar System in order to stop the impending cosmic doom.
The cast features veteran actors Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones as Roy and Clifford McBride, respectively. A majority of Pitt’s dialogue is delivered through narration which further adds to the isolated feeling of the environment. He flourishes when he has to navigate dangerous situations. Tommy Lee Jones’ character is also complex, however his role in the film is limited. Ad Astra also has brief appearances from Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga.
The most appealing aspect of this film is the cinematography. Hoyte Van Hoytema uses varying techniques to differentiate the film from other science fiction works. For example, Roy McBride is on an antenna that starts to explode from the electric surge. Instead of showing the explosion head-on, it appears as a reflection on McBride’s helmet. This unique perspective also allows the scene to focus on Pitt’s reaction. The cinematography is consistently used to reflect the tone of a scene.
Ad Astra’s faults lie in its conclusion. The majority of the film puts an emphasis on the length of Roy’s journey. Since the Lima Project is the only mission to reach Neptune, Roy’s mission is nothing short of uncertain. His overall journey lasts a few months, each planet bearing both human and cosmic obstacles. However, once he reaches Neptune, the film’s climax does not live up to the anticipation. It ends abruptly, warranting more questions than answers.
Although Ad Astra’s conclusion isn’t desirable, it is nonetheless a character driven film which is further elevated by the cast. The cinematography certainly showcases a plethora of advanced computer effects in a thrilling futuristic society.
Ad Astra is now showing in theatres.