From the looks of the trailers, Ad Astra seemed like it was going to be a very compelling space tale. For the most part, in terms of general plot, it did not disappoint. Astronaut Roy Mc Bride (Brad Pitt) is sent on a mission to stop his father (played by Tommy Lee Jones), presumed lost many years earlier but now revealed to be alive in orbit around Neptune, from causing huge bursts of energy that are leading to mass casualties on Earth (it takes a while for the film to reveal that the surges were caused by a failing anti-matter power source on Clifford’s spacecraft, or so claimed Clifford).
Fortunately, we are also blessed with a positive framing theme of coming to terms with the good and the bad associated with one’s roots and not letting the most burdensome aspects hinder relationships in the here and now.
Unfortunately, there was a bit too much with cliched filler, such as “jump scares” involving baboons and being chased by pirates on the Moon! in between, the narration provided by Pitt’s character was often too plodding.
In addition, some of the space adventuring seems particularly implausible. In one scene Roy attempts a space walk between the spacecraft where he found his father and his own craft, the Cepheus. However, he must do so by going through the rings of Neptune, and then ending up on the other side, right at his spacecraft. Even if he had survived the rings, which is plausible since the density of particles in the rings would likely not be high enough to cause much of a collision problem, to be able to guide himself through that distance right to his spacecraft’s door was a little too much to believe. Furthermore, if the surges felt at Earth were supposedly caused by anti-matter/ matter annihilation reactions generated at Neptune, it seems implausible that either McBride (especially the father being close to the source for much longer) could survive this, even with generous shielding.
So, though I was glad to see another serious space film, I don’t think it will quite make it to the same level as Gravity or Interstellar (though the actors all around probably deserve a nod from the Oscars).