After a series of cosmic power surges threaten to wipe out life as we know it, an astronaut undertakes a space mission in the hope of stopping them but also finding his father who was considered long gone.
I might not be reading reviews before writing mine but I happened to read Ad Astra‘s on a Sunday night, right after the film came out. They were horrible. I mean shockingly bad, claiming that film fails on every front. The titles alone were… hilarious. So, what did I do? I packed it up on the spot, went to the last screening, and watched it. I hadn’t even watched the trailer. So…
The film itself is not near as bad as people make it to be. Potential issues might include the following: Us, the audience, do not really experience neither the surges nor their aftermath. Through the news, we can see a number that thousands have died and this is it. Therefore, the actual reason why Brad Pitt goes to space heavily focuses on his issue with his father and partially due to his ex leaving him. He doesn’t seem to care at all about the fact that thousands have died and that the future of the Earth but also the rest of the solar system solely burdens him. The second act, yes, it is slow but this merely means anything. To me, the biggest problem of the film lies in the third act. I could thoroughly elaborate as to why but my reviews are spoiler-free so, you are more than welcome to comment when you watch it. Sources claim that director James Gray had to compromise his ending in order for the studio to give the green light. It makes me wonder how his finale would be.
None of these issues though justify the horrendous reviews. I watched the trailer afterwards and looked into a few production details. As with the film’s ending, the studio caused the biggest damage. The trailer had no idea how to promote the film. Subsequently, people thought that they are going to the movies to watch this year’s Gravity (2013), Interstellar (2014), or The Martian (2015) – which again would pose an issue as not too many people would want to watch another Matt Damon rescue. To cut the long story short, the audience was given the wrong impression and went there with false expectations. Maybe if it had been marketed as Solaris (2002) things would have been different. See the poster above as well. As if seeing close-ups of Brad Pitt for two hours is not enough, he has to be staring at us even before we enter the theatre. Oh, and read the tagline and weep.
I would like to conclude by saying that the slow editing paces the film’s rhythm as it was initially intended, Max Richter’s music is superb, Brad Pitt expresses Roy’s emptiness perfectly, and last but not least, Ruth Negga, as always, every time she makes an on-screen appearance, mesmerises.
I don’t regret being on my own in the whole theatre watching it. Knowing nothing beforehand, I perceived Ad Astra as an existential journey to the vast loneliness of space which can only be outmatched by the vast loneliness of our soul.