Ad Astra Travels Deep Into the Abstract Zone


Will Peng, Staff Writer

Ad Astra joins Interstellar and Gravity in the pantheon of realistic sci-fi. Ad Astra is a sci-fi adventure movie directed by James Gray and starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, and Donald Sutherland. Taking place in the near future, it tells the story of an astronaut, Roy McBride (Pitt), who is sent on a mission to find out what happened to his father, Clifford (Jones). His father was sent out on an expedition to the outside of the solar system, and his experiment is believed to be what is causing the electric flares threatening the solar system. The film was released to theaters on September 20, 2019, with somewhat of a success at the box office.

Is this movie good?  It’s certainly not for people who want a thrill. The trailers may make it look like Ad Astra is a sci-fi action thriller, but it’s not. Ad Astra has some action scenes, but they aren’t the focal point of the movie. It’s really more for people who like to watch movies that delve deep into abstract concepts and human nature. In particular, this movie explores the concepts of isolation and whether or not the pursuit of knowledge is worth it. Brad Pitt’s character is introduced as someone who is exceptional at his job but lacks meaningful relationships with his wife, his father, or anyone. The film shows him struggling with the question of whether or not his ambitious quest to follow his father’s footsteps is worth sacrificing his relationships at home. Gray does an excellent job of conveying the sense of loneliness he feels due to this struggle. His use of deep space visuals gives you the sense an astronaut feels about being in space, where it’s empty and hostile. The eerie soundtrack of this movie contributes to this tone too; it doesn’t stand out and it’s subtle, but it conveys a sense of strangeness and unfamiliarity. Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones both have strong performances and are great at getting the audience to feel what their characters feel, again conveying the mood of the movie.

A strong aspect of this movie is its realism. The movie depicts a realistic version of futuristic space travel, and so the spacecrafts that Pitt’s character travels in don’t feel like a “home base.” Instead, there’s still a real sense of danger, like in real life spacecraft. There’s not a place where Pitt’s character feels absolutely safe. Another strong aspect is the worldbuilding. It adds a layer of depth to the movie and makes the setting much more interesting. Its depiction of human commercialization in space is uncanny and follows the current trend of capitalism on Earth.

Overall, this movie is worth a watch for those who are looking for a thoughtful movie. Ad Astra is great in that it takes a deep dive into human nature, and in that sense, it’s a really good movie. If you’re bored easily, don’t watch it. If you want to see a realistic depiction of the future, this is a great watch.