In his space drama AD ASTRA – TO THE STARS Director James Gray sends lead actor Brad Pitt through the vastness of space. The father-son story played out here, on the other hand, is much more intimate than the weightless setting. We reveal more about this in our review.
Roy McBride is almost there…
The plot summary
Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is a loner and has isolated himself from his environment since the departure of his father Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones), who also works as an astronaut. Even his loving wife Eve (Liv Tyler) can no longer get close to him. But perhaps a new mission can give the embittered outsider new courage to live. On behalf of the space agency, he travels to the outermost edge of the solar system to find his missing father and uncover mysterious processes that threaten survival on Earth. On his journey, he uncovers secrets that question human existence and our place in the universe. And show the relationship with his father in a completely new light…
Ad Astra Movie Meaning & ending
The genre term “science fiction” has become established in recent film decades as a description for stories that tell of futuristic, fictional visions of the future. The functions of the technology used in these worlds are imagined. The scenarios often take place in space. The presence of species alien to humans and animals is also often part of science fiction films. The focus on space and space technology, aliens and spaceships has led to productions such as “Gravity”, “Interstellar” and “The Martian” also being classified as sci-fi cinema. The big question is whether this is even correct. Ultimately, the creators of these materials claim to be using developments that are already applicable today for their concepts and are simply taking them further or taking the step of finally putting techniques that have so far only worked in theory into practice. Seen in this way, these films also somehow deserve the genre term science fiction; after all, it’s science-related fiction. On the other hand, this classification alone could mislead viewers who are now hoping that James Gray’s “Ad Astra – To the Stars” will be a more sensational space adventure than – to be fair – the father-son drama is advertised, so that in the end you shouldn’t be surprised if the latest directorial work by the maker of “The Sunken City of Z” collapses radically in week two because the audience has fallen for the misconception that it is a space thriller .
Colonel Pruitt (Donald Sutherland), Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) and Willy Levant (Sean Blakemore) on their way into space…
In reality, “Ad Astra” deals with topics for which space would only have been needed as a venue to a limited extent. But that’s actually always the case with the really big stories about existence and being. After all, “The Martian” was just a kind of extreme “Robinson Crusoe,” just as Matthew McConaughey in “Interstellar” didn’t have to travel directly to the farthest corners of the solar system to capture the narrative core about man’s destructive power . James Gray, who also wrote the screenplay for “Ad Astra” together with feature film debutant Ethan Gross (“Fringe”) , tells here about the final break in a dysfunctional father-son relationship and how one of both has never gotten over it, but the other appears to be indifferent to it. In order to finally make peace with the situation, Pitt’s Major Roy McBride must first travel thousands of kilometers to calm the emotional waves on an alien planet that his father left for him on Earth. As I said, “The Martian,” which we highly praised, was actually just a repeated rehash of a story that had been presented countless times, which is why “Ad Astra” can only be criticized to a limited extent for having the same principle of a well-known premise in a (somewhat) new setting. But in contrast to Ridley Scott, who knew how to implement the lack of innovation with a lot of charm, humor and accordingly entertaining, James Gray relies on the greatest possible emotional reduction – and also garnishes the story about his taciturn and aloof hero with a voice-over, which begins meaningfully but, due to increasing redundancy, hardly allows the major themes touched on here about technical progress and human existence to come into their own. As a result, everything here seems very pretentious after a while.
When we really see Roy McBride for the first time, the voice-over, recorded by Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) himself, is heard off-camera, which is intended to bring us closer to the astronaut’s thoughts. We learn that the astronaut actually only plays a role the whole time and only partially appreciates contact with people. Roy McBride is in the truest sense of the word a ” Don’t Touch Me!” , which Pitt pushes to the limit of comprehensibility in the following two hours of film. The audience quickly realizes that this protagonist is not a new Mark Watney. Even Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper showed a lot more emotion in “Interstellar” and at the end of “Ad Astra” you think you know more about George Clooney’s role in “Gravity” than about that loner McBride, even though we spent a lot more time with him than with Matt Kowalski, who quickly disappeared from “Gravity”. Now Pitt’s extreme aloofness also has a system: Roy McBride has to be an absolutely detached dog for professional reasons. His pulse never rises above 85 beats per minute; This also applies to extreme situations. Due to the self-inflicted loss of his father, Roy has gradually distanced himself from all important people (including his wife) in order to avoid further disappointment in case of doubt. The emotionally cool drawing of the protagonist in “Ad Astra” is therefore entirely understandable, even though it makes it almost impossible for the audience to sympathize with the character.
Roy doesn’t yet know what awaits him up there…
The fact that James Gray equips his ambitious project with a downright indifferent main character shows early on the narrative dimensions into which he is able to penetrate with “Ad Astra”: This is not a standard astronaut adventure, but a narratively much more profound story – or at least Should that be her? Because it’s not just the emphasized non-tempo (especially in the first half you can’t get enough of the visual power, which is intoxicating due to its simplicity, but at the same time you also have the feeling that the story itself is actually hardly progressing) of “Ad Astra” demands the viewer’s seat. Of all things, McBride’s voice-over quickly becomes the film’s biggest weak point, as you get the impression that the makers don’t trust their own vision of the reduced staged space self-discovery trip. In neatly formulated monologues, which mostly just regurgitate what you see on the screen anyway, McBride describes the meaning and purpose of his journey in a sometimes soporific manner. So that everyone really understands the content, he resorts to such simple kitchen psychology that the meaning-laden words repeatedly drift into the ridiculous, especially in the second half of “Ad Astra”. Gray finally even finds a visual equivalent to the literal disconnection from his father when McBride is allowed to cut a symbolic umbilical cord in weightlessness that no longer connects him to his father. This is very reminiscent of the mallet symbolism at the end of “Gravity,” when Sandra Bullock suddenly found herself in the fetal position in the space station.
This formulated preliminary philosophizing is not only significantly less exciting than the independent discovery of themes and symbolism. In the case of “Ad Astra”, its penetrance also obscures the film’s great strengths, which are not just the spectacular (audio)visual presentation by cameraman Hoyte van Hoytema (including references to “Mad Max: Fury Road” through to “ Blade Runner 2049″ ), but in observations that are repeatedly captured from the sidelines, which say a lot about the whereabouts of humanity in the future and present. When McBride first arrives on the Moon and later on Mars, the places populated by humans on the respective planets and satellites differ only in the nature of the surface. Otherwise, the same franchises (DHL, Subway…) can be found here as on Earth. And even on the most lonely spot on Mars there is rubbish lying around on the ground. A comment on the incorrigibility of humanity could not be more subtle and yet more memorable. Maybe that’s one reason why Brad Pitt’s face has a barely changing expression of hopelessness for over two hours. Some will celebrate this minimalist game as brilliantly subtle. On the other hand, we have never seen the Hollywood star as expressionless as in “Ad Astra – To the Stars”.
Conclusion: “Ad Astra” feels like “Gravity” on Valium, except that there is far more wording and symbolism here than in Alfonso Cuarón’s space masterpiece. The major themes actually envisaged can hardly develop under this. It’s like looking at a painting with the interpretation of the work already written on its surface in thick felt-tip pen.
“Ad Astra” can be seen in USA cinemas nationwide from September 19th.