Ad Astra

James Gray, USA, 2019

So, well… I thought this was, quite frankly, rubbish.

The cast were good. Brad Pitt’s improving with age. Though I think the part was a bit two-dimensional. Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones were both, of course, masterful (and old!). Apart from Ruth Negga’s space station manager, the female element was a little lacking from the whole thing.

It looked grand and lush, like you’d expect from a space film. Great production design, and the way it portrayed what colonisation of space might be like was authentic. I saw it on the smaller screen at Meliès, so it was a bit of a shame to miss out on a completely immersive visual experience.

The music was sweeping and atmospheric, though it was like the filmmakers were afraid of using silence, unable to resist little creaky muffled sound effects for various space-based action.

And I think that was perhaps illustrative of the overall problem. It was faux-profound, assuming that just because it was set in space, this would give it some kind of depth. But the story is weak and clichéd, and the dialogue bad. Dramatic action sequences that added nothing were shoe-horned in, just to make it a bit less boring. Our hero wasn’t multifaceted enough – his emotional struggles didn’t come through too well – and his quest was pathetic (honestly, Top Gun touched on the theme better).

The final act (the coda) was utterly laughable, with unbelievable space gymnastics and actually being able to make it back to Earth from Neptune with nothing more than a well-trimmed beard to show for the hardship. Of course with films you have to suspend disbelief and buy into their fictionalised world, and space films particularly stretch the scientific possibilities, but… Please. Maybe it’s because it was so unrealistic within the world of space films.

If you want a big budget Hollywood space film, Gravity is better than this. Even the oldest, clunkiest 1950s sci-fi is better than this. And then you have a recent gem in High Life that blows this out of the water.

So, meh, there were things in it to enjoy, but this film will be forgotten.

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