A deadly power surge strikes the space antenna that astronaut Roy (Brad Pitt)is working on. He is almost killed but manages to escape. Soon after, he is called in for an official debriefing that turns out to be a cover for the top secret mission he’s being sent on.
By now, we know we are a few decades in the future. Roy is the son of the most famous astronaut/explorer of all time. His father had left for Neptune on a project to search for intelligent life and then disappeared. Roy grew up to emulate his father, to be the ultimate astronaut, always calm and in control and totally dedicated to his work. We soon realize he is so haunted by the mystery of his father, it keeps him from forming any close attachments.
Critics are divided on this movie. Some hate the voice overs and the focus on Roy’s feelings and concerns. Others love it, love the sense of breaking new ground here with an astronaut on a double mission, the one he about to be sent on and his real mission to both learn about his father and to come to terms with the ghost of his memory of who he was and what happened to him.
Roy is told the mysterious and lethal power surges are coming from Neptune. They will destroy the earth if they are not stopped. It is believed that Roy’s father is alive and somehow responsible for the surges. Roy is to go into space to try to contact him. The underlying message is that if he is responsible and if he cannot be stopped, he will have to be killed. I have read that Ad Astra is based on the movie Apocalypse Now which was based on the story Heart of Darkness. I will assume that’s right and it gives the story its shape. If so, I wish the story had been allowed to play itself out naturally.
Roy now has adventures where he is nearly killed several times, starting with pirates on the moon. Getting to the moon is like taking an airplane to another continent. It takes a few hours and the little city on the moon is totally commercialized and totally for tourists. Real work is done outside and is incredibly dangerous for pirates are out there, kidnapping important people for ransom.
Roy survives an attack and is soon on his way to Mars. Meanwhile, he has met an old friend of his father, Pruitt who is played by Donald Sutherland. This is a wonderful bit and I was as sorry as Roy when he had to leave him behind.
He is almost killed on the flight to Mars. Once there, he meets Ruth Negga who tells him more about his father, news that makes him realize he must go to Neptune to confront him.
Once again, he is nearly killed, but he finally gets to Neptune. As you can guess, this is an action filled adventure story.
The father is played wonderfully by Tommy Lee Jones. My only complaint is that he isn’t given enough to do just as Roy isn’t given enough scenes with his long-lost father. Everything that happens is well done and logical. I simply wanted more.
So in summary, Ad Astra is a very good movie with minor flaws. Any movie that leaves you wanting more is good!
Reviewed by Marian Powell
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