Ad Astra (2019) Review

An inconsistent underwhelming story that had potential in the first half. 

I’m always a sucker for sci-fi movies, especially ones that delve into real life space. Ad Astra was a movie that wasn’t really on my radar until I saw the first few trailers for it. I didn’t pay much attention to them but it did catch my eye at the time. Going into finally watching it, I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of story I was going to be getting and I couldn’t remember much from the trailers aside from one scene where it looks like there was a gunfight on the moon.  A movie like this tends to be a better experience if you go in knowing little so I didn’t revisit any trailers before finally getting around to watching it. I’m a Brad Pitt fan, but even I wasn’t expecting him to take a role in such a movie so it gave me a little more hope that the story was well written enough to get him involved. I went in with little expectations since I’ve heard mixed responses to it. 

The movie is just a simple case of being two movies in a certain sense. I can’t tell if it’s a lack of direction or the writing itself, but I lean more towards the writing with the problems I had. The first half of the movie explores a future where space travel is common and available for just about anyone if you can afford it. We explore different bases both on the moon and mars and really get a cool insight into what our future in space travel could potentially be. I was invested from every moment of getting to see more and more of this future, but it loses itself when it gets away from that. 

The second half or I guess more like the last act of the movie isolates our main character from everything else and unfortunately the movie hurts from this. Now I’m not saying that this could have been prevented because what happens is where the story is supposed to go from the setup we got, but it just isn’t interesting enough to really make up for taking us away from what seemed so interesting through the majority of the film. 

It’s a character piece that gives Brad Pitt an opportunity to give an emotional performance, but it’s hard to feel the importance when the character is not someone that we can emote with. Pitt gives a pretty good performance at times throughout this movie but the character is written to be cold and relatively emotionless. It’s a weird mix and an odd choice for them to take with the character and it just doesn’t work. It’s not a knock on Pitt at all for his performance because he did everything he was supposed to do well but there’s only so much you can do when the character doesn’t work. 

There are times when you want to feel what it is he’s feeling and you know that certain moments are supposed to be emotional but when he’s someone that comes off as business first then you can’t really connect. There’s a moment towards the end of the movie where his walls are finally broken down and we get to see how he truly feels on the inside and it’s understandable but at that point it’s just too late for us to feel relatable to him or to sympathize with him. 

Going into the story, the setup is all there and everything that happens makes sense. Everything on paper seems to be a good idea that would work very well, but as I said before, it just doesn’t hold up once you get to the third act. The payoff is there by giving you a conclusion to the whole mission, but it’s underwhelming and disappointing. I’m not sure if maybe I was just expecting there to be a little more to it, but it really was just kind of an ending that’s just there. I wish maybe it just felt more consistent with the first two thirds of the movie but it isn’t. 

There a lot of moments that also didn’t make much sense to me. There were times when characters in the movie make decisions that don’t realistically make sense and are only there to serve the plot and propel our main character forwards. It’s hard to say whether or not the decisions would have been made if it were real life but it was very jarring to see some of the choices. One of which being how Pitt’s character just seems to flip and contradict himself in a moment that really doesn’t have much setup. 

Up to the point of his character deciding to change, we learned that he was cold and didn’t care about much else other than his job and mission. Now I know that people change, but there was never enough in there or shown to us to make me believe that he would actually change in that moment. Normally there’s something significantly impactful that will affect a character’s judgement and choices, and in this movie it’s his realization that his dad might be alive. For a majority of movies, this would be the perfect point for a character to change, but it doesn’t work for me because of how the character was written up to that point. 

There just wasn’t enough to convince me that he would go to such lengths on a whim that his father was still alive. Even his dad wouldn’t have made the decisions he ended up making and he’s practically modeled after him emotionally. We know that his personal life has suffered from his cold demeanor all the time and sure that does affect him, but he takes pride in his job and shows true passion and love for it. It’s this passion and dedication for his job that makes him so cold and makes it less believable that I a moment he would break character to become emotional. If there weren’t important stakes at hand then it might have been believable, but the fate of their planet and all of their people rested in the hands of him attempting to make contact with his father. 

You could very well make an argument that it’s because of this urgency to save everyone that he breaks his walls down to make an emotional plea to his father to respond to them, but for him to follow this path of emotion through the rest of the film really doesn’t make sense. I also don’t understand why they decided. To try and contact him anyways. Information we learn later on says that he was a murderer made out to be a hero, so why would they have any reason to trust him to help solve the issue. If they planned on sending a ship out there to destroy his father’s old ship anyways then what exactly was the point of even contacting him. There are a lot of things logically that don’t make sense to me, and again that’s where the story ends up falling apart. 

This is not a movie for everyone and not a movie you could recommend to anyone unless the genre or story is something that they typically like to see. It’s a movie that offers some moments of interesting world building, but lacks an emotional story that works from start to finish. In the end, it’s a movie that fails on execution and is ultimately and underwhelming disappointment.

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