Ad Astra follows an astronaut, Roy (Brad Pitt), who crosses the solar system in search of his father, following a disastrous event believed to be caused by his father's deep-space experiment.
Ad Astra Review
Despite positive-to-rave reviews, I have to admit that I simply didn't get the hype of this picture. I will certainly agree that the film's strengths are on display throughout, as Pitt gives a great performance and the visuals and story have depth and expanse. Yet, as I have soap-boxed in reviews past, when a film is primarily great, it makes the flaws all the more apparent and disruptive to the film, and this film boasted three fairly-large critiques.
1. I'll get right into my main complaint...the film's use of narration (from the head of Roy, Pitt's character) is not only unnecessary, but it borders on insulting to an audience paying attention to the well-crafted scenes. There is depth in Pitt's character that is thoroughly explored through the nuance of his reactions and his exchanges with those he meets on his journey, but rather than let these breathe and allow the audience to engage, we are forced to endure needless monologues that give us play-by-play recollections. The film even has built-in moments in which Roy is constantly giving psych evaluations to his employers, but apparently even these scenes aren't enough for us to understand the inner workings of Roy's mind. It feels offensive as a movie patron that I would need such excessive voiceover and a disservice to the efficacy of Pitt's performance and the fantastic directing. But this non-controversial decision to include this narration is peppered throughout the film and proves to be consistently distracting rather than useful.
2. I can't manage to shake this critique, but it is entirely subjective (as all reviews essentially are). Ad Astra is a great film, with stunning visuals, a few effective action sequences, and deep character progression and story. But everything it does well, I've seen better from other films of a similar vein. Interstellar does exposition better, Sunshine does character development and pacing better, and both of those films do visuals better. It made the overall impact of the film less effective because, as South Park aptly put it, "The Simpsons did it"...but in this case, it's "Sunshine did it...better."
3. The film chose to emphasize character development over exposition. I wouldn't normally consider this a flaw, as a film can successfully choose this route without any flack from me, but Ad Astra essentially leeches valuable screentime to further develop its universe and primary plot in order to give us excessive focus on Pitt's character that we simply don't need. It leaves major plot holes regarding the mission from which the story is centered around and creates unnecessary scenes of character development that drag the pacing.
I know, it sounds like I hated it, but I really didn't. Ad Astra tickled my sci-fi fancy, but it just wasn't everything I was hoping it would be. I don't consider the core of its elements to be unique or original and the branches spawned from the core are simply not creative enough to differentiate themselves from films of a similar ilk. At the end of the day, I found Ad Astra to a good time with decent substance, but unworthy of the raved hype it has been receiving.
As far as horror goes, despite being a sci-fi melodrama at heart, the movie boasts a particularly well-executed, thrilling scene involving a bio-medic lab sending out a distress signal. It is definitely worth mentioning.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 5/10
Horror Quality: 3/10 Film Quality: 7/10