Brad Pitt has had a hell of a career. From starring opposite some of the biggest names on the planet (Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Anthony Hopkins) to carrying films all
on his own, he’s accomplished so much in the 55 years he’s been on this Earth, and doesn’t seem to be in the mood to stop anytime soon. If Ad Astra is any indication of what the future might bring, I’m okay with that.
I really have to kick off this review with a warning: Ad Astra is not the next “epic” space opera, nor is it a literally explosive Hollywood action sci-fi blockbuster. Its humanity is what sets it apart, and if that means you need to occasionally watch Brad Pitt kick up his feet during a rote, routine trip to the moon, so be it.
In this unsettling near-but-kind-of-far future feel, director James Gray paints a picture of a world where space travel is a given. In the film Pitt asks for a blanket and pillow package on the aforementioned space trip: the going rate? $125. Maybe that capitalistic hellscape where there’s a Chili’s on the moon is actually closer than we think.
But it’s the roteness that really drew me in. Ad Astra is dripping with space facts, as it’s essentially a love letter and a send-up of both humanity and its ambition. Constantly stinging you with its light spacey soundtrack, this is a world that still has religion and customs. It may have lost its way to some extent but there is hope, no matter how bleak it may seem during Pitt’s many voiceovers and moments of (thankfully soothing) exposition.
The cataclysm that sets up the entire premise of the film? It’s in the rear window. Ad Astra is about the journey and relationships we forge with one another, with a few light dances with space pirates (moon politics, am I right?!) and several scuffles. As Pitt is quoted in the film “we are the world eaters.” Indeed! The Heart of Darkness self-discovery comparisons run rampant here and although Gray comes off heavy-handed, the message is ultimately received.
I understand why Ad Astra has the potential to be so polarizing, but there’s a beauty in that. Eventually, space travel won’t be special: our descendants will treat it like a vacation flight, a necessary evil. Media doesn’t have to be constantly exciting to have meaning, though I do wish Ad Astra didn’t have to occasionally drag its feet.