Ad Astra: SciFi Done Wrong

James Gray & Ethan Gross missed big on their first "space movie"

Ad Astra: SciFi Done Wrong

Rew is a family friend whose film opinion I value greatly. He's never steered me wrong with his criticism or praise and last fall was no different:

Please don’t waste 2 hours of your life seeing Ad Astra like I did.

Pathetic excuse for a movie.

Curt and simple. -- So I waited until I could watch it on a streaming service. And this past weekend as I was undergoing the arduous task of selecting something to watch on Netflix, I decided to form my own opinion.

Now, the singular most important thing about Science Fiction and / or space movies in general is the SCIENCE and accuracy thereof. You get that wrong, you get the movie wrong.

Ok, let's get started with Brad's flight to the Moon.

$125 for a "blanket and pillow pack".

Excuse me, what?! You've just pulled over 9 Gs during takeoff wearing a pressurized suit and likely pissing through a catheter, but you need a damn pillow pack from the space stewardess? There are so many things wrong with this request... but let's start with the easiest.

Not a great start, James & Ethan.

Why a stewardess? Why? Did the director want space travel to look like it's as casual as flying in a 737? Hint: if you wanted it to feel that way, have the astronauts not look like astronauts in pressurized suits, put 2 dozen more people in the cabin and spend more than 12 seconds showing what travel to the moon could look like.

Why does it cost ANYTHING? NASA just paid a million bucks to put Brad in space, but can't afford a damn pillow pack? Talk about chintzy. -- But let's disregard that for a moment. Even if in the future the cost per oz of payload is 50% less than now, it would still be around $850 for a 1 pound pillow pack. Not to mention there's a fun little thing called inflation which doubled in the last 30 years, making our estimate closer to $1700. Not a measly $125.

Did you forget about the Moon's gravity?

When Brad and Donald Sutherland arrive on the moon and casually walking through the moon subway, there's no lightness to their gait, no obvious indication that they are experiencing 1/6 of the Earth's gravity. And worse, no mention of any "gravitron" or other futuristic device thrown into the script so that smart people watching the movie aren't going: "What the hell?". Just another normal gravity day on the moon I guess?

It's at this point in the movie I went to find out what this director had also done: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0336695/. Ah, his first space movie. Dear God, we're in for it...

There hasn't been an upgrade to the moon rover since the 1970s?

Maybe Apollo 15 just left some extras up there.

The fun thing about making futuristic space movies is all the FUTURISTIC stuff you get to invent. So why on Earth am I seeing a near replica of the moon rovers from the Apollo missions? Have you never seen The Martian, Interstellar, or ANY DAMN SPACE MOVIE EVER? Creativity score: 1 out of 10.

Did I catch a AAA logo on the back wheel well?

Yes, yes I did.

I mean, I guess I should be happy that at this point director James Gray remembered about the lessened gravity... but holy hell, a AAA sticker on the wheel?? This can't be product placement because it's only in the shot for a 1/4 of a second. Why then is it here? Is there some kind of new space pirate liability coverage option on my AAA policy in the future?

Why is the top secret mission video like something from MI-2?

Again, this is the future James. How did you allow for the scenes with "top secret" video playbacks to look like you literally copied it from an old Mission Impossible movie? Heck, even the damn narrated voice on the video is a near identical voice match. I guess I should just be happy it didn't end with the words "self destruct in ten seconds".

Broken face shield on your helmet? Duct tape!

I can not believe I'm saying this, but duct tape doesn't fix everything.

He'll be just fine...

Astro-physics 101. There is no pressure in space, Ethan. Which means, if you're not in a pressure suit or Superman and venture out into the void, your blood will literally boil and all fluids in your body will be pulled out of every orifice. Apparently no one of mild intelligence was on the film crew to tell James of this absolutely ridiculous moment.

Killer monkeys?

I'm not even going to talk about this one. It's like writer Ethan Gross reached into a grab bag of terrible plot devices and pulled out the homicidally deranged primates ticket; then said "fuck it" and ran with it.

Solar panels for the win.

Yup. The sun is BEHIND you.

I'm no photovoltaic scientist, but I'm pretty sure solar panels need to be as close to perpendicular to the sun's rays as possible. There are multiple shots like this in the movie. Multiple. And also... James? There's no drag in space, so if you thought that maybe these solar panels somehow affected aerodynamics... they don't.

Yes, Mars is red.

But not everything on Mars has to be red. Red uniforms, red camouflage, red walls, red flashing wall lights, red sound booth... Oh God, the red sound booth.

What year is it again?

Pay no attention to the 1950s microphone.

Oh boy... This scene is so awful for so many reasons. From the microphone to the disintegrating acoustic panels, nothing in this scene looks like it's remotely related to sending a "secure laser transmission", but instead appears like some radio both from the 1950s. Did they find some abandoned sound booth on some studio lot and think to themselves: "meh, this will do for the secure laser message scene, it screams futuristic communications".

Swimming. Swimming on Mars. Swimming under a rocket on Mars.

Just wow.

At this point in the movie, I'm given up. -- Not that there isn't potentially sub-surface water on Mars, but that Brad was able to find a hatch that led to an undersea cable, that he used to swim to the bottom of a rocket to then somehow board moments before takeoff. And when the launch DOES occur, the non-seated non-secured Brad Pitt feels no G forces and manages to open a hatch without problem. Right.

p.s. moments later in the movie James selectively remembers what G forces are and kills off one of the crewman trying to stop Brad.

Face plant of death.

79 days pass. Brad has the SAME beard and hair length?

Lack of attention to detail. Sometimes I wonder how people become movie makers while missing such obvious issues. At this point, I'm not blaming James, I'm blaming the rest of the film crew who didn't speak up and say "Hey, do you think we should give Brad even the semblance of a beard???".

Still beautiful Brad after 79 days floating through space.

Why did I not heed the sagely advice from Rew? Why.

This movie is a total waste of acting talent and I've only touched the surface of the myriad of problems with this movie (there's still the whole aluminum shield blind spacewalk through an asteroid field that deserves a few paragraphs). Please take Rew's advice and skip it... Unless of course you like cinematic self-flagellation.

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Mark Lancaster
Mark Lancaster
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