Length: 123 minutes / 2.05 hours
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with Ad Astra (2019). The trailers I had seen made it seem like it was an action-filled space adventure akin to Interstellar (2014) or Gravity (2013). While it did handle all the outer space issues in a somewhat scientifically accurate way, Ad Astra was a much slower movie than I thought it would be. In fact, I’d probably compare it more to films like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) for its almost plodding pacing. The real trick is that the plot of Ad Astra is basically an outer space version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, of which Apocalypse Now! (1979) is perhaps the most notable movie adaptation.
Ad Astra does get credit for the beauty of its outer space environment. The settings felt massive in scale and intimate in their proximity. Each portion and waypoint of the journey seemed precisely how I would picture them eventually occurring in our not-to-distant future. Even if some aspects of the film were somewhat confusing in their “artsiness,” they still were neat to observe. Additionally, Brad Pitt’s performance was subdued but had the emotional weight to accompany the main character’s growth throughout the film.
Considering that Ad Astra is basically a mashup of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apocalypse Now! , I’m a little disappointed that it didn’t take more cues from its scientifically accurate brethren like (a notable example being The Martian (2015)). More than once, I questioned the logic behind certain actions and wondered why bits of the most important science was mostly ignored to make the plot move forward. Concepts like antimatter, communication time latencies, and the effects of prolonged space travel were either explained with hand waving, a montage or never addressed at all.
An outer space Heart of Darkness adaptation with some pacing issues, I give Ad Astra 3.0 stars out of 5.