Monday, 30 September 2019

Film: 'Ad Astra'

Spent a worryingly painful couple of hours watching this as, before entering the auditorium, very rarely for me I purchased a coffee to take in - and in making way to my seat spilt the entire beaker-ful of piping hot liquid over my left hand. Debated whether to return home to treat it (but how?) thus wasting my ticket. Decided to  take a chance and sit it out, flexing my hand continuously, which was distracting at first but decreasingly so with time. Now I sit here with a conspicuous blister at the base of index finger, in some dull pain but reassured from searching the internet that it ought to go down within 3-5 days. 

The film I found jaw-dropping in two very diverse ways - the visuals throughout are breathtakingly impressive - though on the negative side anyone with even a basic knowledge of Astronomy, or even Physics generally, will find the wholesale employment of hopeless inaccuracies out and out baffling, such that during the course of the tale I was wondering if this was meant to be some kind of parable, analogy or dream. 

It begins with a spectacular and dizzying scene above the Earth higher than the stratosphere, a vertiginous scene indeed, but one in which we hear sounds unaffected by the all-but-absent atmosphere. Later too, in several sequences out in space and on the airless moon surface, again we have sound travelling through virtual vacuums. Not to worry too much as virtually all space films follow in this crass falsehood.
This is only one of dozens of stupefying distractions getting in the way of my enjoyment, though it may not bother others as much as it did me. Other glaring ones relate to the reality of the unimaginable vastness of space, the distances involved, the fuel needed to get there and the time a journey takes, even within the confines of our own Solar System.

Brad Pitt is chosen to go out to Neptune, just as if he was merely crossing the Atlantic! - though with a stop-off onto Mars en route. Presumably that planet, like Jupiter and Saturn, just happened to be in rarer than once-in-a-century convenient positions (the latter two  gas giants being used as fly-by 'sling-shots? Uranus didn't figure at all). The purpose of Neptune being the destination is to find his formerly presumed-dead father (Tommy Lee Jones) who was searching for extra-terrestrial life in Neptune's environs but has not been heard of for 30 years, a man who is now believed to be still alive, active, and responsible for electrical power surges being sent across the solar system threatening life on Earth and doing untold damage to everything in between and beyond, so Pitt is the one most likely to have success in telling him to "Stop, dammit!". (I can't help laughing at the very premise I've just typed! - one single, puny minuscule man, creating havoc over all that immeasurable cosmic distance, not to mention the scales involved!) - SPOILER ALERT! When Pitt does eventually return to Earth after his decades-long venture, you must admit that he looks all of, well, one month older! 

Seen as a simple adventure the film does have merit, with some unexpected thrills thrown in, though for believability it really does take the biscuit, a whole galaxy of them! 

Apart from the two actors already mentioned the only other name I knew was a rare appearance by Donald Sutherland in a minor role in the early part.

The film directed by James Gray, whose earlier films haven't made any significant 'waves' from what I can see, does deliver a good handful of excitements in this, as well as some (vague and unnecessary?) philosophising which interrupted the action for me.

Though the screen I saw the film on wasn't a small one, I do think one's enjoyment and appreciation would be upped in proportion to the size of screen, the bigger the better - IMAX best of all, of course. 

The amount you'll like this film depends on the extent to which you'd be distracted by what I'd describe as the 'howlers', and if you're not put off by them then I envy you. (It's for this very reason that I've never enjoyed any of the 'Star Wars' films - and I've seen them all). If you can get past them then there's plenty to like in 'Ad Astra' - and I really did like many of the visuals, despite the upcoming blisters...............6.5.

(IMDb..................7.1 -  Rott.Toms...........2.9/5 ) 


  1. Next time RINSE IT UNDER A COLD TAP!!!

    1. I've known that for over 50 years, JayGee, as well as from my St John Ambulance training. Trouble is they don't tell you what to do when there's no cold tap readily available, hence my deliberating whether to return home. Now 9 hours later it's softening and with much less pain.