This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Aswin Sivaraman’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
The only believable part of this movie is that DHL postal services will inevitably service the Moon. Ad Astra represents yet another small step for mankind, at least in terms of technical ability and cinematography, but it's a massive step backward in terms of basic storytelling. The film constantly reiterates to the viewer that it is ambitious and futuristic, but over time Ad Astra comes off heavy-handed and increasingly tiresome.
Sincerely, I am left wondering:
• What was the point of pirates on the Moon?
• Why did we even need Donald Sutherland's character?
• Literally what was the point of space monkeys?
• How could Brad Pitt's character (who repeatedly and bluntly reminds us that he is "calm" and "stoic") not spot, from 2 billion miles away, that his daddy has a death-wish?
• How does Pitt climb through a rocket ship exhaust, mid-ignition, unscathed?
• Why did that flashback-laden montage (which is supposed to encompass 79 days of space travel to Neptune) feel like such lazy film-making?
• How dumb is it that four-time Academy Award winner Tommy Lee Jones is saved up only to say during the climax in plain English to "just let go"?
• How in the world does Pitt's character know how to operate every spaceship ever
• And how can Pitt fling himself unharmed through Neptune's rings to arrive back at his ship in 30 seconds pronto?
For a movie which tries to ground itself in seriousness and futurism, truly nothing in Ad Astra feels intelligently made. The entire exhaustive journey, from the Earth to Neptune and back, was for naught and humanity is none the wiser. I get it: space is bleak and family issues suck, but you can't communicate those themes effectively if you've got a stick-in-the-mud protagonist trying to save an even more stick-in-the-mud father. Brad Pitt does what he can, holding some fledgling amount of gravitas with every scene, but director/screenwriter James Gray is far too amateurish to tell the introspective space he promises here. The third act is a huge dud, and the ending is literally hand-holding; not a single risk was taken. This was genuinely and massively disappointing.