I found them! No, not the missing crew from Neptune, rather the absentee men from Downton Abbey. All this time they were at Ad Astra.
Space is sometimes described as beautiful nothingness, which is apropos for our movie. Ad Astra means “to the stars.” Here the trip is breathtaking, the time spent, not so much. Is this an attempt to re-create the loneliness of 2001: A Space Odyssey? Or, maybe this is a psychological drama of a son trying to reconnect with a father who abandoned him? Whatever, I guarantee the you will look at your watch, several times. I give the film 2.5 Gavels and it receives an 81% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a less than stellar 56% Audience score.
Power surges from Neptune threaten Earth. Twenty-six years earlier, Clifford McBride and his crew ventured there to discover new life. Could he still be alive? Would he try to harm Earth’s inhabitants? His son, Roy, is sent to investigate, and, if necessary, to neutralize. Sent under Top Secret orders, who has more secrets, The US Space Command, Clifford, or Roy?
Critic number one says “this is one of Brad Pitt’s career-best performances.” Critic number two says that Pitt “is at his most blank and monotonous.” Such is the plight of the actor whose astronaut role, Roy, has a 47 resting heart beat. Tommy Lee Jones, as Clifford, is a “ghost” whose presence presides over the entire movie. He seems such a miserable soul. Liv Tyler and Ruth Negga get very little screen time.
Ultimately, the limited action doesn’t tie in with the major storyline. Space pirates and crazed, experimental animals don’t advance the film. In a pre-release interview, Pitt wanted a real astronaut’s assurance that his space walks were better than those of George Clooney. The improvements in technology demand that they were, but the stunts shown would still be unlikely and deadly. In conclusion, while Ad Astra takes our eyes billions of miles, our imagination remains steadfastly Earthbound. The Martian was so very good; this flick so very average.