REVIEW: ‘Ad Astra’ is an awe-inspiring celebration of family, love and life
September 20th, 2019 / By: Michael Foust / comments
Roy McBride is an introspective and emotionless man who has always lived in the shadow of his space-faring father -- the great H. Clifford McBride, who was the first astronaut to travel to Jupiter and then Saturn.
Roy was 16 when his father left Earth. He was 29 when his father’s spaceship stopped transmitting a signal, apparently due to a tragedy near Neptune that claimed his life.
The youngest McBride -- who also became an astronaut -- still hasn’t recovered from the loss.
“I’m angry,” Roy says. “He left us.”
Roy, though, has moved on in life by keeping his emotions in check. He doesn’t make decisions on a whim. His choices, he says, are always pragmatic.
He’s also calm under pressure, which is one reason why the U.S. government wants to send him through the solar system to investigate a threat to Earth.
It seems electrical surges from space -- technically, the “uncontrolled release of antimatter” -- are causing explosions all over the planet. Thus far, 43,000 people have died, and if it continues, the rest of humanity will be gone, too.
Can Roy find the cause before it’s too late?
The science fiction movie Ad Astra(PG-13) opens this weekend, starring Brad Pitt (Ocean’sseries) as Roy, Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Blackseries) as Clifford McBride, and Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Gamesseries) as Thomas Pruitt, a family friend.
The film is set in the “near” future, when civilians can travel to the moon and a trip to Mars take less than three weeks.
Ad Astra, though, is not a shoot-em-up space film. Instead, it’s quiet, and slow-paced, and cerebral, and entertaining, and wonderful. Some critics are comparing it to 2001: A Space Odyssey, yet it tackles some of the same weighty subjects of more recent science fiction movies like Arrivaland Interstellar.
Ad Astra examines what’s most important in life -- family and love and even faith. It encourages us to find the right balance between our home life, our work and our hobbies. It even reminds us of the uniqueness of our planet -- and urges us to be grateful for it.
Except for a few unnecessary strong words (more on that below) and a few bloody images, it could have been rated PG.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Moderate. People fall off a tall tower. (We don’t see them hit the ground.) Astronauts engage in a laser-gun battle on the moon with pirates; a few people are killed. A primate attacks astronauts in space, killing one of them. (We see a bloody face.) We see a fight inside a spaceship. (Three people die, although it’s not bloody.)
Moderate. H-ll (3), GD (3), f-word (1).
Other Positive Elements
We see an old clip of Roy’s father, from space, saying: “I thank God” for everything that’s been accomplished. He adds that he’s “feeling his presence so close”
Later, when an astronaut dies in space, the crewmates prepare the body; before pushing it into space they say a Catholic prayer: “May you meet your Redeemer face to face and enjoy the vision of God forever.”
“Amen,” another astronaut adds.
Emotions are not a curse: Roy spends his life trying to suppress his feelings, which prevents him from experiencing the greatest of emotions, including joy and love. Before the film ends, he corrects his ways.
Family is priceless: Roy, while in space, expresses regret for the way he treated his wife. He has power and fame, and yet is focused on his home life -- millions of miles from Earth.
Humanity is depraved:Sure, you already knew that, but watching nations battling for minerals on the moon drives this point home even further.
It’s never too late for redemption: I won’t spoil the plot for you, but Roy gets a second chance -- in several areas of life.
Earth is a blessing: Once they reach the outer limits of the Solar System, the astronauts begin yearning for life back home -- not only for their families but also for things like oceans and birds and trees.
Spoilers ahead! The best movies celebrate the good in life. They discourage the bad. They force us to examine our own lives. They encourage us to live better lives.
Ad Astradoes all that.
Roy’s father traveled to the other side of the solar system looking for intelligent life, but abandoned the very intelligent life closest to him -- his own family. He chased after his dream at the expense of those who loved and needed him, including his son. “He missed what was right in front of him,” Roy says.
It’s only science fiction, right? Not really. How many of us make that mistake every week or every day? We chase our dreams, our hobbies and our paycheck and forget about our family back home. As his wife tells him, “You seem preoccupied with your work. I feel like I’m on my own all the time. … You’re so distant, even when you’re here.”
- Why do we tend to embrace the fleeting at the expensive of what’s most important in life?
- When are emotions a good thing? A bad thing? What’s the key to finding the right balance?
- Can regret be a positive emotion? Was it a good thing for Roy?
- Did you like the ending? Why or why not?
Entertainment rating:4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating:3.5 out of 5 stars.
Ad Astra is rated PG-13 for some violence and bloody images, and for brief strong language.