Ad Astra— To the Stars

Ad Astra— To the Stars October 11, 2019

Ad astra is of course Latin for ‘to the stars’. The search for intelligent life in outer space is the focus of this particular sy fi movie. Of course nowadays one might ask whether there is intelligent life on earth, considering all the ridiculous amount of wars and in-fighting that has been going on of late. Humans seem to be the only known creatures that foul their own nests. ‘Cure us of our warring madness’ says the hymn. This movie is not about star wars. Indeed it is not primarily an action movie at all. There are long stretches of cerebral tranquility where Brad Pitt (who deserves an Oscar nomination for this performance) mulls over his life, his purpose in life, his psychological state, and what the heck this mission he is going on is actually about. Is it the search to find his father, a space hero, somewhere out there in the rings of Neptune, or is it a search and destroy mission. Inquiring minds want to know. The cerebral character of this movie makes it much more like Contact and much less like Star Wars. And at 2 hours and 4 minutes, that’s a lot of thinking.

The visual aspect of this film is spectacular, and it deserves to be seen at an IMAX theater or at least in 3D. Besides Brad Pitt, there is also a grouchy Tommy Lee Jones, as his father Commander McBride, whose been at the outer reaches of the galaxy far, far too long. Along the way we get to stop at the moon, and be chased by moon marauders…. without getting mooned, then on to Mars…without any Mars bars or Jabba the Hut. And then out into the great unknown. The ostensible reason for the journey— debilitating rays from outer space are destroying electrical systems all over the world, causing lightning fire storms, and it must be stopped.

This is not the sort of movie you go to if you are looking for endless action and violence and mindless fun. At it’s heart it is a movie about a father son relationship, or lack thereof, and the attempt by a son to re-establish such a relationship, at great cost and with great effort. It is then a movie that is not about cold outer space, but about the interiors of the warm human heart. As such the film is full of pathos, as you will see…. and in the end it seeks to provide an answer to whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, or even in our own realm as well.

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