Ad Astra: movie review

Stunning, slow and incredibly thought-provoking


Junior Anna Owsley reviewed Ad Astra, finding the move to be an interesting introspective and character study.

Anna Owsley, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

Walking out of the theater on a drizzling, gloomy Friday evening, I contemplated the meaning of life from a completely new perspective after viewing the film “Ad Astra.” Due to my absolute distaste for anything remotely related to outer space and general disinterest in science fiction, I originally carried low expectations for the movie; in fact, I chose to see this film out of pure necessity for the lack of options currently showing. However, after two hours of an intense, visually stunning and thought provoking experience, the movie successfully won me over, and I deem it one that everyone should see in theaters. 

The visual appeal of this movie can be captured in one word: stunning. Combining magnificent shots of the earth, space equipment and stations, asteroids, animals and planets – embellished by the sun’s dramatic lighting – this film’s impressive CGI was executed almost flawlessly throughout the movie’s entirety. This alone is reason enough to pay for the theater’s large screen experience. 

While the visuals themselves gave the movie intensity, the actual plot was incredibly dramatic as well: a stoic astronaut, Clifford McBride, undertaking a journey to save the universe and seeking the truth about his father — long thought dead but now possibly alive and hiding. While I occasionally started losing interest in the movie during drawn-out imagery scenes, the suspenseful plot always pulled me back in.

“Ad Astra” will likely be remembered for its optical success, but I was enraptured by the depth of its underlying message: “What is the meaning of life?” The film produced a wonderful take on this universal question through McBride’s own emotional – borderline spiritual – journey of understanding the universe and himself, and I rarely finish watching a movie with such strong emotional attachment to a character or with such unique insight as I did after this film. The intensity of McBride’s rhetorical questions and observations about the world gave the movie a deeper level of meaning that many movies lack, which is why I will always regard this movie with great respect despite its downfalls. 

That being said, I believe the film’s theatricality was actually its largest downfall; almost every single line of dialogue and filming technique seemed to be included for dramatic effect. While Brad Pritt did a pehenomael job portraying the protagonist’s emotional journey – especially because this character’s shining personality trait was his lack of emotion – many of the character’s voice-overs were arguably overdramatic and cliché. Even more overly dramatized were his scenes with one of the side characters – whose role in the movie felt forced for the sake of moving along the plot and adding unnecessary drama. While the filming of these scenes was artistic and interesting, they felt completely out of place. For example, one of these characters’ discussions took place in a living room area where a doll and stuffed animal sat ominously on the couch. Dramatic? Absolutely. Did this inclusion make sense in regards to the plot? Not in the slightest.

For those who desire comedic relief sprinkled throughout long films, this movie would not be for them; the few and far between moments that had this effect were generally instances of unexpected gore. With this being said, the film’s second downfall was it’s lack of excitement. While the visuals, filming, dialogue and message were dramatic, they weren’t particularly exhilarating, so this movie is certainly not going to fall on the top of the list for many people.

All in all, this movie may not have been perfect, but it certainly gave the audience a quality experience. While my high regards for this film could be the product of my incredibly low expectations, I strongly encourage others to see the film and offer their own insight into the movie’s effectiveness. 

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