Greetings! I’m here to warn you to not watch a movie that I had eagerly anticipated but couldn’t bring myself to finish: Ad Astra, Brad Pitt’s spaceman movie that came out last fall. Oh man, it is so bad, and yet it’s incapable of being enjoyed in a so-bad-it’s-good way. Woof.
Based on the trailers, Ad Astra was right in my wheelhouse: a near-future space exploration realistic-ish cerebral scifi movie with a bunch of big-name actors and cool effects. Technically, it does have those things. But I’ve learned my lesson: those elements in and of themselves are far from a guarantee of a watchable movie.
If for some reason you actually do want to watch this movie, spoilers ahoy. I’m not sure I can even call these spoilers, as that would imply the movie is watchable enough that knowing plot details could ruin your enjoyment of it. Watching the movie is enough to ruin your enjoyment of it.
Here’s the premise: Brad Pitt is a sad, lonely, un-emotive astronaut. His dad, Tommy Lee Jones, was a more famous astronaut who led a “deep” space exploration mission, and I use quotes because it went to Neptune. At some point, US Space Command (the movie was made too soon for it to have adopted Drumpf’s now-real Space Force name) lost contact with the mission. But Tommy Lee Jones is universally revered by all as the leader of the mission that traveled the farthest out into space of anyone.
Now, mysterious electrical storms are causing all kinds of problems on Earth, and it looks like the storms might be coming from some technobabble on/near Neptune. Maybe it’s Tommy Lee Jones, alive after all these years! Maybe if we have his son Brad Pitt, who is also an astronaut, talk to him from a recording studio on Mars that can communicate with Neptune over laser beams, he’ll stop making mysterious interplanetary electrical storms!
But wait, it turns out space colonization and travel is like the Wild West, and there will be many obstacles in the way of Brad Pitt getting to the laser recording studio on Mars.
First up, Brad Pitt needs to fly a commercial space flight to the moon, because
the Space Force Space Command (and referred to as “SpaceCom” throughout the movie) doesn’t want people on Earth to know about the mission, and launching a long-range craft capable of reaching Mars is not something that happens regularly on Earth, apparently. People would wonder what’s up. So, Brad Pitt gets to the moon, and it’s an airport. Complete with an Applebee’s and Hudson News, which is a funny touch.
But, this is a commercial spaceport, and to get to the launch site for the ship that will go to Mars, Brad Pitt needs to go hitch a lunar rover ride to the dark side of the moon where the Mars ship launchpad is located. Oh, and Tommy Lee Jones’ buddy Donald Sutherland is along for the ride, to provide expository information. But the territory between the moon airport and the dark side of the moon launchpad is contested and riddled with moon pirates! So there will be a convoy of lunar rovers taking Brad Pitt and Donald Sutherland to their Mars ship.
This is the point where I should mention that most everybody Brad Pitt meets in this movie fucking dies. These two dudes included. The guy on the right is the SpaceCom lieutenant in charge of the fleet of lunar rovers. He gets shot in the fucking face by moon pirates, because the lunar rovers are devoid of any protection whatsoever, which you might think would be a good idea to have if you’re using them to regularly traverse contested moon territory patrolled by moon pirates, hmm?
Out of 3 SpaceCom rovers, Brad Pitt and Donald Sutherland are the only people who make it to the Mars ship launchpad. But then Donald Sutherland has some unknown medical emergency. He gives Brad Pitt a flash drive with classified information about the mission. GO WITHOUT ME! YOU NEED TO KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT THE MISSION! Brad Pitt gets on the Mars ship and asks SpaceCom about Donald Sutherland’s condition. He was “rushed to emergency surgery,” but like I said, almost everybody in this movie who Brad Pitt meets fucking dies, so I’m going to assume he didn’t make it through that surgery.
On the way to Mars, the ship receives a distress call from a Norwegian research vessel. Brad Pitt doesn’t want to stop, BECAUSE THE MISSION MUST BE COMPLETED AND SOME OTHER SUPPLY SHIP OR WHATEVER CAN HELP THOSE NORWAY FUCKERS but the captain of the ship insists it’s their responsibility to render aid. So Brad and the captain and maybe one other person go over to the Norwegian ship. They can’t find anybody, but Brad Pitt notices some ominous claw marks on the wall. What kind of research was happening on this ship?
Then Brad Pitt goes back to find the captain, and he sees him floating, twitching. This is not a good sign. Why is he twitching? Oh, it’s because he’s having his face eaten by a bloodthirsty space monkey!
Brad Pitt distracts the space monkey from eating the captain’s face, and it chases after him, but he locks it in a compartment and starts twiddling some buttons on a control panel that I thought were to open an airlock and blow the space monkey out into space. But no, there was no airlock, he just made the space monkey blow up into a splat of goo on the window of the locked compartment. Maybe that means he subjected the monkey to an explosive decompression like James Bond does to that one guy in License to Kill.
Brad Pitt goes and finds the captain with his mangled face and also mangled hand, both of which the camera lingers on way too long for comfort, and he makes a new visor for the captain by duct taping over the visor that the space monkey had smashed.
The movie implies that the captain is still alive this whole time, and Brad Pitt brings him back to the Mars ship, and the other characters are all like, “we need to give him medical attention!” and the camera lingers on his mangled face way too long. This is the first point at which I stopped watching the movie. I was like, damn yo, I’m just trying to chill watching tv on a Monday night, I’m not sticking with this. Space monkeys eating astronauts’ faces is what passes for PG-13 nowadays. Who knew?
The next day, I decided, ok fine I will try to resume this movie, but I’m fast forwarding past the dude’s chewed up face. I thought, hey maybe this medical attention they were talking about will be like in The Expanse where they can regrow limbs and shit, but then I remembered the technology in Ad Astra is not nearly as advanced. I don’t know what exactly they did to decide the captain was a lost cause, but they sent his ass out into space. So much for that improvised duct tape visor.
The ship then arrives on Mars, but not before the automated landing program goes haywire and the first officer, who is now piloting the ship, freezes up and Brad Pitt has to take over manual control to stabilize the landing. After they land, Brad Pitt says something like, “I assume you understand why I had to do that. The ship is now yours. I won’t report this to SpaceCom.” Nice of you to do that for the shellshocked first officer.
On Mars, Brad Pitt meets Ruth Negga, who is the director of operations for Mars. They walk through an inexplicably orange corridor, but then they meet a mysterious man bun guy who tells Ruth Negga she doesn’t have clearance to continue along with them. So she leaves.
Brad Pitt goes with mysterious man bun guy to the laser recording studio, and reads SpaceCom’s pre-written message to his dad. They get no response. They try again, but this time Brad Pitt goes off script and talks to daddy in a heartfelt way. Mysterious man bun guy and the other people in the control room react to this in hushed tones but don’t tell Brad Pitt what’s going on. Did Tommy Lee Jones call them back? They won’t say!
This makes Brad Pitt mad. Man bun guy instructs Brad Pitt to follow a grunt to take a psychological evaluation. This is one of many automated psych evals that Brad Pitt has had to take up to this point but I didn’t feel like mentioning it until now. He usually passes them and is lauded by SpaceCom leaders for being cool as a cucumber (“is it true your heart rate has never gone above 80 bpm?!”), but he immediately fails this one and is told to go to a chill-out room before he can go back to Earth.
This is not a holodeck—there are projectors putting soothing images on the walls.
Ruth Negga shows back up and starts asking Brad Pitt questions about the mission, but Brad Pitt is all like, “that’s on a need-to-know basis lady!” But then she tells him that the ship that brought him to Mars has asked her to supply them for a deep space search and destroy mission, including nuclear warheads. She tells Brad Pitt she knows who his daddy is and that her parents were on the same mission as him and she shows him a video he’s never seen. Turns out, after they got to Neptune, a bunch of people including her parents freaked the fuck out and wanted to go back to Earth, but Tommy Lee Jones was all, “the exploration must continue no matter the cost!” and killed them.
SpaceCom knew all this, but they didn’t want the mission to be seen as a failure so they made him a hero instead. Ok, SpaceCom. Based on this new information about his daddy, Brad Pitt decides he must go on the trip to Neptune, and asks Ruth Negga for her help in getting onto the ship. She has plans for the launch site so she can show him how to sneak onto the ship, and an enclosed Martian rover. Surely the rover dudes on the moon would’ve appreciated this model’s nominal protection from moon pirates.
Since Brad Pitt has to sneak back onto the ship, he goes down this space manhole which leads to some kind of underground tunnel full of water, which he can navigate no problem because he has the plans from Ruth Negga, and a space suit, which is also waterproof, and there’s some cable running through the water, so he just pulls himself along the cable til he gets to the rocket launchpad. Score!
Brad Pitt sneaks past the rocket engines and up into the ship just before they fire. The crew of the ship hears an alarm from him opening the door, then sees it’s him. They ask SpaceCom what to do, and get orders to kill Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt keeps trying to say “I’m not hostile! I mean you no harm! I come in peace!” But orders are orders. Then these things happen:
- The first officer who is now the pilot after the captain’s demise shoots at Brad Pitt. Because you really want to be shooting up the inside of a fragile-ass spaceship before setting off on a journey from Mars to Neptune.
- The copilot lady and one other random dude un-buckle themselves to float their way over to Brad Pitt and fight with him. The pilot yells that the engines are about to fire, and the momentum from the launch throws them backwards, where the copilot lady’s face promptly smashes into a window which kills her, and the camera can conveniently linger on her smashed face through the cracked window.
- The other dude grabs a screwdriver off the wall and tries to stab Brad Pitt with it. Brad Pitt starts fighting him off and stabs this dude in the leg with the screwdriver.
- The pilot keeps fucking shooting and hits a fire extinguisher-like canister that starts leaking fumes into the cabin. Except it’s not a fire extinguisher, it’s some kind of toxic chemical. Brad Pitt still has his spacesuit on so the fumes don’t get to him, and he yells for the dudes to get oxygen. But the screwdriver guy dies. Brad Pitt floats back up to the pilot and puts an oxygen mask on him, which extends his life for another few seconds, and then his ass dies too.
Brad Pitt sends a message back to SpaceCom, sorry about sneaking onto the ship, I didn’t want to hurt anybody, but now, “due to my actions, the crew are all deceased.” Then he blows their bodies out into space.
From here, Brad Pitt goes on to Neptune, on a journey we’re told will take 79 days. He ruminates about his daddy issues (he killed people because he wanted to, I killed people by meeting them and leading them into unfortunate circumstances, wahhh), and eats with a feeding tube in his belly, and has his muscles stimulated with electrodes to keep them from atrophying, and watches old video messages from his ex-wife Liv Tyler who left him because he was too emotionally distant, and generally does not enjoy himself.
Some stuff happens after this, and apparently he does in fact make it to Neptune and meet his dad, but this is the second time I gave up on the movie. Because it was just fucking bad and not enhancing my chill in any way whatsoever. There were probably a good 45-60 minutes left at this point and I just couldn’t take it anymore.
It may sound from reading my description that this is actually kind of an absurd, entertaining movie. But the stuff I described took up like 2/3 of the movie. There was a ton of waiting around listening to Brad Pitt give voiceovers about his feelings in between each absurd moment I described here. The pace was slow as all hell.
What a piece of shit movie. Blech. Thankfully, I only wasted my time in watching it for the low low price of zero dollars. I wouldn’t pay a penny more than that.