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MOVIE REVIEW

Ad Astra

also known as “Ad Astra - Út a csillagokba,” “Ad Astra: Hacia Las Estrellas,” “Ad Astra: Zu den Sternen,” “Giai Ma Bi An Ngan Ha,” “Ka Zvezdama,” “Tähtede poole,” «Yildizlara Dogru,” “До зiрок», «К звёздам», «Към звездите»
MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for some violence and bloody images, and for brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Sci-Fi Adventure Mystery Thriller
Length:
2 hr. 2 min.
Year of Release:
2019
USA Release:
September 20, 2019 (wide—3,400+ theaters)
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company

Self-sacrifice

Veneration / idolizing a parent

Following in the footsteps of one’s father

Son looking for missing father

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company

Fearing one’s father

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company

Father who cares nothing about his wife and son

Son’s feelings of abandonment and anger

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company

Difficulties for astronauts in exploration of outer space

Attempts to find signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe

What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer

Are we alone in the universe? Answer

Does Scripture refer to life in space? Answer

Astronomy in the Bible

Astronomy FAQs

ASTRONOMY—Can astronomy lead a person to God? Answer

STARDUST—Are humans made of stardust? Answer

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company

Roy’s comment, “We go to work, we do our jobs, and then it's over”

How can we know there’s a God? Answer

What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer

If God made everything, who made God? Answer

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company
Featuring: Brad PittMajor Roy McBride
Tommy Lee JonesClifford McBride
Liv TylerEve McBride
Ruth NeggaHelen Lantos
Donald SutherlandColonel Pruitt
Anne McDanielsShunga Hologram
John OrtizGeneral Rivas
Kimberly EliseLorraine Deavers
Greg Bryk … Chip Garnes
Loren Dean … Donald Stanford
Halszka Kuza … Dancer
John Finn … Stroud
See all »
Director: James Gray
Producer: New Regency Pictures
Bona Film Group [China]
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Trademark logo.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company

The title is Latin for “to the stars.” In addition, ad astra is often used as a shorthand for the Latin phrase per aspera ad astra, meaning “through hardships to the stars.”

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company

Major Roy McBride has served as one of the finest astronauts in the United States Space Command for many, many years, having followed in the footsteps of his famous, yet claimed to be deceased, astronaut, Clifford McBride. Roy’s commendations and attention to detail, while his ability to remain calm under any stressful situation (no, seriously, he can actually control his pulse and blood pressure to pass his mandatory psychological evaluations), are what are about to assign him one of the most dangerous, and, for him, one of the most personal missions of his entire profession: the search and rescue of his father, Clifford, who is actually presumed by the Space Command to be alive and living on Neptune.

Now why would the Space Command be so invested in the rescue of Clifford, since he’s been assumed dead for 29 years? Is this really coming from a sense of “morality” that Space Command wants to bring Clifford home? Well…… no. You see, there have been power surges occurring all over the planet. These, supposedly, are being caused by electric beams (?) being shot into space toward Earth stemming all the way from Neptune, where Clifford supposedly lives after the failure of his team’s project, the Lima Project.

Roy’s REAL mission? Well, sure, it’s to go find his father and bring him home, but the more pressing matter is to stop the surges stemming from the Lima Base on Neptune where Clifford is residing. But the past does NOT always stay in the past, and Roy will have to face his past… one way or the other.

One word comes to my mind when I think about how someone should approach a film like “Ad Astra,” and that is “patiently.” I say this because with a run time of over two hours and only moderate amounts of action, you will need to forgive the film for some of its pacing at times.

However, what the film suffers from with regards to pacing (and even then this only occurs every so often), it makes up for ten-fold in a spectacular display of visual effects of space and God’s creation, with not a single detail out a place (there is a prolonged shot of Neptune’s rings, as Roy approaches Neptune, that is just breathtaking).

Additionally, the performance of Brad Pitt is to be commended for his depiction of the psychological restraints the character places on himself and his past interactions with his father, and the emotional difficulty in his going through with the mission when his head says yes, but his heart says no. To divulge anything more about the plot would only spoil the film for you.

Content of Concern

Violence: Moderately Heavy to Very Heavy—and most of it unnecessary. Explosions and astronauts falling to their death. An astronaut free falls from space, then parachutes and hits the ground hard. There is a space rover battle, where astronauts are shot and killed with blasters. An animal attacks a human. We see the bloodied, deceased, clawed face and hands of its previous victim. A monkey is killed; its body explodes resulting in visible gore and blood. There is a perilous spaceship landing. A character admits that he killed people, both the innocent and guilty together. A person cracks their skull against a spaceship door; we see accompanying blood. Astronauts fight inside an airlock. Human corpses are seen floating inside a ship, amidst blood on the walls. Another character is killed. There is a nuclear explosion.

Profanity: Moderately Heavy— • J*sus Chr*st (1) • G*d-d*mn (3) • H*ll (2) • heck (1)

Vulgarity: Moderate— • F**k (1) and two obscene gestures • Sh*t (1) • son of a b*tch (1) • s*cks (1)

Sexual Content: Minor. There is no nudity other than seeing Brad Pitt shirtless, and no actual sexual content. We do see a man and wife together in bed, but they are both clothed.

Drugs: Some astronauts are seen taking drugs to pass the time on their long journey.

Other: On a positive note, a character is seen praying at times. God is referenced in a positive manner in a couple instances, with even the main character, Roy, stating his belief in God.

Morals

One of the central issues Roy faces in the film, other than having to face the danger of stopping the surges that are stemming from Neptune, is having to confront his father, having not seen him in over 20 years (remember, his father was presumed to be dead and so Roy grew up without a father to care for him).

I can’t help but be reminded of the important roles the Bible has laid out for Earthly fathers and their vital significance in raising children in the Lord.

“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” —Genesis 18:19

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. —Proverbs 22:6

Likewise, it is important that we honor and cherish our parents, as Christ has commanded us to do, not simply because there is a promise attached to it, but because of how God will direct our parents in raising us to become faithful and loved children and servants of the Lord.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. —Ephesians 6:1-4

Closing Thoughts

I’m really pondering as to whether or not to recommend “Ad Astra” for Christian viewing. The film is a cinematic beauty, and while there are some heavy moments of violence to contend with, these don’t occur very often throughout the film (only here and there), and the profanity and vulgarity (which honestly wasn’t necessary) is limited to what I mentioned above.

However, as a reviewer, I have to make a judgment based all that is presented, and with its negative content in place, sadly, the violence and language are enough for me to not recommend this film for viewing by Christian audiences (although it may be cleaner than most films that are currently in theaters right now).

  • Violence: Moderately Heavy to Very Heavy
  • Profane language: Moderately Heavy
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Moderately Heavy
  • Nudity: None
  • Sex: Minor
  • Occult: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—As a sci-fi lover, meaning science should be one of the foundations of a sci-fi movie, this one fails. The reason for the danger to Earth is never really explained. Secondly, there are many holes in the plot. It wasn’t worth the time and money. If, however, you can enjoy space movies with holes in the plot as big as Neptune itself (yes, Neptune does have rings) and don’t care about a 2-hour plodding movie, maybe you’ll enjoy the views of outer space, they are pretty impressive.

I think the reviewer needs to rethink a phrase in his review, though. Comparing this movie’s violence to worse violence in others is not really the right way to view violence. You cannot use relativism to justify opinions. Doing so implies that everyone’s viewpoint is valid. There is an especially disturbing scene involving the death of one of the astronauts. I regret that such horror is deemed just fine by the MPAA for children. The violence and swearing should have earned this an R.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Robert, age 70 (USA)
Negative—An Atheists Pilgrim’s Progress In Space

I think the reviewer missed the point of the movie. It’s an allegory for atheism, and up until the end, the connection to “Pilgrim’s Progress” is rather striking.

Bradd Pitt’s character is lost; his wife has left him and he’s unemotional. Suddenly, however, there is a message from his father, Tommy Lee Jones. He’s alone on a space station out near Neptune and has the power to destroy the Earth. In other words, he is a God-like figure, who is out in space (heaven) and is extremely powerful.

Pitt sets out on a journey to seek his father (God) and goes through numerous trials on his way. There are attacks by evil men, a friend accompanies him partway but can’t finish, and there are good-intentioned people who attempt to stop him that he must overcome.

He finally makes it to his father, and this is where the connection to Pilgrims Progress flips. Instead of reaching his goal and finding the father he’s always wanted (finding God), he finds a feeble old man who is responsible for killing people and is very likely deranged. Jones then informs Pitt that Humans are alone in the Universe and the only thing they have is each other.

Pitt decides to destroy the space station (to destroy heaven?) and bring back his father. Once they are out in space, however, Jones decides to commit suicide by drifting off into space. Pitt goes after him, which leads to a scene very reminiscent of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. That’s the image where God and Adam are about to touch fingers. However, in this allegory, Pitt reaches out to Jones to try and save him, but Jones tells him he must let him go (he must let “God” go). Jones then drifts off into space until he disappears.

At the end of the movie, Pitt has returned home and is a changed man.

As a result of his journey, and letting his father go (letting “God” go) he’s now prepared to seek a relationship with his wife again. And in a voice-over from Pitt, he has reached the conclusion that other people are really all we have. And the movie ends implying that really there is nothing else anywhere in the Universe.

To put this succinctly, this is an allegory in favor of atheism dressed up as a space movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Bob, age 59 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Secular Movie Critics
…moody, meditative, and slow (though not the knife fight or rover demolition derby)…
Mark Feeney, The Boston Globe
…You can’t really out-Kubrick Kubrick, but director James Gray gives it a shot with the trippily unnerving “Ad Astra” …there’s…a “2001”-ish dread to “Ad Astra,” a creep-show quality that arises not just from the eeriness of events, but from having the human being’s place in the cosmos rendered so insignificant, and solitary…
John Anderson, The Wall Street Journal
…Of recent films, Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” is the best comparison. “Ad Astra” isn’t quite as strong but it’s in the same ballpark. …
James Berardinelli, ReelViews
…an extraordinary picture, steely and unbending and assembled with an unmistakable air of wild-eyed zealotry…
Xan Brooks, The Guardian
…You leave “Ad Astra” feeling dazzled and befuddled, moved and frustrated…
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
…It doesn’t make us care what happens, and I, for one, don’t care to see it again. …
Roger Moore, Movie Nation
…visually breathtaking, emotionally inert drama…
Caroline Siede, The Verge
…liable to leave you awed, confused, and sad…
Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
…Scenes come and go with a weightlessness that has nothing to do with zero gravity. …
John Bleasdale, Cinevue
…primarily, a father/son parable of betrayal, confrontation and forgiveness. …
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
…it's got about as much to say about family, attachment, and belonging as a “Fast and Furious” flick…
Richard Whittaker, The Austin Chronicle
…While visually and aurally stunning, James Gray’s latest film doesn’t explore anything new. …
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
…An odd combination of space adventure, psychological thriller and moody tone poem…
Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times