Kinda, sorta, simply Apocalypse Now-In-Space.
I finally hit middle-aged-white-men-story fatigue with this one.
Let me be clear: it’s no fault of Ad Astra‘s. It’s not because this film is in any ways bad, toxic or negative – far from it: Ad Astra visually striking and languidly introspective (the scene Brad Pitt‘s astronaut shares with Ruth Negga‘s space bureaucrat, from the performances to the gorgeous art direction so strikingly lit by Hoyte Van Hoytema, is hypnotically psychedelic without anyone or anything actually moving).
But ultimately, Ad Astra is, kinda, sorta, simply Apocalypse Now-In-Space: a man’s literal journey into his metaphorical heart of darkness, to confront a father figure literally and his own stunted emotions metaphorically. It’s tasteful, subdued (occasionally a little too much so), and not at all surprising.
Ad Astra does exactly what it announces it will do, takes as long to get there as Apocalypse Now (minus the teetering, unhinged, the-wheels-may-come-off-at-any-moment tension), and does so with inner monologue narration as redundant as the original Blade Runner. It shows and tells nothing new or particularly compelling, even if it does so better than most examples of this kind of film.
I swear I did not see The Royal Ocean Film Society‘s video on Ad Astra before coming up with the “Apocalypse Now-In-Space” line – and really, their video isn’t actually about that, but rather about the cycle of misleading marketing and poorly-received “Sadstronaut” films: