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Ad Astra (2019)

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Reggie W, Jul 31, 2018.

  1. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Lead Actor

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    ^^^ no no that sounds like me! i'm excited more!
     
  2. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    Another huge divide between critics and audiences, apparently. At RT, overall score is 81%, but the audience score is only 47%. Cinemascore is B-.
     
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  3. usrunnr

    usrunnr Writer

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    "
     
  4. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    Wonderful film, really enjoyed it. I would recommend getting to a theater to see it, IMAX if you have the chance. The visuals are gorgeous. The acting is excellent. Pitt's character is very shut-off to the world and very tightly wrapped but he does an outstanding job with this. They did take the structure of Apocalypse Now and set it in space. So, it has that same deal with the narration from the main character as he encounters odd characters and places in a series of episodes as he draws closer to his ultimate goal.

    It's typical of what Gray seems to like to do, which is to take a character with a deep internal conflict and then place him in an environment where there is external conflict.

    So, this is not so much a "space film" as a specific type of story that happens to be set in space. Basically, a road movie about self-discovery mixed with elements of Joseph Conrad. A mythic journey.

    Typically, a lot of people will not get into a picture like this but there will be folks, like me, that really love it.

    If you are going into it thinking this is some sort of hard science picture, it is not. I think it is a mistake for people to interpret it that way. The science here is just used to create an air of authenticity and setting for the tale being told...but the tale is the thing here. I don't believe any of the influences here are from recent science fiction tales.

    You will certainly be reminded of other films, Apocalypse Now being the primary, but there is some Kubrick in there visually, and yes, a bit of Tarkovsky.
     
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  5. bujaki

    bujaki Producer

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    In Reggie I Trust.
     
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  6. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This appears to be one of those movies that you either love it or hate it. I might still see it, but I'm not in a hurry to make that 130 mile round trip to the nearest Dolby Cinema theater.
     
  7. Josh Dial

    Josh Dial Producer

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    I thought the movie was terrible. It's what a dumb movie maker thinks a smart movie looks like.

    In virtually every scene you could say, "it's like that sequence in [insert a good film like Contact, Blade Runner, Interstellar, Moon, or The Martian], but bad."

    Many shots try to be beautiful, but somehow manage to look pedestrian. Again, it's like someone was watching Interstellar or Blade Runner 2049 or Gravity or First Man and thought "hey I can do that!" They could not.

    There is nothing deep here: no meaningful commentary on the human existence (though it thinks there is), no attempt to challenge the audience intellectually (thought it thinks it does).
     
  8. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

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    Harsh crowd!

    I didn't love it but I thought it was consistently compelling, if a bit confusing at times - mainly related to the science of the whole thing. It makes space travel awfully fast!

    100% agree with the "Apocalypse Now" comparisons - I saw that pretty early in the movie, though the Pitt character is going to save/redeem his father, not kill him ala Colonel Willard.

    It's clearly meant to be more of a spiritual journey, about the Pitt character reconciling all the choices he's made with his father's distant influence. Does it succeed in all those ways? No, but these give it a more introspective feel.

    And I'm not entirely convinced
    that much of it's not the Pitt character's dream or some dying fantasy. At some point, elements make less and less sense, and as noted by others, the character survives an awful lot of situations that should kill him.

    The filmmakers aren't idiots. They had to understand the absurdity of so much of what they depicted, and I think there's a strong chance we're not meant to take much of it literally.

    That's something I'll attend to more closely when I see it again on BD. Maybe I'm giving the movie depth that it doesn't deserve!
     
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  9. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

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    I actually don't think the filmmakers were aiming for the intellectual bent that gets faulted here and by others.

    I think this is a 99% emotional journey and not one that aims to go for that Big Brain on Brad thing at all.

    It's a man coming to terms with his father's abandonment and legacy while he tries to redeem - and save the day.

    I don't see indications that the filmmakers felt they were making an "intellectual movie" at all - I don't think they tried to do that.

    And I don't think they really shot for a grand statement about human existence. I think it's a personal story shot on a grand scale, not one meant to be a Big 'n' Meaningful!
     
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  10. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    130 miles is a long trip. I guess this is a love it or hate it picture but all I have really encountered after seeing it is glowing reviews and that Pitt will be nominated for this. It seems on this page people mostly don't like it but so far they don't seem to be elaborating as to what sections of the film or what about it they don't like. I sort of feel that maybe people went into it thinking that it would be like 2001 or similar to that and really other than visuals it is not. Every aspect of the photography and sets and costumes is wonderful. Kubrick in 2001 does not use his characters to explain to you what is happening. This film takes the opposite approach in that we get the main characters thoughts as narration. So, yes, like Apocalypse Now. Gray wants you to understand the inner conflict and motivations of his main character and we see the events in the film through his eyes.

    I loved it but I went in having seen Gray's other work. This is similar to The Lost City of Z in several ways even in how the main characters have this obsession with going places and doing things that may kill them. I mean, I like that you get a lot of the motivation for why Pitt's character does what he does. That brings you closer to the character and understanding him, at least that's how it worked for me.

    You will have to judge the film yourself, Robert, but having read a bit of what you like on these message boards I think it is possible you will like it. Gray does set things up a bit like a Western as well, which is sort of an old approach to films set in space but interestingly it always seems to work. Pitt's main character is also sort of Hawksian in that he is a total professional in everything he does and he is a man of few words.
     
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  11. Message #71 of 128 Sep 22, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
    Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    Well, I am not sure where you are coming from with this, Josh. The film does have a sort of simple idea that runs throughout the picture and is expressed right up until the end. Like a lot of good or classic films the central idea is not complex and is meant to be easy for the audience to grasp. He does even have his main character say it.

    What we are looking at the entire time and is expressed over and over in the picture by Pitt's Roy McBride is the concept of human connection. That's what the film is all about. The entire story is structured around his lack of human connection which it ties to his relationship with his father. Once we meet his father it becomes quite obvious what Roy has inherited from dad. His father traveled all the way to the edge of the solar system attempting to connect with some alien intelligence while at the same time, human connection, even with his son, was completely alien to Clifford McBride. Roy actually states that his dad has found an answer...our connections to our fellow humans, are all we have.

    I think the concept is quite relevant to the world we live in today as technology does seem to be a tool that pushes us further apart as human beings.
     
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  12. Message #72 of 128 Sep 22, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
    Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    Yes, I have only seen the film once but I believe the computer states that the trip from Mars to his father's location is going to take a bit over 79 days. I don't think that's a particularly important point but it is stated in the film for a reason.

    Obviously, the film is attempting to portray this epic journey but movie theaters get a bit miffed about films over 2 hours and as Sam stated earlier here this may have been a picture that was intended at one point to run longer but had to be condensed.

    I have no issues with the science here as it is clearly secondary to the character study aspects of the film. With that intent made clear I try to evaluate films for what they are, not what they are not. This deeply internal journey for the Pitt character happens to take place in space. I do wonder a bit if Gray decided to set his character study in space because character study pictures are no longer popular and having the story take place in this setting he thought might make it more acceptable to today's audiences. Just a thought.

    Yes, Gray is very upfront about the Apocalypse Now connection and yes, I really feel when creating the story they just took the structure entirely and that was their outline. Then they just developed the scenes to flow with the ideas they wanted to express. I thought that was pretty cool as nobody has taken Apocalypse Now and set it in space until this film. Obviously, the two films are not exploring the same ideas but in terms of structure, yeah, it is quite obvious. Hey, who doesn't love some Conrad.

    I would say through most of the picture it is unclear what Pitt will do as he has to grapple with the idea of killing his father right from the briefing scene (also taken from Apocalypse) because they layout that his dad may be the cause of the dangerous "surge." In the end he does kill him/let's him die when he pushes him away and allows him to float off to meet his end. So, basically, yes he kills him.

    Well, there is a very simple idea being expressed...

    Which is that Pitt's Roy has to travel all the way to the edge of the solar system to come to the conclusion that he does not want to be his father and he wants to connect with his fellow human beings. They really tie this whole thing up with a bow as they begin the story with Roy not even wanting to be touched by his fellow human beings and end with him saying our connections with other humans are all we have and obviously wanting to go back to earth to begin doing this. Particularly with his wife but when he finally lands back on earth and the capsule door opens and we see the hand reach in to help him out, and Roy looks like he is tearing up...well...it is blazingly obvious the transformation Roy has gone through and now he wants that "human touch."
     
  13. Message #73 of 128 Sep 22, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
    Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    This is very interesting as I also felt...

    the film has a very dream like quality, though I don't think it is meant to be a dream. I do think what we see is meant to have happened and that it is all about how Roy transforms from a man that says at the beginning of the film he does not even want people to touch him to a man that craves that human touch. I think it seems so dreamy because we are allowed so deeply into Roy's head through the narration and it is this wonderful series of flowing gorgeous images.
     
  14. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    I agree, it is clearly an emotional journey for Roy McBride. I also don't believe the filmmakers are trying to take people on some deep intellectual head trip. I find these criticisms odd in that I never felt the picture was doing that. This is typical in a James Gray film, he tends to delve into his characters emotional turmoil.

    I feel that the best "space" movies are often some other kind of film with space being the setting. Alien is really a monster movie or haunted house picture set in space. Aliens is an action film set in space. Star Wars is a fantasy film set in space.
    Gravity is a survival movie/thriller set in space.

    This film is a basically a road movie/emotional drama set in space.
     
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  15. Josh Dial

    Josh Dial Producer

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    Well, that is part of my issue with the movie: is there a single idea or theme that isn't literally stated by one of characters? If at any time you are wondering what to think, don't worry! Brad Pitt will tell you in the very next scene.

    Nothing--and I mean nothing--has an emotional impact because we are simply told (never shown, never left to internalize and discover) what to feel. You write in post 74 that the movie is an emotional journey for Roy McBride. That may be. But it's unengaging when we're not permitted to engage, and the journey is ultimately worthless when Roy (and his father) tells us what the journey was and what the journey meant.

    In the end, the constant explanation (frequently and pretentiously masked as voiceover) means that very little matters. We're told--never shown--the dramatic question, and the characters literally speak the answers to those questions.

    What's left doesn't much matter, either. Most of the action sequences are either rendered meaningless by later plot developments, or never meant anything in the first place. We visit the Moon and we see a bit of world building--there's a Subway restaurant and a Vegas cowboy neon sign--but then immediately through voice over were told how human has ruined yet another frontier. We get it, thanks. And when I say immediately I mean it: I think less than five seconds goes by after we see the Subway sign and hear about Brad Pitt explain how his father would be disappointed in humanity.

    Anyway, back to meaningless set pieces. We have a pretty nice "Moon pirate" chase scene, but the only point here is to a) show that the Moon is a rough place (and least credit is due to trying to show us this--although the movie repeatedly told us it just in case we didn't understand), and, b) remove Donald Sutherland's character from the narrative and have him reveal to Brad Pitt's character that his father may be a traitor. Unfortunately, this entire scene's worth is diminished because Brad Pitt's character is told the exact same information later on Mars. So one of those scenes is useless.

    Oh, and we're told what to feel about the soldier's death in the Moon pirate scene because the camera lingers on the family photo in a trope that belongs on the worst of network tv.

    The mayday sequence is also mostly useless. It doesn't (really) world build, it doesn't character build, the captain's death doesn't matter (Brad Pitt's landing doesn't do any work to the overall plot), and the first officer taking over never matters either. The most you can say is that we learn that Brad Pitt's character isn't really emotionally affected by any of this because he still passes his psych test. However, that's pre-dimished by the General telling the audience at minute 15 that Brad Pitt's character is stoic and unflappable.

    Lastly, there's the "ultimate" message of the film: we're all that's out there and we're all that we've got. Whatever power is in that message (and the journey to get there) is erased when the main character of a movie literally says it out loud in one of the final scenes. See, for example, the "happy ending" theatrical version of Blade Runner.

    Whether it's trying to be a grand sci-fi film, like many posters have said, or whether it's trying to be road movie/emotional journey set in space like Reggie says, the film is undeniably using the visual language of a film that ask its audience to pay attention. In other words, the movie looks and feels like a movie that will demand from its audience their undivided attention, and reward them with something thought-provoking and satisfying.

    It accomplishes none of this.
     
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  16. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    First, thanks for the thoughtful response. I enjoyed reading what you had to say and I really liked that you got specific. I also can't argue with the idea that you are lobbying for intelligent filmmaking. I think open ended and ambiguous are not welcome things today in motion pictures.

    I think this is a valid criticism and a danger of doing a picture with a lot of voiceover. Here's a difference between Apocalypse Now and Ad Astra in their use of voiceover, Apocalypse has Willard talking primarily about his mission, his encounters with people like Kilgore, and of course the man he is heading upriver to find, Kurtz. In Ad Astra Roy McBride is mainly talking about himself. His state of mind, what he feels, his life. Big difference and in doing that does he tell you too much about what is happening? I think you could say he does. Pitt's acting in the film is quite good and I'm not really a big fan of his acting most of the time. Could they have relied on his acting instead of telling us what he is feeling and thinking all the time, absolutely.

    So, why do they do this?

    There are rumors that when they read the initial script they did not like it and wanted both more action and more explanation inserted into the film. There are even some rumors that Gray did not shoot some of this and they had his second unit shoot it. I don't know if any of that is true but I would not argue with the idea that they always leave no doubt about what is happening in the film.

    Mark Kermode said in his review that the film seems to always be struggling to be two things at once, an intelligent and serious "art house" type of picture and a simplistic crowd-pleaser at the same time. So, every time they feel they think they have gone on too long with Pitt and his angst over humanity or his dad or his wife or whatever...well, then they slip in one of those action or creepy set pieces.

    Is the film compromised by trying to be both of these things? Perhaps but that may depend on the viewer. This picture largely depends on how you feel about Roy McBride. I think if you are not at all engaged by him and his emotional journey, then this picture could be a dud for you since that character is basically the entire focus.

    I do think you are right, they try to make this really easy on the audience through having McBride telling us exactly what is happening with him the entire time. It did not ruin the experience for me though.

    My biggest issue with the film was this...

    The multiple endings deal. I feel like they do this more and more these days. When Roy finally finds his father they could have ended it there. They could have ended with the moment he asks if it is worth going on after he lets his dad go so he can die in space. But no, then we get the journey back to Earth and it could have ended when the guy reaches into the capsule to help Roy out...but no, we get yet another ending with Roy sitting in a bar as his wife walks in. That was certainly pushing it way too far and as you point out I think it was done to bash us in the face with the message that Roy has changed his feelings about human contact...which again you are correct he states back in the part where he finds his dad alone on his ship.
     
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  17. Jake Lipson

    Jake Lipson Lead Actor

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    Well, I'm back from this and loved it.

    I'll come back to read the thread closely and respond in more detail a bit later when I have more time -- but wow -- I thought it was absolutely great. I'm definitely glad I saw it in the large format Cinemark XD room, where it looked and sounded spectacular.

    Also, the Tenant trailer (which hasn't been officially released online) played with it, which was a nice surprise bonus.
     
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  18. Message #78 of 128 Sep 23, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
    Reggie W

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    So, going a bit deeper into your specifics...

    This I just don't agree with because who is to say what impacts an audience member's personal experience and what doesn't. It's like going to a horror film and saying "Well, that didn't scare me." or to a comedy and saying "Well, that didn't make me laugh."

    In either case that is fine and makes sense for you but what impacts people on an emotional level, or frightens them, or makes them laugh is not the same. So, I respect the idea that this did not work for you on an emotional level but as a blanket statement about the film I don't think this works.

    I also feel that some people may be taking the way McBride is and his emotional distance from people as an attempt to be "pretentious" but it is not at all...it is shown to be a flaw or something he must overcome in his character. I also think it is meant to be in the style of the mythic way men are portrayed in a Western, meaning one very competent man alone against great odds but determined to see his task to the end.

    I am not really sure what you mean by this. Why would you say that the voiceover is pretentious? The voiceover is certainly not pretentious but as you allude to, it probably is a little too on the nose. I kind of wonder if this was done to appease the people paying for the picture because it seems to be done so the audience never gets lost or wonders what is happening. I mean it is also done to tell us a lot about Roy and hence develop who the character is. I also think it is done to show at the beginning of the picture Roy is, as you say, quite stoic but as the journey continues he begins to unravel going deeper into the emotions he is feeling which he has always been able to set aside.

    Well, I don't agree that that they are rendered meaningless. The primary purpose of those scenes is to show that Roy is quite competent at what he does. That he is better at it than others. Where many men would end up dead, Roy is capable of staying calm and handling the situation. It's the Hawksian hero at work in space.

    A funny retort to that would be...

    Yes, well Howard Hawks would not give John Wayne 45 minutes of voiceover in one of his pictures. Which is true and it is hilarious to think of Wayne doing voiceover about how his character feels in Rio Bravo, but you have to consider this is that stoic Western hero crossed with Willard from Apocalypse Now.

    I can get into the set pieces because I think that is pretty interesting stuff for several reasons but you probably should have spoiler covered those remarks as you are giving away key things about the film in your post.
     
  19. Randy_M

    Randy_M Supporting Actor

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    Just returned from seeing this. Now, I usually really look forward to this type of film. As is happens, all four of us in our group couldn't wait for it to end - it's a couple of hours out of my life I wish I could get back.
     
  20. Joe Wong

    Joe Wong Supporting Actor

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    Anyone notice this is almost a mini-reunion of Space Cowboys' actors? When I saw Jones and Sutherland in the trailer, I thought there's some coincidental intent, but then another actor from that 2000 film shows up during the film!
     
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