Ad Astra Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: Brad Pitt’s acting; a generally realistic demonstration of space flight; good cinematography and good special effects Cons: Very slow pace and overall length of the picture; the film only briefly touches on the interesting aspects of space exploration; some episodes of the film grossly violate the laws of physics and logic Ad Astra / “To the Stars”

Genre fiction
Director James Gray
Starring: Brad Pitt (Roy McBride), Tommy Lee Jones (Clifford McBride), Ruth Negga (Helen Lantos), Liv Tyler (Eve McBride), Donald Sutherland (Colonel Pruitt), etc.
Студии 20th Century Fox, Plan B Entertainment
Year of release 2019
IMDb website

The main thing is on Earth. The main thing always remains on Earth…
“Trainees”, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Critics greeted Ad Astra warmly, noting the undeniably strong acting work of Brad Pitt and calling the role of Major Roy McBride almost the best of his career. The film is being promoted by NASA itself, praising the realism of the space technologies shown in the film. You can agree with both the first and second statements, but with a lot of reservations, which ultimately nullify all compliments.

So, after a series of devastating disasters on Earth and other planets in the solar system, the US Space Command sends Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) on a mission to Neptune, where the ship of his father, the legendary astronaut Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), who disappeared many years ago, may be located. . Experts suggest that the cause of disasters that threaten life on Earth is the ship of McBride Sr. Roy, who has very complex feelings for his father, goes first to the Moon, then to Mars, and then to Neptune, as it turns out, only to realize at the end of a long and difficult journey that the main thing is not at all in space, the main thing he forgot on the ground.


Ad Astra is a film about loneliness. And not even about the loneliness of an astronaut in deep space, which is only a metaphor here. A film about the loneliness of a person in a crowd, about the loneliness of someone who sacrificed everything to work, to achieve a goal. In this regard, the picture has something in common with First Man by Damien Chazelle.

In general, in Ad Astra there are so many quotes from other films, sometimes frankly direct, that it seems as if the film does not have its own face. The opening scene is pure Gravity. The flight to Neptune and the meticulousness in demonstrating realistic space technologies are reminiscent of the Europa Report. The flight to the Moon on a scheduled ship is an almost frame-by-frame quote from a similar flight in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the only thing missing is symphonic music. In general, with its leisurely pace and self-absorption of the character, Ad Astra is very close to the famous Kubrick film, it seems that James Gray (The Lost City of Z, The Immigrant) wanted to make his own version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, mixed with the classic “Odyssey” Homer. The hero goes far, far from home to understand that Penelope is most important to him. How unusual this is!


Moreover, Major McBride’s journey does quote Homer’s Odyssey. The brave major overcomes the space between space islands, fights powerful opponents, loses comrades, runs away from strict guards, and faces his own fears. It is interesting that many episodes of this journey touch on really interesting problems of space exploration, but the authors touch on them only in passing, without delving into the details, and this is very disappointing. After all, we would be really interested to know why the war started on the Moon and what is happening in the gray zone. Take a closer look at the lunar spaceport. Discuss the problem of illegal medical experiments outside the jurisdiction of the Earth. To understand how a Martian colony lives… Alas, in Ad Astra this is just a background to show the emotional tossing of the main character.

Yes, Brad Pitt gives a truly impressive performance in Ad Astra, especially considering that his character is a man of few words and spends a lot of time alone. However, the actor plays most of the film with the same facial expression, and the depth of the hero’s experiences is conveyed mainly through static close-ups.


As for the realistic demonstration of space technology, there are also questions about it. Yes, flights to the Moon, Mars and Neptune, as well as the insides of ships and stations, are shown very realistically, with an emphasis on technologies available today or in development. But the traditional cinematic ignorance of signal time delays, the very controversial maneuvering of ships in interplanetary orbits and, of course, the final jump through the ring of Neptune, completely neutralize the realism of the technology demonstrated in the film. Jumping through a ring is generally something beyond good and evil; even Armageddon (1998) did not stoop to this in its time.

Ad Astra is hard to watch – it is very leisurely, dreary, literally exhausting the viewer. And most importantly, after the end of the session, all that will remain in your memory is Brad Pitt’s hazy, self-absorbed gaze, a $150 blanket, a lunar rover race and a blurry silhouette of Liv Tyler (saying hello to Armageddon) in the background. Family is the main thing, loneliness is scary. Thank you, Major Obvious!


Space fiction, where a fantastic setting is just a background for talking about loneliness

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top