Needs more murderous space monkeys

See this photo? That’s the whole movie.

The movie playing in Morris this week is Ad Astra, so I went to see it. No, really, the reason I see a lot of bad movies is because we have one movie theater, it gets one new movie a week, and so I’ll go no matter what it is, and sometimes I’m trapped in some tepid piece of crap for a few hours, and sometimes I’m surprised with something unexpectedly enjoyable. That’s life, a throw of the dice.

This week, it was snake eyes. Ad Astra is part of this peculiar genre that has taken over “realistic” space movies: the poorly written plot that is covered over by focusing, sometimes blurrily, on a solitary sad-eyed handsome astronaut against a background of blinking lights and switches. See also First Man. See also Interstellar. This one features Brad Pitt, so if you like his looks, you will get to linger over them for long, long stretches of time while he’s acting stoic and emotionless. The camera violates his personal space nearly constantly so you can see how he doesn’t react to anything intensely.

If you don’t like staring at Brad Pitt (what’s wrong with you? He’s a very good looking man), you can stare at intricate space technology. The opening scene is of Pitt working as an astronaut, which seems to be the role of maintenance engineer, on the gigantic space antenna — it’s a huge gadget with a base on the ground and a skyward stalk stretching out into space, bristling with spiky things and girders and solar panels and semi-random girders, and Pitt is climbing down a ladder, as are many other brightly-colored space suits, to fix something or other. Then, explosions. Bodies blown out of a habitat to plummet from space to the earth. Astronauts flailing frantically in their suits as they fall. But Brad Pitt remains totally calm as he tumbles to Earth, informing Mission Control that he’s going to get his spin under control, and he does so, opening a parachute when the atmosphere is thick enough to land safely.

He then goes blank-faced into a psych eval, which he does often in the movie, talking at a computer and self-reporting that he’s fine. We learn that his heart rate never exceeds 85 beats per minute. He is the perfect space robot.

The movie then destroys itself with backstory and explanation. The giant space antenna is a colossal project dedicated to … searching for extraterrestrial intelligence? It’s a kind of techno-cult object assembled to communicate with aliens who have not been detected, but hey, cool, let’s build this immense Tower of Babel. We learn that Brad Pitt’s dad was also an astronaut who was lost decades before on a mission to Neptune, the object of which was … you guessed it, to aim telescopes and antennae outwards to search for aliens. There’s a weird obsession underlying this whole movie project.

Further, we learn that the explosion on the space antenna was caused by inexplicable “power surges” that are causing all kinds of explosions and disasters on Earth, killing tens of thousands of people, and threatening the stability of the entire solar system!!!. These mysterious space zaps are emanating from Emperor Ming the Merciless — wait, no, this isn’t Flash Gordon. It doesn’t have enough enthusiasm to be Flash. No, they come from — duh duh dunnnn — Neptune. Pitt’s dad is alive, and he is somehow using his space ship’s antimatter fuel to destabilize the solar system and fling energy surges at Earth. Why, we don’t know, and mild spoiler here — we never find out. His dad is obsessed with communicating with aliens, and how this translates into zapping Earth is never explained.

So now the plot is set up. The Space Bureaucracy is going to send unflappable Brad to Neptune to tell his dad to stop farting antimatter at the Earth, and if he won’t, to blow him up with a backpack nuke, because he’s so calm and emotionless, I guess. Off he goes on what the writers imagine would be sci-fi wet dream, lots of spaceships and zooming off to other planets. Except they’ve also got to make it “realistic”, which means “boring”, which means they’ve got to spice it up with “action”, which demolishes most of the movie’s credibility.

They go to the moon. For some reason, the they then have to drive moon buggies a long ways across the lunar surface to their next step, and they are set upon by Moon Pirates in their own moon buggies. It makes no sense, but OK.

The next step is to fly to Mars. They get in another fancy new spaceship with the usual ESS esthetic, lots of tunnel tubes and messy panels and cables and plumbing hanging out, and set course for Mars, a 17 day journey, which tells me they’re going pretty darned fast. Except there’s a mayday halfway there! They just stop to call on a mysterious derelict space ship (there is zero awareness of the problems of navigation, or fuel), and climb aboard. Murderous space monkeys! I was relieved. Finally, they had some actors who were expressing some genuine emotion, even if it was bitey clawing rage.

I think I was empathizing with the space monkeys at that point.

They get to Mars, where Brad sits in a booth to send a scripted message to his Dad on Neptune. Again, why he had to be on Mars to do that, I don’t understand. He goes off-script and gets a tiny bit emotional while sending a live message to Neptune, which pisses off the Space Bureaucracy so they tell him he’s going home and doesn’t get to go to Neptune.

So he does something perfectly normal: he drives across Mars to the launch site, swims through a huge underground Martian lake, climbs up into the rocket as it’s taking off, gets into a fight with the crew, and kills everyone. Emotionlessly. Accidentally. He didn’t mean to. They shouldn’t have come after him. I guess Brad Pitt is playing a robotic space psychopath here.

The journey to Neptune is about 6 months of Brad Pitt moping and floating in an empty spaceship growing a stubble. It’s played in real time. He finally meets his suicidally stupid dad who, like his son, had murdered the crew of his spaceship, and stupid things happen. I’ll just tell you one: to escape Dad’s ship, Brad rips off a surface panel and uses it as a shield as he jumps up through the flying rocks of Neptune’s rings, which smash into his shield and splatter, doing no damage to him or his trajectory.

God, this movie was awful, scientifically illiterate, and unforgivably tedious. And yet, it’s got so many glowing reviews! I really don’t understand that, unless maybe all the other reviewers were mesmerized by Pitt’s stony face and were so enthralled by his masculine hunkiness that all their higher brain functions were paralyzed.


  1. hemidactylus says

    You seem tersely dismissive of Interstellar. From your description of this Ad Astra, which itself is a struggle to get through, Interstellar seems much better. I mean there was the tragic separation from his aging daughter, Michael Caine not being honest about the alternatives, and the fight scene with Matt Damon. Speaking of him, The Martian sounds much better than this apparent piece of crap too.

    At least Brad Pitt doesn’t do Lincoln commercials. I’ll give him that.

  2. blf says

    The Grauniad had one of those gushing reviews, Ad Astra review — Brad Pitt on a thrilling Freudian space odyssey. Whilst I haven’t seen the movie, and have no intention of doing so, I didn’t even bother (until just now) to read the review. This is because the title and hook-line, which starts “With echoes of Apocalypse Now and 2001, James Gray’s spectacular epic […]” were flashing bright HORRIBLE with klaxons sounding. Readers’s comments contain confirmations:

    This movie is so shit it manages to make Gravity and Prometheus look profound. Yes, it’s that bad. The trailer made it look garbage but I was willing to take a punt because the audience is starved of good sci-fi movies (twice a decade these days, if we’re lucky).

    At least the power went out before it ended so everyone in the screening got a refund. Most exciting part of the whole experience, good thing I resisted walking out earlier.

    Boring, preposterous, slow, full of plot holes – don’t waste your time or money

    This film lacks the suspense of Gravity, the desperation of The Martian and the madness of Apocalypse Now. It’s also surprisingly muddled and completely non engaging. By the end we do not care about Ray, his father or what has happened at Lima. Thus the final meeting of father and son has no gravitas at all, just boredom.

    And I’m not even going into the dodgy science or plot holes here.

    sometimes dull doesn’t mean clever, patient, or profound. sometimes it just means dumb as dog shit. Ad Astra is that.

    And so on… (There are some positive comments, and also excuse-making.)

  3. says

    Interstellar has some emotion inside of it, I’ll give it that. I think most of the similarity comes from the stupid gimmickry of the plot and the idea that we’re supposed be awed by picturesque alienness.

  4. euclide says

    Went to see it friday night. Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB notes were good, I liked Brad Pitt in the latest Tarantno move, and my work allows me to buy movie tickets with a 50% discount.

    And I wish I had not spent these 5 EUR

    The Expanse and the Martian (both as books and audiovisual form) have proved you can make good fiction and don’t diregard science entierly.
    But this movie doen’t bother, and for stupid reaons

    The transit times in the movie between Earth and Mars or Mars and Neptune are consistant with constant acceleration (which would mean magic propulsion but hey, Science fiction, and they have antimater anyway)

    If you go that route in your movie, good news, you don’t have to fake 0g. Works well on The Expanse, keep the budget lower, can spend more on VFX.
    Or if you want 0g for aesthetic reaons, no problem. Just say the transit time is a lot longer, and you can film nice slingshot sequences too if you want.

    But this movie has everthing at once : 0g, no slingshot (but the ship goes near jupiter and saturn anyway) and short transit times.
    And for what gain to the movie story or aesthetic ? No idea.

    For the monkey part, same thing. It made no sense in a physical sense (you cannot stop your ship that fast without killing everybody) and it had 0 impact on the story (except killing the captain). Who were the sientists, why experimenting on monkeys, why it turned them into monsters ? Nobody cared.

  5. cartomancer says

    Pfft. Brad Pitt stopped being attractive at least 25 years ago. No number of evil space monkeys is going to change that.

  6. remyporter says

    Interstellar is yet another installment in Chris Nolan’s “if we make the details really complicated nobody will notice this movie isn’t actually saying anything interesting” series. Which is… like all of his movies. I like Memento, but it’s entirely a gimmick. Interstellar ends up coming off the worst because even when the core of the story is stupid (Prestige), it’s only Interstellar that veers off into soppy sentimentalism which makes absolutely no sense in any way.

    I’ve admittedly paid no attention to Ad Astra, because sometimes you just have a sense about how bad something’s going to be without needing any details.

    (The Martian is also bad, but like, trashy-empty bad, it’s just brain candy, goofy but valueless. The books “One Way” and “No Way” have a similar “man vs. the elements ON MARS” plot, but instead of some epic nerd hero, you’ve got a group of convicts and an evil corporation.

  7. hemidactylus says

    I’m not so invested in Interstellar being a great movie to take any offense to it being panned by others. Maybe it’s my ignorance of the technical details where it worked for me. The scene where they were like ‘Wait that’s a huge wave’ was cool along with Matt showing his Malibu surfing skills to save the day. It was a longish movie but I don’t feel those hours were stolen from me. I did watch it on TV not at the movie theater, which I do rarely anymore. There probably was nothing else on so so huge opportunity cost. I might have missed some police procedural or reality show.

  8. says

    I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about the overt religiosity: a distant and possibly non-existent Father, an only Son, an impending apocalypse, prayers and blessings in almost every scene, and one scene in particular framed to look like Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. No thank you.

  9. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Not a movie, and not 100% avoiding technology=magic, but check out Syfy series, “The Expanse”. They at least try to get most of the science plausible, and it’s a pretty good story.

  10. PaulBC says

    I read a review in Slate, and the only thing I came away with was that it had some homage to 2001 in the form of obvious product placement (Virgin Atlantic to update Pan Am shuttle). If the reviewer was aware of this, it was left unclear. Or, I guess it could be a coincidence.

    “Murdered by space monkeys is good!” as the kid says in that other movie. Or you could go old school and have a murderous AI in charge of the spaceship. Where have I seen that done?

    Crazy dad sending antimatter bursts doesn’t sound that bad, though. What you could do is go really old school have Strickfaden-style lab with large Jacob’s ladders and a pipe-organ-like setup for sending out the antimatter bursts. Sorry, I am a sucker for schlock. It’s a category sadly missing in today’s science fiction movies.

  11. hemidactylus says

    Religiosity in the movie? Not sure if it’s connected and don’t really care very much about it really, but Mehta thinks Pitt has recently thrown atheism under the bus:

    Based on quotes in Mehta’s article, in 2009 Pitt said: “I’m probably 20 per cent atheist and 80 per cent agnostic. I don’t think anyone really knows.” More recently in a GQ article that seems as much about what attire Pitt is modeling and its cost as what his current beliefs are Pitt says: “I grew up with Christianity. Always questioned it, but it worked at times. And then when I got on my own, I completely left it and I called myself agnostic. Tried a few spiritual things but didn’t feel right. Then I called myself an atheist for a while, just kind of being rebellious. I wasn’t really. But I kinda labeled myself that for a while. It felt punk rock enough. And then I found myself coming back around to just belief in — I hate to use the word spirituality, but just a belief in that we’re all connected.””

    So he’s wavered from mostly agnostic to an avowed atheist identity to thinking about connection. Mehta compares him to Marianne Williamson and a boomerang.

    Mehta didn’t quote this but Pitt continued:

    One theme in the film is that faith can often be a distraction from self, right?

    “Yeah. Escape. A looking outward instead of looking inward. Looking beyond, not seeing what’s right in front of you.”

    And maybe even deliberately using it for that purpose

    “No question. It’s more comfortable.”

    Which sounds a little critical of faith as escapism if I’m reading it correctly. Whatever Pitt is calling himself isn’t anything I am too hung up on. He seemed wishy washy to begin with, but I guess it’s a disappointment to not be able to point to a celebrity like Pitt anymore. He could be a freethinker and feel connected but hesitant of calling it spiritual. It’s entirely his prerogative.

  12. wzrd1 says

    Well, some readers here could’ve watched a real-life sitcom, the “let’s storm an old bombing range that is lousy in hazmat” event.
    Apparently, none tried, which is good. It really is an old bombing range and not all of that crap exploded. Watching that large of an asshole convention sounds infinitely more entertaining than this film does.

  13. robro says

    Mark Kermode, also in The Guardian, has a different take on the film than the Peter Bradshaw review (blf @ #4). Kermode titles his review “Brad Pitt sulks in outer space” which is closer to PZ’s view. Also, Kermode gives it 3 stars while Bradshaw gives it 4, which still sounds generous. Love it when reviewers for the same outlet have different views.

  14. Alverant says

    I understand the movie is a lot of “exploring space is bad because it’s done by smart people” themes even though the people making the movie enjoyed many of the benefits of space exploration.

  15. PaulBC says


    I can’t tell if you’re sarcastic. I have mixed feelings about the New Yorker, and grew up with it around the house with the received wisdom that the cartoons were very witty and sophisticated. Today I would say it’s almost the definition of middlebrow (including the smug humor), and a science fiction movie endorsed by the New Yorker is more likely to try really hard not to look like genre and will often reuse an old, hoary genre motif, presenting it as something new.

    Anyway I didn’t see Ad Astra and have no opinion. I would also trust the New Yorker on some things, but not this. Masterpiece in this context may mean snoozefest.

  16. marner says

    Pitt’s dad is alive, and he is somehow using his space ship’s antimatter fuel to destabilize the solar system and fling energy surges at Earth. Why, we don’t know, and mild spoiler here — we never find out.

    Easy to see how you missed it, but the Tommy Lee Jones character said it was damaged when he took down the rest of his mutinous crew.

  17. says

    I saw it on the weekend.
    What a huge disappointment.
    Movies about humanity’s future in space aren’t just entertainment; they’re important. They’re part of the story we’re telling ourselves about our confidence as a species to outgrow our adolescence and ‘reach for the stars’
    Movies like The Martian, Interstellar or 2001: A Space Odyssey speak to us about both the technological challenges of space travel, but also the philosophical questions about our role in the Cosmos.
    Ad Astra is not such a movie. Oh, It’s achingly gorgeous to look at, but has so little coherence to its plot, is so egregious in its sins both to physics and the actual science of space travel, and so flat and illogical in the motivations of its protagonists as to threaten the viability of the genre. And that’s a shame. Just as humanity are engaging with the idea of manned space flight again.
    I gave this one a massive ‘mission abort’, followed by a free-return trajectory and a splashdown into obscurity.

  18. John Morales says


    Movies about humanity’s future in space aren’t just entertainment; they’re important. They’re part of the story we’re telling ourselves about our confidence as a species to outgrow our adolescence and ‘reach for the stars’

    We? People like you, maybe. People like me, not-so-much.

    Movies like The Martian, Interstellar or 2001: A Space Odyssey speak to us about both the technological challenges of space travel, but also the philosophical questions about our role in the Cosmos.

    So, what are these purported philosophical questions that those movies supposedly explore?

    (I can’t think of any, offhand)

    Just as humanity are engaging with the idea of manned space flight again.

    Humanity is a singular, so that should be “humanity is”.

    (So, during what period was that engagement supposedly nonexistent?)

  19. fentex says

    Interstellar was rubbish. Nolan’s films are usually great but too fantastic for the science gobble de gook to matter – you just accept the mcguffin and go with it.

    But Interstellar forces destroying of suspension of disbelief on you – notice how you’re watching characters use space craft that are entirely capable of the thing they are using them to search for!

  20. PaulBC says

    John Morales@26

    (So, during what period was that engagement supposedly nonexistent?)

    Interest in “manned” space flight peaked around the time of the Apollo missions and never came anywhere near this again (and interest in scientific probes like the Voyagers or Mars rovers is there, but not a big cultural phenomenon, even if I personally find them a lot more interesting).

    There was a certain interest surrounding the space shuttle, the international space station, etc. But it was very low-level and really changed tenor with the Challenger disaster in 1986. I think in the 1990s in particular, when the dot-com boom was starting, interest in space was at a low. Technology meant computing, not space travel. Let’s see, there was buzz around “space tourist” Dennis Tito in 2001. I would call that a sideshow, but maybe presaged some renewed interest.

    With SpaceX and Elon Musk’s pipe dreams among others, space travel (going to Mars) captured more of the public imagination than it had for decades. I think that’s what @25 is talking about. It seemed like a reasonable point to me.

    I agree that it’s a stretch to interpret most of these films as engaging with humanity’s place in the cosmos, but Arthur C. Clarke would have argued that was the point of 2001 (I read enough by him to believe so). Plenty of space science fiction is pure escapism or a metaphor for something else (e.g. settling a frontier).

  21. John Morales says

    PaulBC, I don’t need to interpret; “engaging with the idea of manned space flight again” implies there was a period where there was no such engagement subsequent to a period where there was. If it is a reasonable point, it’s expressed as hyperbole, as you yourself intimate.

    Anyway. These days, I don’t bother to watch a movie until I am informed about it, the more spoilers the better. So I haven’t watched interstellar, though I could do it for free.

    (Too silly; those only work if they don’t take themselves seriously)

  22. Rob Grigjanis says

    a_ray @15: I came late to the The Expanse (on the recommendation of someone here, maybe you), and only saw a few episodes before the Powers Swine That Be moved it to a channel I don’t get. But that was enough to convince me it’s quite possibly the best sci-fi on film or telly for a very long time. I don’t care that much about “getting the science right”, but the characters, and the actors playing them*, were brilliant.

    *Especially Dominique Tipper and Frankie Adams, and the bits I saw of Jared Harris and David Strathairn were superb.

  23. John Morales says

    Rob, huh. I gave up after a few episodes (was on Netflix).

    I found it tedious and slow and silly and generally boring. Too boring to persevere with it.
    Exactly what I expect from the Syfy network.

    (Yeah, I know. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that. But be aware your opinion is no less subjective than mine)

  24. Rob Grigjanis says

    PaulBC @29: According to 2001, our place in the cosmos is to be shaped (created, one might say), and told what to do and not do, by a Mysterious Higher Power, without any explanation. We’ve all heard that story before.

  25. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @32:

    But be aware your opinion is no less subjective than mine

    Of course. Note that I wrote “enough to convince me“.

    But you’re also the bloke who said he doesn’t appreciate poetry, right? :-)

  26. John Morales says


    But you’re also the bloke who said he doesn’t appreciate poetry, right? :-)

    Nah. Some poetry has its place, and I duly appreciate it. Some. I even quote it, sometimes.

    But I far, far prefer prose. It’s less inferior at communicating, though poetry can be more succinct. Makes me prosaic, I guess. ;)

  27. John Morales says


    According to 2001, our place in the cosmos is to be shaped (created, one might say), and told what to do and not do, by a Mysterious Higher Power, without any explanation.

    Nah. Uplifted by an elder race, which is Sufficiently Advanced. And that is the explanation!

    (Clarke’s 3rd law is employed)

  28. PaulBC says

    Well, I never said Clarke had a plausible or inspiring notion of humanity’s place in the cosmos. It is interesting how much classic science fiction revolves around the idea that advanced ETs are very interested in welcoming us into their community. It would be even more unlikely than humans saying, “Hey it’d be really cool if an octopus was smart enough to talk to us. Let’s genetically engineer one that is and teach it our technology!” I mean why would that be something they do on a regular basis?

    If we’re interested mainly in exploring human potential, we’re probably better off alone in the universe (or at least the galaxy). If there’s a lot of others out there, we just have catching up to do. Hopeless. Why bother? Alternatively, we can amuse ourselves in some human way and don’t worry about ETs being “more advanced.”

    To be honest, if we had evidence of somebody out there a lot smarter than us, I’d be more excited than frustrated, but it would certainly change my perspective. (And I doubt there’s much chance they’d come to save us from ourselves.)

    I would like to see more of this explored in science fiction movies. I mean even Contact (1997) (from the Carl Sagan novel) had some of this. The Martian was more of a Robinson Crusoe story. A lot of the rest is just adventure fantasy.

  29. John Morales says


    It is interesting how much classic science fiction revolves around the idea that advanced ETs are very interested in welcoming us into their community.

    What? Most of it is alien invaders, who want our water (thus going past most of the water in the solar system to get to Earth) or suchlike. Or our women.

    Benevolent ETs are a minority of cases, but the most plausible, for mine.

    Basically, hard science indicates that it’s a fucking shitload easier to cooperate and communicate than to lug big chunks of condensed matter over interstellar distances for resources.

  30. John Morales says

    Hard to film good SF. I’d love to see Gregory Benford’s Galactic Center Saga or Vinge’s Galactic Center Saga or (basically) any Culture story.

    I still have hope; after all, it was only a few decades ago that LOTR was considered unfilmable, and here we are. Hell, I remember when determining whether exoplanets truly existed was considered speculatively hopeful. And here we are.

    (Advantages of being older in a society where the slope of the S curve for tech is still steep)

  31. PaulBC says

    John Morales@40

    What? Most of it is alien invaders, who want our water (thus going past most of the water in the solar system to get to Earth) or suchlike. Or our women.

    I didn’t mean that benevolent aliens make up the bulk of science fiction. Yes, obviously a huge amount revolves around invading aliens. I must have been filtering that out without thought. Novels I like along those lines are The Genocides by Thomas Disch, though it’s depressing, and the Tripod novels (I forget the author) but they’re juvenile works (though I read them just a few years ago). Not superplausible though. Doubtful anyone who can make a starship needs our resources. They should be doing their own stellar engineering at that point. And obviously kidnapping earth women is just an asinine pulp plot device.

    Actually Douglas Adam’s comic idea of destroying the earth to make an intergalactic highway is almost more plausible. Maybe we are in the way of a really convenient wormhole. In terms of advanced ET, earth is a lot more likely to be an encumbrance than a resource.

    Benevolent aliens show up in 50s B movies like This Island Earth. They were a big thing with Clarke. Star Trek is premised on the Federation finding and making treaties with comparably advanced civilizations. In the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, the aliens are more likely to want to contact us than just show up and pillage.

    My point (if I had one) was that there is surprisingly serious thought about aliens who actually care about humans one way or another. I can’t say for certain, but I had the impression that Clarke wasn’t just making up a cool story and thought that if a civilization had the technology of the ETs in 2001, that would want to contact us when we’re ready and share it with us. I doubt they care.

  32. PaulBC says

    To be more concise, I think the most plausible aliens are apathetic ones. It’s possible some alien naturalists would be interested in the specifics of earth. (Though I don’t think they are showing up today doing rectal exams.) It’s also possible that they’d look at the spectral signature from far away, make a pretty reasonable guess at what they’d find here, note it down, and then just move on to more interesting things.

  33. Rowan vet-tech says

    Just got back from seeing “Secretly very sad White Man in a movie with not even a vague knowledge of physics”.

    They… they said that neptune was at the end of the heliosphere. Not the solar system. The heliosphere
    I think there were leaves in the underground lake on mars.
    wtf space baboons.
    you’re telling me the guy didn’t even have a chance to scream considering the coms don’t appear to need to be activated by anything other than voice?
    why did its head explode that doesn’t happen.
    why were there no other buggy tracks anywhere visible are you honestly telling me no ones ever gone that way ever before ever on the moon?
    why did he need to place a feeding tube was he apathetic-ing to death because that might have been interesting.
    If he was unconscious the entire return trip as implied he should have dehydrated to death and how did the space ship manage to survive going at a speed that allowed a return to earth with only enough time to grow a bit more than just stubble?
    why were none of the people working on the satelite thingy in the beginning using safety harnesses and clips to stay attached I don’t care if you have parachutes wtf.

  34. microraptor says

    My personal theory is that the killer space monkeys escaped from the Cowboy Bebop episode Gateway Shuffle.

  35. birgerjohansson says

    My theory is that a gang of reasonably well-taught teenagers could write a more scientifically accurate film scripts than the hacks in the business (but I repeat myself -it is the same story every time Hollywood tries making an SF blockbuster).
    Moar films: The podcast God Awful Movies (about films with some religious content) is quite fun.
    ”TTA Podcast 279: God Awful Movies” is at YouTube
    This contains excerpts from the evangelical Christian propaganda film “If Footmen Tire You, What Would Horsemen Do?” and the Pakistani “International Guerillas”(about how Zod wants you to kill Salman Rushdie) -especially the latter is… weird. You can see parts of that film after the 37 minute mark.

  36. Marcelo says

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space, @15:

    Not a movie, and not 100% avoiding technology=magic, but check out Syfy series, “The Expanse”.

    I take it you mean the alien protomolecule. I don’t think it’s inconceivable to have technology so advanced that is that versatile, but I will concede that is as akin to a swiss army knife as the black monolyth in 2001 and its sequels.

    I read somewhere that good science fiction asks you to suspend your incredulity only for one element of the plot, and the rest of its universe works as ours does. If so, I’d say The Expanse complies. (Well, the Epstein drive is not explained either, but at least it’s somewhat plausible, and it’s not FTL.)

  37. brucegee1962 says

    Just saw the movie. I tried to avoid all spoilers and reviews, including this one, so I was surprised by how truly terrible it was.

    There was a cliched but ok concept at the core of the movie — dad shouldn’t get so caught up in looking beyond the solar system that we lose connection with humanity — but it was as if someone involved said “Wait! That’s not enough to carry a big-name star movie! Throw in some explosions or moon buggy battles or space monkeys every twenty minutes so the audience won’t drop off!”

    A much, much better movie with a similar theme is The Europa Project, which was on Netflix for a while.

  38. PaulBC says

    Maybe they could have made his dad a Prospero-like figure and based it loosely on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Because that would surely be very original and have the New Yorker reviewers going gaga unlike some schlocky genre movie that I’m sure “serious” reviewers expect science fiction to be.

    (My above comment seems like it should be about 40 years out of date, because I thought movie critics were taking science fiction pretty seriously now, but sometimes I wonder. I get the impression, without seeing it, that Ad Astra is a science fiction-y filmed tuned to please people who don’t like science fiction. Oh hell, maybe I will watch it; get back to me in year after my library carries it on DVD.)

    Anyway, the full motto is “Ad astra per aspera.” Maybe watching the film is the “aspera” part.