Audiences Still Can’t Decide If ‘Ad Astra’ Is a Good Movie Or Not

The idea of making a cerebral space movie is arguably only possible nowadays thanks to Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar from 2016. Latter film managed to take things as far as any space movie had gone since 2001: A Space Odyssey while still being based on real theoretical science.

It’s a wonder then writer and director James Gray was able to pitch his Ad Astra to 20th Century Fox not long after Interstellar released.

No doubt the success and intrigue Interstellar brought to movies helped at the time. Also, Gray was able to convince the studio he’d make a movie depicting the most realistic portrayal of space travel ever done.

After lengthy delays making this dream come true, Ad Astra finally released on September 20 to mostly good reviews, but tepid box office. Did the film really deliver on its messages, or did it go against the public’s ultimate view on space?

The mediocre box office may mean fewer films like it

James Gray at the Ad Astra premiere
James Gray | Pablo Cuadra/Getty Images

Nobody probably minds a thoughtful space movie if it has something important to say. James Gray’s main intention was to wow people with visuals ahead of the interesting story involved. Rather than being about finding intelligent life in the deepest reaches of space, it was more about finding ourselves.

All of this was translated through a son-father relationship, with Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones creating a very thoughtful dynamic. Accompanying this is a decades-long search for intelligent life in the film ends up having a different outcome from what everyone expected. In the end, we all found out this is the most human space movie ever made.

Said message might be a little too intellectually uncomfortable for some. Nevertheless, it’s one worth mulling over for a while during a time when human relations on our planet aren’t the best.

Was this really the best message to portray to audiences, or did viewers expect a little more hope about finding something more important than ourselves in the universe?

Was the film ultimately an anti-space movie?

We’ve all been conditioned to expect intense action and a plethora of aliens in space movies, something planted in our minds through Star Wars and even MCU movies. Perhaps Gray wanted to prove there’s more to space than pure fantasy, outside of space reality still being mysterious to those who’ve never been there.

Giving the feel of really being in space has only been used as a cinematic device a few times: in 2001, Gravity, plus Interstellar. For many, these were the final words on a realistic space film. Even those films joined Star Wars in celebrating space rather than looking at it as a vast void.

Audiences might have found Ad Astra’s ultimate message that space isn’t filled with intelligent life as an assault on what most people genuinely believe. The idea of space as a vast backdrop of adventure (including universes beyond ours) is now part of cinematic lore continuing to play out in Star Wars and MCU movies indefinitely.

Just because Ad Astra may have hurt any chances for a cerebral space movie ever being made again, it doesn’t mean we aren’t seeing similar thoughtful forays in Star Wars. Not that some devoted fans haven’t rallied against such a thing.

Is ‘Star Wars’ turning into an intellectual space franchise?

When Rian Johnson shifted the new Star Wars trilogy into unexpected territory and blurred the lines between The Force and the dark side, everything shifted into a new, thoughtful direction. Since then, we now look at Star Wars as more than simple good vs. evil popcorn flicks as they originally were.

With so much of the galaxy far, far away in our pop culture now, Ad Astra probably seemed extraneous, regardless of taking place in a very possible real future where bases on the moon are common.

For a new generation, our understanding of space and the role humanity plays in it may have a stronger message through Star Wars from now on. A good chunk of the world wants space to mean something more than possibly being a waste of resources in finding something relevant.