WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Ad Astra, in theaters now.
From the Ad Astra trailers, it was pretty obvious Brad Pitt's Major Roy McBride would be facing all sorts of trouble out in space as he tries to save Earth from some mysterious disaster. The film's marketing did well to hide exactly the precarious situations he'd be placed in as we saw him hurtling from orbit to the planet, experiencing difficulties in his rocket, and butting heads with hiscrew in what appeared to be interconnected events.
There were clearly shades of space disaster films like Gravity and The Martian, as well as the dramatic themes found in Interstellar, which meant he'd need to pull out all stops on the journey. It turns out Roy has to head to Neptune to disarm his father's (Tommy Lee Jones' Clifford McBride) space station, and while we expected a couple deus ex machina's to help him on his quest, Roy goes overboard by pulling out quite a few Hail Mary's that make Ad Astra hands down the most ridiculous space movie ever.
Roy makes his way through a series of unfortunate events to finally hijack a ship that leaves Mars with bombs intended to destroy his dad's station. Roy, though, takes the crew out since he believes he can still talk some sense into Clifford, who's been orbiting Neptune, performing anti-matter experiments that are causing electrical surges throughout the galaxy, leading to catastrophes on Earth.
When Roy gets there, he realizes his dad's gone fully mad, showing no remorse for killing his own crew, who merely wanted to go back home when they figured out Clifford wasn't making first contact with alien life. Roy eventually lays the bomb down and convinces his dad to come home but as they space walk, a shamed Clifford ejects himself into space, begging Roy to let him die. A reluctant Roy agrees and then uses one of the ships' rotating satellite wings to jump towards his own ship, holding a piece of the wing himself.
He speeds towards his vessel, guesstimating where he'll land in one of the most convenient pieces of narrative ever put to film. What's even more ridiculous is Roy flies through the asteroid ring surrounding Neptune, holding the material up like Captain America's shield.
While this is still an escapist movie, Roy's ability to not get hit by a single stray asteroid defies all logic. Instead, he super-speeds through and in an act that'll make Superman. Players proud, he tackles the fragments, because he knew they'd all be baseball-sized and easy to power through. There are no large chunks which make this jump to his rocket all the more silly.
THE BIG BANG
What's even more laughable is that Roy doesn't have the fuel to make it to Earth, so he relies on the Neptune explosion to push him forward and use its momentum before firing the jets that will get him home. Firstly, with anti-matter experiments being conducted, how would Roy know the explosion wouldn't engulf his ship? It's pretty risky, but he apparently calculates on the spot what he needs to kick off, with the film totally forgetting Clifford had tech on board that could take out planets.
Roy escapes the blast radius and the ship is pushed home as if it's a train, with enough blasters to take him into Earth's orbit. The film, however, established earlier on that there's no possible way to go to and from Neptune straight, which is why Roy had to use the moon and Mars as temporary jumping off-points. But here, he's fixed what NASA couldn't, and he has smooth sailing with fragments of the destroyed station and the damaged asteroid belt not even chasing after the ship -- just because the film needs its hero to head home without further turbulence.
All of this is crazier than Sandra Bullock's astronaut in Gravity somehow getting cut loose in space and falling home safe and sound or Matthew McConaughey's character in Interstellar entering a black hole that conveniently allows him to bend space and time, meet extraterrestrials and save Earth.
As if all of that wasn't enough, we also see Roy earlier on swimming through space like it's a pool or water, plus he also had a brawl with some suspiciously silent baboons on a Norwegian space station, which builds him up as a super-astronaut. While Ad Astra touts itself as a grounded film, the film has enough fantastic feats to firmly put it in the realm of science fiction.
Directed by James Gray from a script by himself and Ethan Gross, Ad Astra stars Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Nega, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland. The film is in theaters now.