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(For Day 17 of NaPoWriMo, the prompt was to write a poem about the moon, which is galling since I had a movie that was all about the moon just TWO DAYS AGO! So I went with a different movie partially set on the moon, because of course I had another in reserve.)

Space is a nothing, a vacuum complete,
With planetoid motes spinning round in the void.
Yet we on our mote have a course we repeat:
To find and expand, be diffused or destroyed.

But distances mock us, too deadly and vast
For Earth to consider a visit or leap.
We have but one friend in our orbital caste,
A lunar companion whose slope is less steep.

The moon in its course is our first rung to climb,
The first stepping stone, Tenerife to our Spain,
From which human hordes, in a matter of time,
Can strike at the void with one win to their name.

MPA rating:  PG-13

Ad Astra (Latin for To the Stars) is the kind of movie I wanted to like, just as I wanted to enjoy First Man, but once again a plodding pace and stoic protagonist upend what could have been so much better. In a future where mankind has settled on the moon and Mars and extended a mission as far as Neptune, Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is an astronaut famed for controlling his emotions under pressure; he is told that his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who disappeared on that Neptune mission, may be alive and perhaps is responsible for some dangerous energy surges threatening Earth. That setup has enormous potential, but Roy has basically buried those emotions so deep that only a trip across the solar system rife with metaphysical introspection can help him overcome his daddy issues.

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There are interesting sci-fi concepts, like how the moon has been as commercialized as Earth, reminiscent of Futurama to be honest, but they’re kept to the background. There are moments of action spectacle that instantly boost viewer interest, such as a rover chase on the moon or the film’s incredible opening where Roy falls off a space antenna, but the plot quickly dips back into monotony as Roy narrates every stray thought. Some of it really is deep, paired with visually striking imagery, and certainly better explored than the wordlessness of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it also feels pretentious and suffers from not really going anywhere, since the result of Roy’s journey isn’t particularly enlightening. I’m not naturally drawn to Brad Pitt like I am to space movies, so Ad Astra is a mixed bag to say the least, a film with a lot on its mind and something missing to make it compelling. In different hands, it might have been epic; as it is, it’s rather forgettable but for its best scenes.

Rank:  Honorable Mention

© 2021 S.G. Liput
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