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Tag Archive: Gravity movie


The man in space saves the world.  Cue up Armageddon or Interstellar, not to mention hundreds of lower budget, often better space adventure films.  The new Brad Pitt movie Ad Astra–that’s “to the stars” from the first century philosopher Seneca’s quote per aspera ad astra, meaning “to the stars through adversity”–looks a lot like it’s aiming to be one of those films.  We might have skipped this one if we were to rely on the first two trailers alone.  But space pirates?  That’s something different altogether.

No one can deny the callback to Armageddon here, particularly with that movie’s co-star Liv Tyler appearing to be resurrecting her key scene in the Ad Astra trailers.  And the intentional comedy drama Space Cowboys also featured Tommy Lee Jones as astronaut in similar space garb (he plays the father of Pitt’s character).  Legendary dramatic and genre actor Donald Sutherland and genre veteran John Ortiz play supporting characters along with the Academy Award-nominated co-star Ruth Negga.

Maybe it’s more like the original Total Recall–the classic, not the remake.  Is this cast, some respectable outer space visuals a la Gravity, and space pirates enough to get you into the theater?  After watching all the trailers released so far, you may correctly feel like you’ve watched a quarter of the film.  How will writer-director James Gray (The Lost City of Z) and co-writer Ethan Gross (Fringe) tie it all together?

First up, these are the two latest trailers for Ad Astra:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A diehard science fiction moviegoer will probably find nothing new in last year’s nominee for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Arrival.  Nearly every minute of the film can be seen in countless episodes of science fiction television.  But it is the next drama cloaked in science fiction dress, trying to one-up Interstellar, Gravity, and Contact.  Following the Michael Crichton stylebook, Arrival gives us a problem (terrifying, giant squid-like, alien monsters referred to as heptapods we cannot yet understand) and brings in a team of experts to work to solve that problem.  The experts are linguist Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, and physicist Dr. Ian Donnelly, played by Jeremy Renner.  And that’s all–no other brilliant scientists play any role.  From a storytelling angle this allows more of a focus on the two characters, primarily Banks, but it also defies belief that one of twelve Earth-visiting space monolith ships is in the U.S. and only a M*A*S*H unit full of people are there to find the solution.  Those that are present are canned, stupid government wonks, including an intermediary military officer played by Forest Whitaker and others who shout a lot and want to bomb the aliens.  It all makes you want to cheer for the aliens.

To its credit Arrival deals head on with what is surprisingly one of the least pursued tropes in science fiction: communication with the aliens.

Every major sci-fi franchise tells us these aliens will be humanoid, but what if they aren’t?  Actually communicating with other beings once we have that first alien encounter has been seen from time to time, the best in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Darmok.  And who can forget those musical notes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  Most of Star Trek, and other sci-fi, circumvents the communication issue with the story device of a universal translator or the equivalent, so the conflict of Arrival is refreshing.  Unfortunately the pursuit of the problem in Arrival could have been more interesting and compelling.  Instead the filmmakers made the choice to break away frequently, delving back and forth into an emotional character study.

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