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Ad Astra (2019), starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray, is the best science fiction movie since Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014). Like Interstellar, Ad Astra is visually striking and emotionally powerful, stimulating to both thought and imagination, and unfolds at a leisurely pace—all traits inviting comparisons to Kubrick and Tarkovsky, although I hasten to add that I found both Ad Astra and Interstellar so absorbing that my attention never wavered.

Ad Astra is set sometime later in this century. The US has permanent bases on the Moon and Mars, but the farthest any manned missions have gone is Neptune, where the Lima Project was sent to scan the universe for signs of intelligent life outside the interference of the sun’s magnetic field. However, when the Lima Project went silent, sixteen years into its mission and thirteen years before the time of the film, the US ended deep space missions.

Brad Pitt plays astronaut Roy McBride, a Major in the US Space Command. Roy is the son of astronaut Clifford McBride, the Commander of the Lima Project (brilliantly played by Tommy Lee Jones). The film begins with Roy McBride working on a communication tower that extends from Earth into space. It is a modern tower of Babel. The tower is struck by a mysterious power surge, and Roy literally falls to Earth. Luckily, he is equipped with a parachute which allows him to land more-or-less safely. The whole sequence is as thrilling as it is bizarre.

It turns out that the power surge has affected the whole planet, leading to thousands of deaths. After recuperating in the hospital for a few days, Roy is called in to be debriefed and meets some top brass in Space Command (a white, a Latino, and a black woman—from intelligence, no less—for in diversity casting this film is as depressingly predictable as NASA).

It turns out that the surge was caused by an anti-matter discharge near Neptune. The Lima Project was powered by anti-matter. Space Command believes that Clifford McBride is alive and may be responsible for the surge, which if unstopped might destroy the Earth. They ask Roy to broadcast a message to his father from Space Command’s last secure communication hub on Mars. They hope he will respond, which will give Space Command a fix on his location, at which point they can dispatch someone to stop the surge by any means necessary.

The rest of the movie follows Roy from Earth to the Moon, from the Moon to Mars, and from Mars to Neptune—where he finds his father—then back home. This much is not a spoiler, since it can be gathered from the trailer—which is actually quite different than the final film. For one thing, Liv Tyler as Roy’s wife Eve was almost eliminated from the final cut. I don’t wish to give away any more of the plot, because I want you to see this film. But I do want to discuss some of the themes, which will require mentioning some details.

Ad Astra is interesting because it meditates on the personality traits necessary to explore and settle the cosmos. Clifford McBride left his ailing wife and thirteen-year-old son on a one-way mission to find intelligent life in the cosmos. What kind of people are capable of leaving their homes and saying goodbye to their family, friends, and neighbors—forever? Obviously, such people need to have weak ties to the people and places of their birth, or they would never be able to leave them.

Beyond that, they need to have some sort of mission to sustain them, a counter-weight to the things they left behind. In Ad Astra, Clifford McBride is portrayed as an intensely religious man. His faith is twofold: in God, the creator of the cosmos, and in the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life, which is for many people a kind of religion as well. The four astronauts who take Roy McBride from the Moon to Mars are also intensely religious Christians. There is no sign that Roy McBride shares any of their beliefs. He seems like more of a secular Stoic.

Of course, weak roots and powerful senses of mission are the same traits possessed by past generations of explorers and settlers. Not even a century ago, when people departed on ships for new lands, they could be reasonably certain they would never be coming back. They knew how to say goodbye forever.

Ad Astra also confronts us with just how hard space exploration is on people. Clifford McBride chose to widow his wife and orphan his son to explore the cosmos. Roy chose to follow his father’s career, but he chose not to have children of his own, and his sense of mission destroyed his own marriage. (In a newsflash, Eve informs him that she is “her own person.”)

Many people, however, can’t really leave the Earth behind, so they replicate the best and worst of it wherever they go. Or they simply go a bit mad out in the void, sometimes to the point of mutiny. In one suspenseful and shocking sequence, we see that even the animals we bring into space can go mad and mutiny.

Ad Astra can be taken as an anti-religious film in two ways. First, Roy’s absent father out in space is very much analogous to the Biblical God. Roy can’t help loving the man who abandoned him, but in the end, he finds the strength to let him go. Second, Roy’s father is sustained by his faith in the existence of extra-terrestrial life, a faith to which he sacrificed first his family then his crew. But the Lima Project found no evidence of extraterrestrial life. Clifford begs his son to help him continue his quest. “You can’t let me fail.” But Roy responds, “But dad, you haven’t failed. Now we know, we’re all we’ve got.” It is an extremely touching scene, because as the movie shows, men like Roy McBride can do great things without faith in higher powers.

Since the same causes give rise to the same effects, it seems inevitable that the causes that gave rise of intelligent life on Earth will give rise to intelligent life elsewhere in the cosmos. Furthermore, given how big the universe is, it is likely that other intelligent life exists right now. Frankly, though, I find that a chilling thought, since if intelligent extraterrestrials arrived on Earth, the human race will be in the same position as primitive peoples around the globe when white explorers first arrived. We wouldn’t have a chance. I would much prefer to know that “We’re all we’ve got,” that—free of gods and aliens—our kind are free to expand unopposed into the universe.

Both Clifford and Roy McBride are magnificent portraits of Faustian European man. As Clifford tells his son, “Sometimes, the human will must overcome the impossible.” Roy does just that. He is study in what I consider the real meaning of “cool.” He is the intelligent man of action, the taciturn, unflappable Nordic explorer. He has nerves of steel. He is “focused on the essential, to the exclusion of all else.” He has a slow pulse, which helps him stay cool in tight spots. (When a spaceship is in trouble and the captain is paralyzed, Roy coolly steps in and saves the day. Roy’s pulse only gets elevated when he hears that his father is really alive.)

If Roy is a Faustian hero, Clifford is a Faustian anti-hero, like Captain Ahab, whose indomitable will is twisted by an obsession, ultimately destroying him and everyone around him.

The most poignant thing Clifford says is, “We’re a dying breed, Roy.” No kidding. Roy McBride is the childless white Atlas on whose shoulders the whole world rides. He dutifully takes orders from affirmative action blacks and browns, wimpy man-buns and pushy dykes. He obediently shares his feelings with machines. They use him to get what they want, then shove him aside. When he sticks up for himself, Space Comm sends a black, an Oriental, and a gutless white to “neutralize” him, and they can’t even kill him without his help. Disavowed by his “superiors,” he saves the world on his own. When men like Roy McBride finally take the red pill, they will finish this system in short order. But don’t expect Jewish director James Gray to direct that epic.

Ad Astra isn’t a perfect movie. The script is highly intelligent, and I enjoyed the deliberate pace, but early on, I had the feeling that Gray was throwing arbitrary action sequences at us, just to keep people with short attention spans occupied. But even these sequences illustrated the larger themes of the film, such as the madness induced by losing one’s roots. I also found the music by Max Richter and Lorne Balfe to be undistinguished, although there is one beautiful theme that brings to mind Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien score. But by the time this movie gets to Mars, it is absolutely riveting, largely thanks to the magnetic performances of Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones. Although Ad Astra doesn’t dazzle the eye with special effects and quick cuts, it is often simply beautiful to look at. But above all, Ad Astra is a feast for the mind. You’ll be thinking about this movie long after the final frames.

 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Hollywood, Movies, Science Fiction 
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  1. MarkU says:

    I saw this film myself recently and personally I thought it was rubbish.

    Firstly the notion that being slightly further out in the solar system would make any substantial difference to the possibility of communication with extraterrestrials is scientifically illiterate. It would be analogous to parking a ship a mile from the coast in order to improve your chances of sending/receiving signals from other continents, ridiculous.

    Secondly the personal development meta-narratives were utterly dreadful, I found myself not giving a shit about his absent father nor his awkward and insight free attempts to come to terms with it. The absolutely excruciating ‘lessons that he had learned’ speech at the end was one of the the most awful monologues I have ever heard, it was embarrassing to watch.

    In short, the plot sucked, the characters seemed to have been created by a committee of psychoanalysts and personal development councillors and the dialogue was dreadful throughout.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  2. @MarkU

    . . . the notion that being slightly further out in the solar system would make any substantial difference to the possibility of communication with extraterrestrials is scientifically illiterate. It would be analogous to parking a ship a mile from the coast in order to improve your chances of sending/receiving signals from other continents, ridiculous.

    Tell that to the developers of the Hubble Space Telescope.

    The point was not “communication” with extraterrestrials but to be in a better position to search for signs of life on other planets.

    I found the whole, “share your feelings with the machine” device to be nanny-state dystopian cringe. Not sure what the filmmaker’s intention is, but I doubt he would relish it. Nevertheless, the end struck me as hopeful, because after an amazing adventure, the protagonist should want to reconnect with the only family he has, namely his wife.

    • Replies: @Half-Jap
    , @silviosilver
  3. The movie Interstellar was so bad, it largely cured me of any desire to watch science fiction.

  4. bob sykes says:

    I thought Ad Astra was the worst scifi movie I have seen, and I am a scifi fan who has been watching since the 50’s. So I was glad to be reminded by Rabbi Zaius of just how bad Interstellar was. But Ad Astra is stupefyingly bad, and still the worst.

    Ad Astra starts with Brad Pitt falling off the ISS all the way to Earth. He survives because he can sky dive and give up velocity without burning up. I guess the Columbia crew didn’t know how to reenter. They could have opened the hatch and jumped out. Pitt also escapes broken bones on landing because he, apparently like all ISS astronauts and cosmonauts was wearing a parachute, actually a parafoil.

    Then we learn that rockets only move in space when their engines are firing, and when they stop the ship stops.

    You can focus a nuclear detonation accurately enough to propel you all the way to Earth from Neptune, and trip doesn’t take much more than a couple of days. His little one-man capsule has retrojets than let him reenter and land vertically. He does not need the parachute this time. He is rescued, or maybe arrested, by what look like Serbian or perhaps Ruritanian troops.

    Interstellar had similar anti-science problems. It seems that every scifi film with a famous cast is bad. I think its because the stars don’t believe that there are any constraints on what can be done, but scifi is all about constraints.

  5. Dumbo says:

    Ad Astra (2019), starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray, is the best science fiction movie since Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014).

    Stopped reading there. Nolan is talented, but “Interstellar” was a mess. One or two interesting scenes but the rest just a typical Hollywood brainwashing movie including female and black geniuses, nonsense “scientific” explanations about the universe, a sentimental and absurd twist… I stop here. “2001” it wasn’t.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  6. Pitt and Tommy Lee gave great performances but the characters and dialogue of a sci-fi movie were bad.

    The subject matter was deep and serious but the plot of a sci-fi movie wasn’t good.

    The effects were excellent but akshually, a sci-fi movie wasn’t faithful to science.

    Fucking nerds.

  7. JL says:

    I also disliked Interstellar and Ad Astra, despite an affinity both for sci-fi and the casts. The plots were boring and contrived, the dialog dead, and no amount of good acting can compensate for this. In a related note, Nolan is overrated imo. Adding multiple layers of complexity is not a replacement for a decent and believable plot. Okay, I liked the Dark Knight, but probably mostly because of Ledger’s performance.

  8. Anonymous[127] • Disclaimer says:
    @Dumbo

    Stopped reading there.

    Me too. Interstellar was utter garbage.

    – A bunch of scientists build an advanced space program from a hole in a corn field while remaining completely undetected.

    – Their first spaceship is a classic example of the 20th century tech with a massive rocket up its ass in order to escape Earth’s gravity. After that they visit, and leave, multiple planets in a ship no bigger than an SUV.

    – The scene where our astronaut protagonist drives his kids through a corn field while successfully chasing down and hacking an UAV. Ugh.

    The movie is filled with this kind of brainless, unforgivable, rubbish. It’s objectively bad and if Lynch likes it that much he’s useless as a critic (for sci-fi at least).

  9. Hail says: • Website

    Ad Astra isn’t a perfect movie. The script is highly intelligent, and I enjoyed the deliberate pace, but early on, I had the feeling that Gray was throwing arbitrary action sequences at us, just to keep people with short attention spans occupied. […]. But above all, Ad Astra is a feast for the mind. You’ll be thinking about this movie long after the final frames.

    Steve Sailer saw it upon release in Sept. 2019 and, like several commenters above, had a less-than-stellar review, specifically stating he didn’t think about the movie afterwards:

    I didn’t hate Ad Astra, but it was extremely forgettable. I’ve barely thought about it at all in the week since I saw it.

    Ad Astra was like if 2001 and Apocalypse Now were mashed up with Star Wars, but then it didn’t come as a surprise at the end that Colonel Kurtz/The Monolith is Captain Willard’s/The Killer Monkey’s father because every single character in the movie had already mentioned it to the hero two or three times each.

    Remember how charismatic Brad Pitt is in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood? Well, for Ad Astra the director must have told Brad to just do the opposite of everything Tarantino had him do. Instead of being cool, for example, he should try hard to act uncool. Instead of flashing his million dollar smile, he should appear vaguely depressed. “Try to give the audience the impression that you are distracted by an annoying canker sore.”

    The commenter Romanian added this:

    I disliked the movie’s aesthetic. I wanted some hardcore sci-fi as in The Martian, but I got something like Blade Runner 2049, especially in the Mars base.

    There were also some things that did not make sense (including the premise) and suspended my disbelief. It could have been a good movie, but it wasn’t.

    I didn’t see this movie but am glad to have a positive review from Trevor Lynch, one way or another, for balance if nothing else.

    • Replies: @silviosilver
    , @Romanian
  10. Hail says: • Website

    What kind of people are capable of leaving their homes and saying goodbye to their family, friends, and neighbors—forever? Obviously, such people need to have weak ties to the people and places of their birth, or they would never be able to leave them.

    Of course, weak roots and powerful senses of mission are the same traits possessed by past generations of explorers and settlers. Not even a century ago, when people departed on ships for new lands, they could be reasonably certain they would never be coming back. They knew how to say goodbye forever.

    A lot of science fiction back to the mid-20th century deals with this theme.

    The analogy might work best in reverse, in getting people to understand what it meant to be a settler of the early colonial efforts in North America (or elsewhere). The closest analogy to what they did, for a person living circa 2020 in this age pre-Peak Oil era pf easy and cheap jet travel, would be asking them to imagine joining onto a Mars colony (or a colony beyond Mars).

    If you are pulling the trigger on going to Mars in, say, ca. 2030 (not likely so soon but not impossible), it’s probably where you’ll stay. No coming back. So it was with the colonists, which gives the circa-2020 white person of settler stock a fresh respect for the deeds of their ancestors.

    Obviously, such people need to have weak ties to the people and places of their birth, or they would never be able to leave them.

    I don’t know that it is obvious. Places, maybe, but I would say “weak ties to the people…of their birth” did not define the typical settler.

    Many maintained strong ties such that even generations later, strong traces remain. Heck, many were motivated to colonial settlement by strong ties to what they would have seen as their people, especially given the quasi-(sub)ethnic character of religious groups around which much settlement was driven. This is especially true for that settlement which included women and thus perpetuated the line (vs. Latin America).

  11. ‘”A lot of science fiction back to the mid-20th century deals with this theme.”

    Man Plus

    I am looking forward to finally seeing this film.

  12. INTERSTELLAR is one of the most pretentious and nonsensical science fiction ever made. If it made ‘sense’, it was totally loopy based on flaky take on string theory. It was sillier than the wormhole thing in CONTACT, another terrible sci-fi.

    Thomson is right about INTERSTELLAR. It is an ill-conceived mess that fooled a lot of people with its big budget special effects and pseudo-philosophizing.
    INCEPTION worked because it let a simple(but very clever) idea expand with all manner of complications… much like a ‘seed’ planted in a person’s mind is to grow and somehow fundamentally alter consciousness. If INCEPTION organically grew from a small idea, the process behind INTERSTELLAR seems the reverse. Nolan had a BIG idea but found on convincing way to make it believable on the human level.

    https://newrepublic.com/article/120166/christopher-nolans-interstellar-pretentious-mess

  13. Half-Jap says:
    @Trevor Lynch

    Tell that to the developers of the Hubble Space Telescope.

    The point was not “communication” with extraterrestrials but to be in a better position to search for signs of life on other planets.

    This is unimportant to the thrust of the movie, but it certainly requires suspension of disbelief even in an ostensibly ‘scientific’ movie.

    Anyways, the mission to Neptune would still be within the heliosphere, which includes the solar magnetic field (called the current sheet). The probe Voyager 2 recently exited it and provided quite valuable data. Hubble has provided valuable data as well, exiting Earth’s atmosphere. Perhaps a more accurate analogy to the Lima Project problem is like that of scientists building observatories in remote locations and higher in elevation, which does help with clearer observations, but noway near as great as being outside the atmosphere. Actually, the Project wouldn’t have detected anything more than other satellites would.

    What I found peculiar was that, unlike, say, the visible outer shell (atmosphere) of a red dwarf, which would absorb certain wavelengths (such as radio waves) and thus prevent us from detecting advanced industrial civilizations that may be orbiting within that shell, what kind of heretofore unknown artificial signal could be gained by being outside the heliosphere?

    Anyways, I should go watch it. Thanks for the review!

  14. @Hail

    I didn’t see this movie but am glad to have a positive review from Trevor Lynch, one way or another, for balance if nothing else.

    I decided to watch it on the strength of this review. After watching it, I have to agree with the negative assessments on this thread. In addition to all the other criticisms, I found the aesthetics of the space and base scenery stunningly dreary — enough to completely put you off the idea of humans ever expanding into space.

    but then it didn’t come as a surprise at the end that Colonel Kurtz/The Monolith is Captain Willard’s/The Killer Monkey’s

    Here’s how uninteresting I found this movie. When it happened, I thought the Killer Monkey might liven up the plot. But either the movie poorly explained it or I wasn’t paying attention, and by the end of the film I had already forgotten the Killer Monkey ever happened. Now that I’ve been reminded about it, I have zero interest in figuring out how it actually fit into anything.

    One of the worst sci fi films I’ve ever seen, and I’m a fan of the genre. (FWIW, also disliked Interstellar.)

  15. @Trevor Lynch

    Nevertheless, the end struck me as hopeful, because after an amazing adventure, the protagonist should want to reconnect with the only family he has, namely his wife.

    I doubt one in a thousand viewers gave a shit about Roy’s relationship with his wife, with his father or about Roy, period.

  16. Olorin says:

    What kind of people are capable of leaving their homes and saying goodbye to their family, friends, and neighbors—forever? Obviously, such people need to have weak ties to the people and places of their birth, or they would never be able to leave them.

    Or perhaps their sense of “home” encompasses a space and field of time more expansive than the familial present rooted in the ancestral past.

    A capacity for future vision, planning, and thought–forward time travel–is often observed to be a particular gift of white men. This is among other things a capacity for imagining one’s descendants in a place their own ancestors made possible. Not just “winter is coming,” but the movement into the environmentally hostile niche and predicting/learning/mastering its possibilities.

    There are big differences between rootless cosmopolitanism, or migrating for handouts, and this genuine exploration. For starters the latter involves less shopping and gibs. There is likely a big difference between a man abandoning his family and sons…and a professional or even amateur explorer going somewhere in the hopes his progeny will follow and benefit.

    Not all exploring men are pure in their actions, and there are those who use it as a cover for baser drives. But movies about and for white men need to present archetypal drives and journeys to be worth our attention. Admittedly many men offer up their attention far more readily and cheaply.

    As for Interstellar, I didn’t expect anything so was mildly pleased with it. The scene where Farmer Engineer Pilot Dad confronts the school officials preening with their power over his son was remarkable at the time it appeared on screens. (The movie opened the same week as the 2014 midterms and three months after Mike “Gentle Giant” Brown’s attack on various Ferguson personages led to his death and months of outchimping, and intensified s-talking against white men.)

    That almost took the sting out of the presence of the ghastly turbofeminist actresses, and the resident science johnny astronaut being cast as a dark black guy who explains time dilation to an astronaut engineer by spearing a sheet of paper with a pen.

    (A character as hilariously miscast as the obese black lady in the 2002 remake of Solaris–the one who supposedly invents a “Higgs device”…then uses it to kill the slim pretty white crewmember [asserting that she asked for it] after resentfully observing that that gal was “seducing” Clooney’s character and was really just a ghost with bad space juju.)

    Admittedly I find pretty much everything about movies to be intolerable anymore.

    • Agree: Hail
  17. Romanian says:
    @Hail

    Oh, wow, I am famous now!

    I stand by my review. The antimatter plot did not make sense and the movie would have been more enjoyable if they treated physics better. Like stopping on the way to visit that space station. You don’t do that in space. Both the trip to the Moon and Mars were useless. From a logistical perspective, you are better off flying directly to Neptune rather than stopping off somewhere, which takes more fuel, in the end.

    Reading Trevor Lynch’s review was interesting, because he explored a side that I had not grasped. The childless Atlas bit did not occur to me. I thought that the protagonist was alienated and dysfunctional, going through the motions in his career despite his innate potential. His father was the driven man and the tragic figure.

    I think what we all missed the first time around is that the Project Lima mission is out of character for the government, as it currently is and as it might be in the future, given the indicated diversity. The fact is that there is an extreme aversion to risk in human missions which has reined in ambitions and bloated costs. Zubrin wrote about this

    https://reason.com/2012/01/26/how-much-is-an-astronauts-life-worth/

    The contrast between NASA’s current attitude toward risk and that of earlier explorers is stark. Neither Columbus nor Lewis and Clark would have imagined demanding 99.999 percent safety assurances as a precondition for their expeditions. Under such a standard, no human voyages of exploration would ever have been attempted. For those courageous souls who sought and found the paths that took our species from its ancestral home in the Kenyan Rift Valley to every continent and clime of the globe, it was enough that the game was worth the candle and that they had a fighting chance to win.
    ……………
    So, am I saying that we should just bull ahead, regardless of the risk? No. What I am saying is that in space exploration, the top priority must not be human safety, but mission success. These sound like the same thing, but they are not. Let me explain the difference by means of an example.

    Imagine you are the manager of a Mars robotic-rover program. You have a fixed budget and two options for how to spend it. The first option is to spend half the money on development and testing, the rest on manufacturing and flight operations. If you take this choice, you get two rovers, each with a 90 percent chance of success. The other option is to spend three-quarters of the budget on development and testing, leaving a quarter for the actual mission. If you do it this way, you get just one rover, but it has a success probability of 95 percent. Which option should you choose?

    The right answer is to go for two rovers, because if you do it that way, you will have a 99 percent probability of succeeding with at least one of the vehicles and an 81 percent probability of getting two successful rovers—an outcome that is not even possible with the other approach. This being a robotic mission, with no lives at stake, that’s all clear enough. But if we were talking about a human mission, what would the right choice be? The correct answer would be the same, because with tens of billions of dollars that could be used instead to meet all kinds of other pressing human needs, the first obligation must be to get the job done.

    So, the Faustian individual driven to explore and willing to risk his own life will not be allowed to risk his life by the people who have to approve the mission and the capital expenditure. Project Lima requires not only Faustian individuals, but also Faustian governments. But Trevor Lynch perceives that the government is an extrapolation of what we have today.

    This does not mean, of course, that people do not lose their lives every day, especially in socially approved pursuits, like virtue signalling. But these particular endeavors have political costs that incentivize decision makers to avoid them as much as possible, unless there is a countervailing interest (like a space race). Maybe space flight, at least to the Moon, is banal in the Ad Astra universe, since they have Subway and FedEx on the Moon. But it is definitely not banal to go to Mars (a 1,000 man colony with a Mulatta Viriginia Dare no less) and beyond.

    Also, why no love for Jupiter and its moons? They are closer, they are bigger, the planet is prettier. If we look in our solar system, you have two solid bodies with Earth gravity (Earth and Venus), two with Martian gravity (Mars and Mercury) and 6 with lunar gravity (the Moon and 4 moons of Jupiter and Titan on Saturn). If the Moon is ok in-universe for long-term habitation, just like Mars, Jupiter would definitely be a goal.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_gravitationally_rounded_objects_of_the_Solar_System

    • Replies: @Hail
    , @Hail
  18. Since the the producer took DoD money and the hero is military, the movie needs a scene where he cuts a hole in the space station to crap out of, just to piss off the Russians because they’re our enemies for some reason.

  19. Hail says: • Website
    @Romanian

    Project Lima requires not only Faustian individuals, but also Faustian governments

    Excellent point.

    I haven’t seen the movie. I take it that Project Lima, whatever it is precisely within the movie’s premise, can stand in for space exploration/colonization generally.

    A European-origin state that sags down under the weight of multi-racial democracy is a lot less likely to be a “Faustian government,” a point Trevor Lynch also makes.

    But even holding mid-20th-century demographics totally steady to the present and foreseeable future, for argument’s sake, a government that is led by the type many will recognize by the term “Human Resources Department Heads” will also not be a Faustian government. (In practice, the two tend to be related, but are not identical things.)

    • Replies: @utu
  20. Hail says: • Website
    @Romanian

    go to Mars (a 1,000 man colony with a Mulatta Viriginia Dare no less)

    That‘s in the movie? Geez. White father, Black mother? Or Black father, White mother?

    _____________

    As for a Moon colony or a Mars colony, I am sure reasonably intelligent people in the 1970s imagined that there would be at least a Moon colony by the (futuristic-seeming) year 2020, and maybe the first steps towards a Mars colony. I mean, It’s what Western Man does, would have been the implicit assumption.

    But nothing.

    After retiring the space shuttle (final liftoff, July 2011), the mighty USA hasn’t even had the capability of sending a man (or gender-neutral person) into space. That’s coming up to nine years now and (afaik) no prospect of a quick return in the early 2020s despite some happy talk one occasionally hears.

    If the writers/producers of Ad Astra made sure to make the first human born on Mars a mulatta, there is something poetic in the choice, as if to say, This is why space colonies are science-fiction and not science-fact as of the early 2020s.

    _____________

    Some people have been known to float the idea that if the 1940s had gone differently and Germany had survived, with either no war or far more limited scope, shorter war(s), Man may have walked on the Moon by or before 1960, and presumably would have had real colonies in space by the early 21st century.

    Any review of the trajectory of 20th century heavier-than-air flight, jets, and space-capable rocketry all show how far ahead Germany was by the early 1940s, and what rapid progress they were making.

    Let me quote myself from July 20, 2019, at Steve Sailer’s blog (First Moon Landing +50 years) (ironically, also a reply to Romanian, who was “congratulating you guys [Americans?] on the anniversary of a great achievement that no one can take away from you, however much they may try”):

    [MORE]

    – December 1903: First aircraft flight (Wright Brothers, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina)

    [38 years, 7 months elapse]

    July 1942: First jet aircraft flight (Messerschmitt Me-262; Germany) [or, “Wright Brothers +38.6 years”]

    [3 months elapse]

    October 1942: First rocket launch capable of reaching outer space (V-2; Germany) [or, “Wright Brothers +38.8 years”] (quietly inaugurating “the age of space travel” in earnest, after early tests dating to the late 1920s)

    [18 years, 9 months elapse]

    April 1961: First man in outer space (Gagarin; USSR) [or, “Wright Brothers +57.33 years”] (note: If Germany had either not fought, or quickly won, “the war,” the first man in space likely would have been several years earlier still; plausible scenario for a German in space by 1955?).

    [8 years, 4 months elapse]

    July 1969: First man on the Moon (Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins; USA) [or, “Wright Brothers +65.6 years”]

    ____________

    February 2035 is the point at which we, the living, will be as far away, in time, from the Armstrong–Aldrin–Collins moon landing (July 1969) as they were from Kitty Hawk (Dec. 1903), i.e., equal intervals of +65.6 years.

    We can already kind of see the outlines of what our world will be like in 2035. In some very serious ways, the state of the USA/West in 2035 will be much worse than that which people enjoyed in 1969. Just as a rocket has an ascent-descent trajectory, so does a civilization, some might be tempted to say.

    Others, myself included, are inclined to say something more like: “Some people did something” to Western civilization between the inauguration of the age of space travel (Oct. 1942) and the present day; even by 1969, it looks like we were already partly running on inertia, with the poison already slowly spreading in the system.

    Note to add onto that timeline, July 2011: Final manned US NASA-launched spaceflight; return of US space launches perhaps mid-2020s at earliest.

    • Replies: @Romanian
    , @silviosilver
  21. Romanian says:
    @Hail

    That comment congratulating you was from me, as well.

    The actress is Ruth Negga – Irish mother, Ethiopian father https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Negga

    No explanation in-universe regarding parentage. You should definitely see the movie.

    I do not know about Germany. Theorizing about German technical success is a big part of alternative history scenarios. Would the Germans want to throw the resources into this, though? Had they won WW2, they would have been busy colonizing Eastern lands and managing their sphere influence (like a vengeful Romania at it with Hungary over land lost in the Diktat of Vienna). That is basically a whole new frontier to keep them occupied for generations, as opposed to the closing of the one in the US just a few years before the Wright Brothers took to the air. We keep hearing about von Braun’s dreams, but I have not read that the upper echelons of Nazi Germany were into space.

    As for the Moon and Mars bases, let me quote myself from the same thread you quoted.

    But manned space is where it is at. The conquest of space will never take place without it and the shrinking of NASA’s budgets reflects it. Presenting things as either one or the other is counter-productive. The conquest of the Americas was not a function of how many expeditionary forces were sent to do this or that, but of the colonization efforts that gave the demographic heft necessary for complex human activities and divisions of labor. It is exactly this critical mass that we have been missing in space economy, which the lowering of launch costs may fix. Certainly, it is difficult, but these efforts require upfront costs to tackle, otherwise you will always be tethered to where these investment have already been made, whether it is a particular technological track, or a geographic space etc. Look at how, with some exceptions (China), new cities are not being built today. The existing ones are expanding. That initial settlement effort and the sunk costs enable greater productivity and concentrations of infrastructure and resources later.

    So too must happen with manned space, at least until we have confirmation that our life cycle, as we know it, cannot take place in space.

    ……

    I think the real problem is the conditioning of the public to expect heroics and flag planting rather than real progress. It is cads vs dads for space programs. Zubrin’s Case for Mars book contrasts the olf NASA plan for a fleet of ships to Mars to carry everything they needed for a three day jaunt on the surface to his barebones and much riskier plan that would nevertheless have given astronauts two years on the surface to do science.

    Zubrin’s books The Case for Mars or Mars Direct, which I believe you can pick up cheaply (or through illegal book sites), were really useful for differentiating between visions of human exploration and exploitation of space.

  22. @Hail

    That‘s in the movie? Geez. White father, Black mother? Or Black father, White mother?

    She was born on Mars, but I don’t recall it being revealed that she was the first.

  23. utu says:
    @Hail

    Project Lima requires not only Faustian individuals, but also Faustian governments

    The pact with Devil was made long time ago both by people and the governments.

  24. RodW says:

    I saw Ad Nauseam on the plane back to the U.K. and The Marshian on the way back to Japan. Both are boring rubbish with lots of people floating through hatches in lieu of a plot.

    It seems that wild-eyed Negros and women are the backbone of space exploration (in what universe could that be true?).

    And these films, which seem to address many of the obvious risks of space exploration rather beg the question of whether anyone has actually ventured beyond earth atmosphere at all, although neither film confronts that question. When are viewers going to start asking when the moon is actually going to be getting just awfully touristy?

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  25. Anonymous[228] • Disclaimer says:
    @RodW

    It seems that wild-eyed Negros and women are the backbone of space exploration (in what universe could that be true?).

    LOL! Very good point. White people everywhere should take a step back and realise that they’re not only consuming anti-white propaganda, but actually paying for it. Their money is paying for this suicide whether it’s packaged as an in-flight, cable, or streaming “entertainment”.

    And these films, which seem to address many of the obvious risks of space exploration rather beg the question of whether anyone has actually ventured beyond earth atmosphere at all, although neither film confronts that question. When are viewers going to start asking when the moon is actually going to be getting just awfully touristy?

    Another good point. Did “we” really manage to play golf on the moon in the 60s while being protected by literal tin-foil and cotton? Seriously? How did we regress from that to not being able to send people into high orbit in the next 50 years when the preceding 50 years saw us advance from the brother Wright’s paper planes to commercial jets and space-faring vehicles?

  26. Muggles says:

    While scientific exploration has driven some earth explorations (Antarctica, polar regions) nearly all actual settlements in new lands by a technologically superior group are driven by greed. Not for the sake of pure knowledge. That’s where we are now, and not very far.

    I think the plot of the film(s) Total Recall was based on Phillip K Dick’s version of a less noble future. Money was the main motive, as it has been historically. Only a tiny number of people are willing to risk their lives for pure science. But make them rich and they are quick to sail off to unknown and dangerous shores. Soon you can’t stop them. So outer space will be.

    Motives are either greed or fear. Everything else is wishful thinking.

  27. I have been reading science fiction since sixth grade Tom Swift was my first fair and at that age I never should’ve tackled “Stranger in a Strangeland.” Complaining about science fiction’s implausibilities millions think the Earth is flat and we never went to the moon period. Science fiction will generally always exceed what is possible. But Gravity and Interstellar remain top films. And in my view there were more problems with Gravity than Interstellar.

    The real issues for me was not the science so much as the storyline. They pushed the emotional crisis way too soon and it almost comes out of nowhere. There’s the scene where his father says he never gave a petunia about earth, him or his mother . . . for which there is no address at all.

    I had no idea that resources were so scarce that there might be moon pirates. It throws the storyline and never actually is addressed – nevermind, why the organization just doesn’t locate their base and be done with it.

    The entire story is hinged on these dialectic inter and intra personal issues from which the watcher have no real context and none is cohesive enough to play out. His father’s best friend(?) never looks in on his son — and wife – ever. Note: nothing in the film indicates that emotional connection to other humans has any real value, despite all of the flashbacks, the society as a whole seems wanting of intimate bond as having any value. in fact, I can’t recall a single astronaut’s night out where they joke, laugh or do anything close to sharing their humaness as intimate beings or exhibit ant care one for another.

  28. CJ says:

    Clifford begs his son to help him continue his quest. “You can’t let me fail.” But Roy responds, “But dad, you haven’t failed. Now we know, we’re all we’ve got.”

    I saw Ad Astra in an IMAX theatre with high-quality sound. The line I heard Brad Pitt’s character say was, “Now we know, we’re alone with God.”

    BTW it was a pretty good movie, at least by current Hollywood standards.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  29. “I saw Ad Astra in an IMAX theatre with high-quality sound. The line I heard Brad Pitt’s character say was, “Now we know, we’re alone with God.”

    BTW it was a pretty good movie, at least by current Hollywood standards.”

    There are two interesting references to God that was one of them, the other when they were acknowledging the death of the captain, it really stood out. Appreciate your noting that.

    The “know we are alone” reference is conflicting. I was left wondering whether he was just being encouraging or consoling or whether he was acknowledging a fact – that there was no one but they and a creator. If its the latter, it’s a bold comment given that small snippet of space they could actually investigate for life elsewhere.

    I did not think it was a bad movie, just that it missed the mark of connecting me to the central theme which in my mind was the need for “real” connect between father and son and the press for men to connect with wives and others beyond basic needs for existence.

    again, astute observation — the deity references.

  30. @CJ

    I haven’t seen this yet but Hollywood should just stick to fun sci-fi than go for MEANING unless it can get a director of Kubrick’s caliber. The awful ANNIHILATION was like Ghostbusters meet Stalker. And Astro-Ad sounds pretty silly.

  31. A cure for insomnia. Boring movie predicated on implausible scientific premises. Action sequences akin to something found a comic book. Also, here Pitt looks too old and tired to be an astronaut.

  32. Long, slow, dull, boring movie – just like Interstellar. (I’m a big sci-fi fan.) And if you would like the Christian perspective on other life in the universe, check out Aliens: Fact or Fiction at answersingenesis.org or search that subject at creation.com – you will find the reason we haven’t had any contact with aliens is that there aren’t any.

  33. “And if you would like the Christian perspective on other life in the universe, check out Aliens: Fact or Fiction at answersingenesis.org or search that subject at creation.com – you will find the reason we haven’t had any contact with aliens is that there aren’t any.”

    I tend to lean in the direction of scripture. I don’t know if there is life elsewhere. But my God is creative and I don’t have any issues that such God could create more life than humans.

    But arguing that as fact, doesn’t really address alien intelligence in science fiction. It was once thought that men would never fly and yet . . .

    Life elsewhere has no bearing on salvation or the purpose of life in God on Earth.

  34. Just watched it. This is one of the worst pile of garbage ever. Dumb dumb movie.

  35. Funny to me that most people miss the fact that the movie’s plot is mostly a rip-off of “Heart of Darkness.”

    Ad Astra…pissed me off.

    Brad Pitt was good, but beyond that…

    The story could have been fine if not for the GROSS scientific inaccuracies and strangely constructed script. Just dumb stuff…and stuff that makes no sense other than the story needed something to keep us engaged? I guess the thing that frustrated me is that every time the writer/director made a stupid choice, he could have been scientifically accurate and it would have made it better and more interesting.

    For example…the opening sequence, while visually cool (though already done, essentially, in the Star Trek reboot) makes no sense. So, here we have a highly trained, high-ranking astronaut…and he’s essentially doing tower climber work? The whole sequence serves only to provide some eye candy in a film that is glacially paced.

    There are two other action pieces in the film, and they both are essentially the same thing.

    We hit a point at the story where some producer thought there should be an “action beat” and we get a Mad-Max-style car chase on the moon (pirates, I guess, but why? Pitt and his group didn’t have anything of value with them to pirate away), and later (needing yet another action beat), we get a killer monkey in space.

    Now…the overwhelming stupidity of killer monkeys in space aside, this sequence starts by displaying such a huge lack of understanding of simple physics that I almost turned of the movie then and there…apparently in the universe of this movie, they are using propulsive technology to drive rockets, which means you start out by expending huge amounts of energy to accelerate to a desired velocity, then you turn the ship around when you get to your destination and fire the rocket again to slow down. Apparently in the movie they have special space brakes that allow them to stop essentially on a dime without having to worry about expending fuel to decelerate or accelerate again later to get back on course…ugh. Just an insult to the viewer’s intelligence.

    Tommy Lee Jones is in the movie, but he’s totally wasted.

    Oh, and there’s a ridiculously inaccurate sequence involving Neptune’s rings that…oh hell, I’m just going to stop except to say it reminded me of Dark Star, and not in a good way.

    The critics loved this movie…movie goers, not so much.

    Ad Astra ends up being proof that often the critics don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

    I love science fiction and I really wanted to love this movie…but it’s slow, boring, stupid, and really sucks.

    • Agree: Sulu
  36. Sulu says:

    Trevor,
    Let me get this straight. You are comparing this film favorably to the work of Kubrick? Seriously? You must be joking. You are trolling everyone, right? This film is total rubbish that in no way approaches the genius of Kubrick.

    The Kubrick film that invites any comparison to this would have to be 2001. That film was a masterpiece. And it had something that Ad Astra didn’t. It had a plot. Ad Astra has special effects galore and a plot as thin as the vacuum through which the protagonist is supposedly traveling. The entire plot revolves around an astronaut that has daddy angst due to apparently losing his dad in outer space when he was a kid. But now it’s believed that decades later his dad is alive and at the edge of the solar system. So they use a plot device like the Earth being in danger to justify sending said astronaut out to the edge of the solar system to look for his dad. That’s the plot. That’s it. One drop of piss in Lake Superior weak if you ask me.

    Here’s the thing. During the time that 2001 was made there was no such thing as computer generated effects. So Kubrick did it all with camera work and hand drawn art for some of the computer animations. For its day the effects were groundbreaking. But directors today seem to think that a bunch of computer generated special effects makes up for having no plot at all. Sadly it doesn’t.

    That is why you can go back and watch something like the original Twilight Zone, that barely had special effects worthy of the name, and still find it great. Twilight zone had some great writing. Serling, another genius, was a brilliant writer and while I don’t recall if he wrote all the scripts he wrote quite a few.

    What all of this means is a great story will carry a production that has rudimentary special effects. But great special effects can never make up for a poor story. However, when the stars align and you have a great story and great special effects coupled with inspired acting you can end up with a classic movie. One such example of this would be the original Blade Runner.

    But mentioning this movie in the same breath as the works of Kubrick? Ridiculous!

    Sulu

  37. Sam J. says:

    I saw both movies and they were ok. I think some people are missing the point. It’s Science “fiction”. This is entertainment not science. I bet many of us read some sci-fi in the past and we don’t have wharp drives or anti-grav drives and we certainly don’t have any of that marvelous stuff Ringworld was made of, (I wished, think of the flywheel batteries we could make from this stuff), but they were still entertaining. I appreciate hard sci-fi but some the “magic” tech you just have to ignore because it necessary for the plot to move…somewhere instead of plodding along.

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