Working Out Your Issues (Ad Astra, 2019)

Ad_Astra_PosterFifteen years ago, Clifford McBride left earth to find intelligent life in the universe, leaving a wife and son behind.  At some point, the mission was lost. McBride’s son has followed in his fathers footsteps and now works as part of a space station/satellite.  After he survives a massive accident Roy McBride discovers that his father may yet be alive and that his experiments may be what caused the accident. See, the accident was due to a massive surge from space that has impacted the planet.

Roy is recruited to go on a mission to see if he can convince his father to stop the experiments. Much of the film is focused on Pitt’s Roy McBride’s trip and emotional journey.  It is established early on that Roy is in a rather remarkable sense of self control. He is aware that this is detrimental to his relationships and that he is pretty distant from his own life. He even comments that he might be lying to everyone, even himself.

This tends to work really well, as Pitt keeps his performance largely detached and emotionless until you near the end of the film. Only as he sees possible closure do his emotions start to creep to the surface.

The film really rides almost completely on Pitt’s performance, as most characters pass in and out of the story very quickly. But Pitt is up to the task.  The film is not terribly deep, it is about fathers and sons and letting go of personal pain.  And the film is very much surface level. But I appreciated that the film does not get so lost in meandering philosophy (and it could have) that it feels like a solid resolution and hope for Roy by the closing minutes of the film.

The other thing I appreciated a lot in this film is the atmosphere and the world building. Set in the vague “near future” we have space stations on the moon and Mars, but nothing feels implausible.  The tech feels like logical extensions from current tech. The moon is established as a borderless zone, full of tourists and threats.  In the safety of America’s Moon-base you have fast food restaurants, families taking their pictures with mascots and hotel chains. but leaving there, you run into human threats.

Ad Astra is thoughtful sci-fi without being too esoteric for mainstream viewers. It is amazing to look at and Pitt gives a simple but interesting performance.

Just Because… (Warcraft, 2016)

Warcraft_PosterSo…apparently, a horde of angry and evil Orcs travel through a portal to take over the world of Azeroth.  Some of the Orcs side with the humans, because “Not All Orcs” or some such.

To be honest? I watched this movie based on the popular Blizzard Entertainment open world game twice.  I know people got super immersed in the game.  I have never played it and do not know much beyond it is kind of like D&D…? And after two viewings, I remember very little about it.  My last viewing was actually less than 24 hours from when I am typing this.  And I absolutely have no strong memory about the film.  Which is disappointing.

I remember it had Jesse Custer and Tulip from Preacher in it.  And Ben Foster. And a sexy orc woman. Kind of a taller, more muscular Orion Slave Girl from Star Trek. Some magic powered guy talked about how he renounced his vows and wants to still help the kingdom fight the evil orcs. Lots of fights that did not make a whole lot of overall sense.  Or rather the plot seemed remarkably inconsequential.

I kind of hate writing these types of reviews.  I actually don’t like spending a tremendous amount of time tearing movies down.  Certainly, so movies are so ridiculous that they inspire hilarity.  And that can be a bit fun to write.

But Warcraft?  It is a competently made film.  It has a perfectly good cast.  And this is from Duncan Jones, a director who I think is quite talented. And yet, it just was…painfully forgettable. Not a good sign since, according to IMDB, the title is actually Warcraft: The Beginning.

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