The fact that you’re even looking at this article confirms that like me, you are a fan of sci-fi. Of course, we all love or at least have respect for the ‘Star Wars’ saga (at least Episodes 4-8), Star Trek, Terminator, and on and on. To be honest, I don’t think it’s that difficult to set a saga in space when the story takes place far, far away or 300 years into the future because you don’t have to incorporate what’s familiar to the audience and can rely on magic, the force, or impossible machines and cyborgs to drive the story. I truly respect when a movie takes a story and presents it in a way that seems familiar and believable for our present, like ‘Gravity‘ and ‘The Martian.’
I like ‘Ad Astra’ because while it does rely on technology that is beyond the present, it’s still recognizable with bulky space suits, space conveyances that are immediately recognizable as being the great-grandchildren of our International Space Station, and the familiar crackle of helmet radios. No spoilers here, we know from trailers that Brad Pitt’s character, Roy McBride, travels across our solar system to find his father and save the Earth from some unspecified disaster. Production designer Kevin Thompson (who also worked on ‘Okja’ and ‘Birdman’) explained his approach on setting the film in an advanced but still familiar future:
“Visually, the aim was to be as naturalistic and believable as possible. We wanted the moon to feel like it had been conquered by contractors. We used a mix of things to design the lunar airport to give it a slightly familiar feeling.”
His words were echoed by visual special effect supervisor Allen Maris (known for work on ‘Blade,’ the entirely underrated ‘Aeon Flux,’ and ‘Prometheus’):
“We wanted to make it all very real. If it’s not done well, audiences will not buy into or believe the story — and that’s the most important thing.”
I could go on and on about how they pulled out all the stops to make this film seem real. Instead, I’ll refer you to Variety’s red carpet interviews. ‘Ad Astra’ is out in theaters now – go see it!