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Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019) Plot Details

jacques100 · 18 · 3812

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jacques100

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on: April 06, 2019, 10:51:41 AM
(Translated from Russian, so the grammar is weird.)

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About Ad Astra Scenario

Just a few weeks ago began shooting / Ad Adstra. The film is directed by James Gray, who, along with Ethan Gross, is one of the screenwriters. The lead roles in the film are Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga and Donald Sutherland. The project’s interesting synopsis seemed to me: “a military engineer travels around the solar system in search of a father who disappeared for 20 years, trying to find traces of newcomers.” So when I came across the script of the film (108-page version dated August 11, 2016), I decided to read it.

So, before you start the story about the plot, I think it’s worth answering one vital question right away - how realistic is the script? Well, you know, now, when the next movie about space is coming out, everyone first and foremost begins to enthusiastically discuss the likelihood of things shown, astrophysics, etc. So, after reading the Ad Astra script, I personally noticed the following interesting things:


    On the reverse side of the moon reigns eternal night.

    All the planets of the solar system are ranked. If we want to fly urgently to Neptune, we will fly Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus in turn.

    Travel to Earth is deadly for those born on Mars because of ... the radiation belts of Earth. On Mars itself, with radiation, one must assume everything is in order.

    The satellite orbit Larissa passes inside (!) The atmosphere of Neptune, in the literal sense, under its clouds.

    Flying up to Neptune, you can hear radio broadcasts that were broadcast on Earth in the early 1930s.

    The distance from Neptune to the Earth is 1.5 billion km. And judging by the accompanying comment, the screenwriter even saw this photo of our planet from the Cassini staff. Probably, the distance figure migrated from the description to it.

Having closed the question with realism, now I will say a few words about the story itself. So, her main character is Major Roy McBride. He leads a team of engineers building a gravitational telescope. The task of the device is the search for alien life. The telescope is a huge 30-kilometer tower, which, in fact, extends beyond the limits of the earth's atmosphere. But one day one of the satellites of Neptune explodes, which leads to a series of disturbances throughout the solar system, causing an earthquake on various planets. This brings down part of the telescope and leads to the death of Roy’s team.

You probably already ask a couple of questions, like: "What is the point of building a gravitational telescope in the form of a 30-kilometer tower?", "How exactly does a gravitational telescope find newcomers?" Well, what can I say about this - above, I already wrote everything about the realism of the script.

Okay, continue. So, after some time, the authorities call Roy and tell him that intelligence connects the events with the activities of his father. 20 years ago, he went to Neptune to build a gravitational telescope and disappeared without a trace. So Roy gets the job to track down his father, until he does something else. Initially, he goes to the moon, from where he transmits a message for papa to space. Having received a response from Mars, the hero heads there on a passing ship.

If you do not catch a special logic in what is written above, do not despair - I also had such problems. We go further. I haven’t yet said one important thing: our main character (it is Brad Pitt who will play him) has a slight degree of autism. And he in the script is not the only such unusual character. Cause? Living in space and not seeing the Earth, people gradually go crazy. And therefore, cosmonauts in the future mainly take individuals with, let's say, some peculiarities of mental development.

In fact, all these scenic oddities are explained quite simply. Judging by the interview, James Gray seriously intends to remove his version of "The Heart of Darkness" / "Apocalypse of our days" in space. Well, you know, the hero travels in search of another character, who is talked about all the time, but which we know only from photos and archival records. And against this background, all sorts of wild events for a white person occur. Well, since the script is designed for standard two-hour timekeeping, Gray seems to have decided that the shortest way to success is to cram as many surreal and absurd WTF episodes into it as possible. A side effect is that many of them have no effect on the plot and are in no way friendly with common sense. As in other matters and the characters' actions.

Therefore, in the Ad Astra scenario of the hero, some gangsters on lunar rovers attack, then one of the characters is eaten by a monkey running away from the Norwegian space station (do not ask, this scene still does not affect the main plot) The base is something between a strip bar and a brothel. I'm not kidding, almost all the scientists and the military, whom the hero meets, smoke dope and look like psychos. I even had the idea that Ad Astra might be a secret prequel of “Prometheus” and “Alien Testament” explaining exactly how Wayland-Utani manages to recruit such talented people for the crews of their expeditions.

Well, and if to speak as a whole, Ad Astra turned out to be one of the strangest scripts that I have ever read lately. I was waiting for something so serious, but I received something very similar in spirit to the work of Terry Gilliam. The question of course is how this project will progress. In principle, based on this scenario, it is possible to create a trailer that serves the movie under the sauce of a serious fantastic action-thriller, which tells us about the secrets of life. And for some reason it seems to me that most likely they will do it, since, judging by the scenario, collecting spectacular shots would not be a problem. At the exit, of course, there will be a large number of people spitting due to the fact that advertising has once again deceived them. But not the first time, right?

Of course, maybe the script was reworked and smoothed, reducing the degree of surrealism and making the hero more normal. But since James Gray himself directs the film, I think he will strive to sustain his original vision. Another question is whether the studio and viewers will agree with it on test views.

As for my personal opinion about the read script, initially it was frankly negative - I was waiting for something sustained in a completely different spirit. But having thought everything over, I came to the conclusion that, perhaps, it would be interesting for me to have a look at the final product. You just need to watch it on the principle of x / f Looper - take all the conventions of the plot as a given, forget about looking for the missing logic / explanation of what is happening and just enjoy strange images, situations and the main character - autistic. And then, you see, the movie even takes pleasure and amuse. At least, for all its oddities, this material can still make something more memorable than the millionth screen version of a superhero, another forced sequel or an unnecessary remake.





huntERSwhip

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Reply #1 on: April 14, 2019, 12:30:20 AM
Hi. Would you be willing to DM me the script?


wilder

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Reply #2 on: June 05, 2019, 07:02:21 AM


Drenk

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Reply #3 on: June 05, 2019, 07:12:08 AM
I'm so many people.


polkablues

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Reply #4 on: June 05, 2019, 12:48:55 PM
Help me out with that tag line. “The answers we’re looking for...” and then my knowledge of French runs out.
That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth.


Drenk

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Reply #5 on: June 05, 2019, 02:30:52 PM
In French it's : "...have never been closer."
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polkablues

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Reply #6 on: July 21, 2019, 06:45:30 PM
Script attached (courtesy of Sergei)
That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth.


Drenk

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Reply #7 on: September 20, 2019, 07:52:17 AM
I'm so many people.


WorldForgot

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Reply #8 on: September 20, 2019, 11:19:21 AM
Did not like this much... It has slivers of a Sci-Fi-meld that could work, namely 2001+Apocalypse Now, but when the script is leaning so much on a structure we already know well, it loses steam without its own personality. Doesn't help that I rewatched Apocalypse Now a few weeks ago.

The production design, cinematography, score, these are all stellar. Space-Colonialism, neat. Abstract rooms that feel more emotional than the VO. Together, they remove us from the all-too-familiar trappings of the film's structure and promise a cerebral atmosphere the film can't quite deliver. Probably my favorite sequence is on Mars, but so many characters only serve as plot-momentum rather than any developed persona. This might even go for our protagonist. Bad narration, especially. I think I would have thought it an Okay movie sans-narration.


samsong

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Reply #9 on: September 21, 2019, 09:27:37 PM
this wrecked me.  my favorite of the year so far and favorite thing james gray has done, slightly edging out the immigrant. (i’m a big fan of his work.)

apocalypse now by way of malick, sure, but this ends up being more like diary of a country priest as an all-encompassing (in the sense of genre indulgences and philosophical inquiries) space epic.  given all that and the film’s subtexts, this almost seemed tailor made for me.

brad pitt should win oscars for both lead and supporting actor.


Drenk

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Reply #10 on: September 22, 2019, 05:53:22 AM
As a whole, the movie didn't quite click with me: it is weirdly softened by a mostly useless voice over and its last two minutes are too "cute". I wish it had been 100% the quiet  and astonishing meditation through solitude it so often is. I was surprised by the spectacle and the contemplation, how natural the transitions were.

Brad Pitt is a fantastic actor; I don't know why his part in Fight Club was considered as nothing big, for him, at the time, it's such a funny a strong performance, it made me fall in love with him, and then Jesse James came...
He gave two of his best performances in a row this year, even though he's too good looking to be a stuntman or an astronaut or a human being, even.
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WorldForgot

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Reply #11 on: September 26, 2019, 06:30:16 PM
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What kind of triggers?
Well, I’m not really comfortable talking about the triggers I used with Brad. That’s personal. But it depends on how the actor works. It’s a good question. Some actors work in a very [Lee] Strasberg sort of way, which is substitution. In other words, “I’m playing Joan of Arc, I’ve never actually burned to death, but if I put my hand on the candle and I feel what that feels like for 30 seconds, and how painful that is, I can use that.” So some actors work that way. Other actors use total make-believe. Other actors work from the outside in; the costume becomes the person. So it’s incumbent on you to recognize what kind of actor you’re working with, what their strategy is, and then to help them. It’s why the first week of shooting is so hard, because you’re just sussing out how the actor works. How do you trigger a performance? That’s also why — I’m about to say something controversial, maybe you should stop me.

No, no. Go for it.
It’s why good work sometimes is ugly. Francis Coppola is giving Martin Sheen triggers [in Apocalypse Now], and some people would say he’s torturing him, goading him, so when he punches that mirror, his actual blood, his real blood, is all over his fist and face. Social media would have torn Francis apart now. But to do good work, sometimes that’s demanded. Or what [John] Cassavetes did to Lynn Carlin on Faces and Gena Rowlands. I don’t know if that would survive today. I’m not arguing that we should all beat each other up and torture each other and punch mirrors and all that. The set is a sacred place, because you are going to confront some demons. You’re going to have to reveal the private moment, the most vulnerable moment, and in order to trigger the performance you want, you have to take those kinds of risks. I don’t know if that’ll survive the social media explosion.
Spoilerz Abound in this Interview


Drill

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Reply #12 on: October 10, 2019, 03:58:53 PM
Are people going to finally accept that James Gray is never going to happen? He's been around longer than PTA and Wes, for goodness sake.

His poor dialogue always lets him down. Such as The Immigrant "I need muh mon-neh! It's for my see-ster!" I don't dislike him at all, but he doesn't have"it". This big breakthrough his fans always get their hopes up for everytime he makes a film is never coming.


jenkins

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Reply #13 on: October 10, 2019, 04:03:22 PM
this was his big breakthrough. this was it

i didn’t see it btw. it’s not on my list


wilberfan

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Reply #14 on: October 10, 2019, 08:32:51 PM
Just caught THE YARDS because of his connection to Ad Astra (which I haven't seen yet).  Not terrible.  Incredible cast.  It didn't feel as important as it thought it was.
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