It’s been difficult for any sci-fi films to compete with the indomitable force that is Star Wars over the last couple of years, and so we’ve seen the genre descend into something of a niche – sci-fi and space-adventure films like Gravity and Interstellar still win awards and get critical praise, but tend to fall short at the box-office. Sci-fi adaptations have been few and far between: even Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, which should be an easy win for any studio, has been stuck in stasis over at Apple TV.
This year, 20th Century FOX (now owned by Disney) is going to be attempting the impossible, with a new, completely-original sci-fi epic that transforms award-bait Brad Pitt into an astronaut living in the shadow of his father, who was lost in the deep expanses of space. He’s got all the trademarks of one of your generic astronaut protagonist of the last few years – maybe it’s just the astronaut suit and the sort of vaguely Midwestern name, but our hero Roy McBride feels like an amalgamation of many stellar explorers who have come before.
The first part of the new Ad Astra trailer only seems to reinforce this: Liv Tyler gets the thankless job of playing Roy’s wife – again, one of the archetypal characters in modern astronaut thrillers. After meeting her, we’re then treated to some fairly generic explosions on the International Space Station that send Roy plummeting towards the surface of the Earth (I honestly have no clue how he makes it out of that alive). As he wakes up in a hospital bed, I’m already yawning and waiting for this to turn into a sequel to Gravity.
Immediately after that point, the trailer changes radically – Tyler’s character is going on about fires and explosions all over the world, Pitt discovers that his father is alive somewhere on the far side of the solar system, working on alien tech that could destroy the earth, and there’s…a car-chase on the Moon? The way this trailer plays on your subdued expectations, and makes you think you’re watching another sad, ponderous astronaut drama: and then suddenly throws you into a full-speed-ahead science-fiction epic? That’s brilliant. It’s like the best of both worlds – because don’t get me wrong, the trailer still unabashedly shows off how much Ad Astra wants praise (and awards) from critics; aside from Pitt and Tyler, the film also stars Oscar-winner Tommy Lee Jones and rising star Ruth Negga (who, unfortunately, is not seen in the trailer).
And yes, there is one epic action-scene on the Moon, with astronauts in little space-buggies zipping around shooting at each other – you honestly can’t go wrong with something like that.
Trailer Rating: 8.5/10