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Ad Astra: Toward the Stars
(Source: vanyaland.com)

Recently, films about astral space have been loved by many Korean audiences. These include Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, and Ad Astra, which was released this September. Unlike previous films set in space, Ad Astra depicts human emotions in detail and puts aside the scientific facts. Therefore, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) has reviewed the movie where Brad Pitt, the main character’s narration and his facial expressions give a feeling of a human epic in space.

Space Epic Likely to Happen in the Near Future

Brief Plot

The beginning of the film starts with the phrase, “The near future”, which does not state the exact year. The main character, Roy McBride, is a major in the U.S. Space Command and has outstanding physical ability and a high level of composure. His heartbeats never exceed 80, and he maintains the exact state even in the face of a life-threatening crisis. One day, an overcurrent phenomenon, or a “surge” has occurred, which came from Neptune, where Roy’s father, who is a space scientist, went missing. For this reason, Roy has been assigned a classified mission to communicate with his father, and he sets out on his way to find him.

Film Features

There are three distinctive features in the film, including analog elements, mise-en-scène of black, and restrained action scenes.

1. Analog Elements

The film used a lot of analog elements, and the audience will get the meaning of the director’s words that “the movie will show the most realistic universe you have ever seen.” Space films favorites like three-dimensional (3D) holograms, state of the art robots, future spacesuits, and spaceships moving at the speed of light never come out in the film. Space rockets operate in the same way as today’s way, and people can go sightseeing in space if they can afford it. The moon is not pioneered by high-tech platforms such as the outposts but it looks like a normal airport. There are franchise shops like Subway, DHL, and souvenir shops. Even the transportation on the moon is the same as the lunar probe that we can imagine and use these days. The technology used in the film is not much different in our real lives, which allows the audience to immerse itself in the film.

Communication Trial with Roy’s Father (vanityfair.com)

2. Mise-en-scène of Black and Silence

Mise-en-scène is a visual direction of the video to insinuate the director’s intentions and plot. Since the universe is the background of the film, black conquers most of the screen. The black color is used effectively in static scenes, giving the viewer a feeling of being alone in the vast space. It also stops all sounds at the same time, so only stillness flows with the black. The silent black screen allows the audience to focus on the inside of their minds, unlike the typical mise-en-scène, which shows symbolism though visible objects.

3. Restrained Action Scenes The main character’s journey is focused on his psychology and anguish, but there are also action scenes in between. One of the biggest action scenes is a chase against predatory pirates on the moon, and they fight fiercely for their lives. The director, however, showed these intense actions with zoom-in and zoom-out techniques, making the action scene noiseless due to the moon’s weak gravity. Likewise, it also mutes the sound when the camera zooms out of the scene, giving audiences a fresh feeling of action that was not usually seen in action scenes. It shows that the fierce fighting and struggle of man in space is not a big event, but a trivial one.

Predatory Pirates on the Moon (sortiraparis.com)

Space and Humans

Ad Astra is a film that shows profound consideration and insight into humankind, with the only difference being that the background is the universe.

Human Greed and Endless Resource War

As the audiences can see from the moon, there are already franchises on the outside. Additionally, on the rocket to the moon, the capitalistic reality of buying a blanket for 125 dollars remains in the future. Also, the moon and the North Pole have no borders, so humans endlessly fight for resources, and lawless pirates are still out there. Furthermore, animal experiments with apes are still being conducted, and through narration, Roy says that he is tired of this. This future of the universe does not show a positive and hopeful era of space development, but it shows an all too realistic space future that is likely to happen.

Self-Discovering Through Journey

Roy’s Psychological Evaluation (digitalspy.com)

In the movie, everyone must be verified with having a stable state of mind through a psychological evaluation before any mission in space takes place. For this calmness, Roy cuts off all of his relationships and gives up his beloved woman. Likewise, his father abandoned all love and family ties and only aimed at accomplishing scientific achievements. After all, Roy’s father cannot stand his failure, and cannot go farther from Neptune. Roy returns with enlightenment after seeing his father’s empty and blind eyes only for achievements and success. In the final psychological evaluation, Roy feels the vitality to live and confesses that he will share his life with the people around him and share their burdens and love. Ad Astra will give Kingos a great opportunity to reflect on their lives. It would be meaningful enough to have a life like Roy, who loves things that are close to him rather than just looking for things that are far away like Roy’s father.

The film keeps throwing out the boring cliché, “precious things are always by your side.” It is up to the audiences to choose whether to accept it as a mere cliché message or feel it deep in their hearts. Like the Latin proverb, Per Aspera Ad Astra (To the Stars through Adversity), which is the title of the film, Kingos can find their real selves by watching it.

김우재  okemoskim@naver.com

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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