In Passengers, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) has an impossible problem. He’s on a 120-year trip to colonize the planet Homestead II. He’s supposed to be in suspended animation for the trip but wakes up 90 years too early. Not good. He can’t be suspended again. Even less good.
He searches for help but finds none. He spends over a year solo on the Avalon. He tries to keep himself occupied, but eventually reaches his limit. He falls in love with a suspended woman and wakes her up, condemning her to never start the life she had planned.
After traveling for 30 years, the Avalon is moving at half the speed of light. It has a shield in front of it, but it isn’t impenetrable. Unbeknownst to Preston, the ship was critically damaged before he wakes up. It’s up to Preston and his victim, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), to fix it.
The Avalon is really beautiful. Graceful, delicate and vast. It is a good backdrop to this lonely love story.
Ad Astra, (To the Stars), is a space epic that often features Brad Pitt’s face. Unfortunately, he isn’t asked to smile much.
Two ongoing motifs are remarks about the exceptionally low heart rate of Pitt’s character and agency-required monologue psychological evaluations. Roy McBride’s remarks are used as a cue to the audience into his mental state. After all, there is little dialog to allow his character to be built up more naturally. No other character is important enough for that.
Central to the story is a classified “Lima” project. Despite the secrecy surrounding it, many people that McBride meets have more information for him. The project was led by Roy McBride’s missing father, the hero H. Clifford McBride, played by Tommy Lee Jones. This connection provides an evolving emotional impetus for the story.
Ad Astra has a dystopian projection of how terrestrial nations deal with the resources of space. On the moon, each nation has staked out a claim that leaves a dangerous no-mans-land between their territories. Space travel has become a commercial venture, but SpaceCom seems to consider it secondary to their secret intrigues.
Since it’s a Hollywood movie, I didn’t expect the science to be very hard or precise, so I was willing to suspend disbelief for a lot. Yet, one horribly weak plot point struck me. Landing on the near side of the moon and driving to a base on the far side is hard to defend. However, the situation gave some action to a story that is heavy on cerebral pursuits. (See the psychological evaluations.)
The story is straightforward to describe. It’s hard to say much about the story without dropping spoilers. With a few nodes of action with slower stretches between them, the story would need expansion to make a novel.
I’m glad I saw the film on IMAX so that I could feast my eyes on the beautiful set development. I really appreciated the sonic environment that the movie possesses as well.
Yesterday, I watched Everyday Astronaut live stream a SpaceX launch. The satellite was lifted on behalf of the government of Luxembourg. It was exciting that some of Luxembourg’s national leaders were watching the launch in person.
I’m proud to be a budding space nerd. It’s much more fun than being a computer nerd. A computer nerd can’t watch the Amazon fraud prevention team over the shoulder and jump up and cheer when they ban another dodgy vendor like you can when a Delta IV lifts off from Vandenberg.
After a rocket launches, there’s commentary that you can review. There’s always new things to learn including nearly a century of history behind space travel. For example, it’s amazing to watch this narration of a slow motion video of Apollo 11’s Saturn V first stage engines as they ignite and leave the ground.
Tim Dodd is awesome. He’s really fun to watch and has entertaining yet informative videos. He has a Russian space suit he wears for some videos. He proposed to his wife in it at Machu Picchu–so awesome! He makes his own music. If you want to support him, you can join him on Patreon.
Apparently I was a baby space nerd in high school, but I had forgotten. This week I found my 1979 term paper about the Space Shuttle. It would be interesting to compare the projections for the shuttle in 1979 with what actually happened.