Ad Astra – 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ad Astra

When I originally reviewed the movie in September, I originally gave it a slightly favorable review.  However, upon multiple viewings, my thoughts on the film have changed. Ad Astra features a very ambitious storyline put together by James Gray and Ethan Gross. Unfortunately, the results are a bit underwhelming and collapse under its ambitions. The problem is that it tries to be more meaningful and tries to subvert your expectations. It’s always admirable whenever filmmakers try to do something different, but it doesn’t always work. Regardless, the movie has a pretty straightforward story. There’s not a ton of twists and turns in this movie.

The movie moves at a very slow pace. There are a ton of establishing and mood shots that extends the film’s runtime. However, the usage of these shots is fine because the movie is beautiful in terms of the cinematography, use of colors, and CGI. Not to mention, the music adds to the moodiness and tone of the film.

Unfortunately, the movie rarely has moments where it raises your heartbeat due to tension or excitement. Much like Roy, the movie runs at an even “heartrate” the entire time. At the same time, when things do happen, it happens because of pure bad luck. Anything that could go wrong in this journey does go wrong.

That’s because Ad Astra is more of a psychological drama set in a hard sci-fi movie. Roy McBride is a very flawed character but he’s not a very interesting one either. He’s someone who’s still haunted by the disappearance of his father. Clifford was his hero, so he tries to model himself after his memories of him. He’s mission-focused the entire time which keeps him stoic and is unable to connect with loved ones. He’s distant and thus, not very sympathetic.

At the same time, Roy’s distant mentality also parallels the lonely life of an astronaut in space. That idea of being on different celestial bodies gives astronauts a sense of loneliness due to the helpless feeling of feeling small when looking at the Earth.

Overall, Ad Astra is a beautiful yet slow movie that will test your patience when watching it. The movie’s psychological drama is something different for a hard sci-fi movie. Yet the uninteresting characters make this movie a hard watch for those used to something more exciting. It’s a movie for a niche crowd.

Movie Rating: 3/5 atoms

Video

Ad Astra - Brad Pitt

Ad Astra hits Ultra HD Blu-ray with an HDR transfer and a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The high contrast leads to some fantastic depth in the picture. It also leads to some vibrant brightness and some deep blacks with no loss of details in these areas. With the black levels though, it’s not entirely pure black. Instead, it’s a slightly lighter shade of black. Because of the wonderful imagery and use of colors in this movie, the colors pop from the screen. From the warm colors of Mars to the cold colors of Neptune, the colors all are consistently saturated throughout the film. Also, the details are incredibly clear with a nice crispness to the edges. The picture quality is great overall.

Video Rating: 5/5 atoms

Audio

Title hits Ultra HD Blu-ray with a Dolby Atmos and a core 7.1 Dolby TrueHD Master Audio track. This review will reflect Ad Astra‘s Dolby Atmos track. Due to the nature of the film itself, the mix isn’t very dynamic. There are a few instances where the sound flies all over the sound stage, but they are few and far between. Nevertheless, the mix is very immersive thanks to the accurate placement of sound. This also includes the distinct dome-like enveloping effects thanks to the Atmos format.

When it comes to the atmospherics, they’re mostly subtle. What fills up the sound stage is Max Richter’s futuristic-style score. The synths and instruments that Richter uses are layered across all channels. Now, considering this is a dialogue-heavy movie, it only makes sense that the clarity of the dialogue takes precedence over anything else. It’s clear and distinct in the center channel. Overall, this is a nice and subtle immersive audio mix.

Audio Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

Special Features

Ad Astra - Tommy Lee Jones
Ad Astra‘s Ultra HD Blu-ray disc has James Gray’s audio commentary on it. However, you can find the following special features on the Blu-ray disc:

  • Deleted Scenes featuring audio commentary by James Gray
    • The Void
    • Epilogue
  • To the Stars
  • A Man Named Roy
  • The Crew of the Cepheus
  • The Art of Ad Astra
  • Reach for the Stars
  • Audio Commentary by James Gray

Much like the movie itself, the deleted scenes are slow but features some great acting by Donald Sutherland and Liv Tyler. It is advisable to listen to James Gray’s commentary on the deleted scenes, though. It does give so much context to not only the scene itself but to the overall storyline as well. “To the Stars” is an interesting featurette that covers a lot of the aspects of the story. “A Man Named Roy” is a love-fest kind of featurette for Brad Pitt. The featurette also covers the Roy McBride character as well.

However, if you want to know more about the story and characters then you should check out the audio commentary instead. James Gray is an incredibly eloquent speaker who divulges a lot of information about all aspects of the film. You’ll learn a ton of things about the story—including it’s the ideas behind it or the story decisions. However, the commentary does tend to become a bit dry. Think of it as a bland college professor speaking for two-hours.

Weirdly enough, “The Crew of the Cepheus” focuses on the actors who play the astronauts who give Roy a ride from the moon to Mars. Then again, Roy’s interactions with the crew of the Cepheus is the most interaction Roy has with other characters. “The Art of Ad Astra,” as you can imagine, focuses on the production design, costumes, and look of the movie. It’s a must-watch since the look of the movie is by far the best thing about the movie. “Reach for the Stars” is another fascinating featurette about the technical consultants (ie. NASA scientists) and all of the information they’ve provided to the movie. So you’ll get to learn a lot of the science behind the film by watching this featurette.

Special Features Rating: 3.5/5 atoms


Overall, Ad Astra is an ambitious sci-fi film that collapses underneath the weight of its aspirations. It’s a film for a specific kind of crowd. Both the picture quality and audio mix are awesome overall. The special features are fantastic and very informative despite its dry tone.

Overall Rating: 4/5 atoms

This Blu-ray was reviewed using a retail/advance copy/unit provided by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1605 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.