With 'Ad Astra' hitting theaters this weekend, all it took was staring into Brad Pitt's lost little boy eyes as he dodges space debris to get us thinking about how we had it all wrong. When adults asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, chances are we exclaimed "Astronaut!" more than once, but movies have actually spent a long time telling us why that's a terrible idea. Alongside the bravery, intelligence, and pioneering spirit of everyone involved in a space program comes enormous risk.
With Earth in serious trouble, humans are looking to the stars in this Christopher Nolan film starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, and Anne Hathaway. But with all the talk of relativity and “where did these marks on my floor come from?” there’s no time for lounging around and laughing like you're in a soda commercial. McConaughey ends up spending what ends up being his family's whole life trying to save the planet, so he ends up just having to go back to space to hang out with the closest thing he has to a lady love.
If you ever took gravity for granted, watching this Academy Award-winning Sandra Bullock film will quickly shift you into an attitude of gratitude. As her mission to upgrade the Hubble telescope goes horribly wrong thanks to a Russian missile strike, Bullock spends the entire movie figuring out how to drift away from certain things and towards others to get home. Heaven help you if you saw this movie in 3D. Audience members left the theaters and reportedly kissed the ground. Or…was that just us?
It’s bad enough taking a job to go to space and hang out by yourself mining fuel, but it’s even worse when your communication signals get jammed except for video voicemails from your boo on Earth. It becomes incomprehensibly bad when you learn that the signals were blocked on purpose by your boss AND you’re a clone. Things swing back to being good when you realize that having clones means you have company, but then they get bad again when you realize those clones are jerks and you’re the dumbest one.
Humankind has always been fascinated by visiting that big rock in the sky. Humankind’s second thought should be how petrifying any trouble up there would be. Apollo 13, the mission led by Jim Lovell, and the movie led by Tom Hanks, exemplifies both the resourcefulness of our space program and why it’s best for most of us to stay grounded. Mechanical failures abound—explosions, leaks, transmission blackouts. And as if that weren’t enough, human mechanical failures make things even worse, with urinary infections and freezing temperatures. By the time these guys land you’ve stress eaten three days’ worth of calories.
Damien Chazelle and his team conveyed a body-shaking version of what it was like to be a meat sack propelled into space in a tin can at the start of the space race. While movies about space have always had the deep bass of rocket boosters, First Man exponentially upped the ante by conveying just how precarious the structures were on top of that enormous power. Between launches, training scenes, and occasional crashes in fields, the movie never seems to stop shaking. Poor Baby Goose.