’Ad Astra’s Stunning Visuals Include Some Actual Space Photography

by Jessica Lachenal
20th Century Fox

Judging by its latest trailers and previews, Ad Astra is brewing up a lot of the same vibes as other contemporary "near future" science fiction films such as Interstellar, Annihilation, and Arrival. What's more, Ad Astra also promises a real visual feast on par with the varying styles that make each of those movies so unique. Note especially how each shot of each film looks packed with incredible, tiny details that really bring them to life. Given that, it's probably a safe bet to say that Ad Astra is a film worth seeing in IMAX when it launches into theaters Sept 20.

Ad Astra's IMAX-focused trailer shows off some of those tiny details, and, in so doing, pulls back the curtain just a little bit to offer the barest of peeks into the movie's otherwise vague plot. Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) finds himself at the center of a mystery that's at least a generation in the making, as the legacy of his space explorer father, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), is cast in doubt following a revelation that Clifford may have something to do with a current threat against humanity's very existence. It's all a bit spooky because Clifford disappeared on an expedition to the outer solar system 30 years prior to the events of the film.

The trailer shows some fairly haunting snippets of Clifford on video, potentially documenting his explorations, and it even ends on a creepy note, with his disembodied voice saying, "The world awaits our discovery, my son."

Again, it's all very evocative, and there's a lot of really neat blink-and-you'll-miss-it visuals strewn all over the place. For example, take a look at this quick cut of a view outside of what seems to be a space colony. There's a lot of "industrial warehouse" vibes happening, for sure, but contrasted with the darkened, grey landscape are a bunch of colorful neon brand signs.

20th Century Fox

Present are DHL, a shipping company, Hudson News, which anybody who's flown in an airport in the past decade-plus will recognize, and Nathan's, of Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs. Also present is Vegas Vic, the "neon cowboy" who was first posted outside the Pioneer Hotel in Las Vegas' Fremont Street in 1951. These are all small inclusions, but they make for interesting world building all the same, and being able to see them on a nice, big, high-definition IMAX screen should make for a pretty fun experience, all said.

20th Century Fox

Director James Gray offered another interesting tidbit in an interview with CNN, one that by itself may warrant going to see Ad Astra in the highest definition possible. "It's maybe the first (space) movie to be partially shot on location," Gray said. "We had the advantage of having the actual photographs." By "actual photographs, he means high-resolution images taken by lunar and Martian rovers. So while yes, a lot of the film is based on "near-future" science fiction, it's pretty cool to know that the visuals, at least, are based in some form of science fact. Even better, it's even more fun to think that Gray took those facts and ran with them, ending up with a lunar rover car chase.