Ad Astra is appalling. It is so bad that it almost comes out the other side, as a self-aware meta-analysis of what not to do when making a film. Almost. The script is woeful, as though EL James took a detour from smut and parlayed her mangling of literature into hard sci-fi. The cinematography feels like a first year film student project, obsessed with cramming every technique into every shot and not understanding the point of any of it. The sets feel like they were stolen from the dumpster during the Bladerunner 2049 wrap party. The editing is...non-existent. Ad Astra feels like a social media sweepstakes where entrants were encouraged to send in their own science fiction short films and these were stitched together into some horrifying gestalt of a film by a drunk mall Santa with a hatred of mankind. I'm almost certain that a significant amount of Tommy Lee Jones' screen time was swept off the cutting room floor of Space Cowboys. The question you'll be asking the most as you watch Ad Astra is "why is any of this happening?", followed by the statement "this is dumb, this is the dumbest thing that everyone could be doing". And the film will say to you "just shut up and look at the pretty pictures." Like all good science fiction should, Ad Astra asks questions about the nature of humanity. But where good science fiction explores themes through emergent storytelling and characterisation, Ad Astra eschews all of that, opting to have Brad Pitt on hand to narrate any of those tricky Cliff Notes you may have missed, with all the subtlety of a bolt gun in an abattoir and mostly the same result. The first rule of writing is "show, don't tell" and Ad Astra starts with the telling, then transitions into deliberate lampshading, before finally spending the last thirty minutes screaming at you "THIS IS A METAPHOR! DO YOU GET IT?" In space no one can hear you scream. But in the theatre you could hear me, because this film is physically painful to watch.