Ad Astra — god, the father, the mad scientist

I saw Ad Astra today. I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with Brad Pitt. It goes like this: Of you’re an awful pretty-boy bad actor, but I just saw your recent film and boy, pretty-boy, are you good!

I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with Sci-fi/fantasy. It goes like this: Oh phooey, not another story about the greatest show on earth, the greatest love song, the greatest saga: man loves boy loves man. Not again, oh Lilith, God the father, son and holy ghost. Not again ,Milton’s God and Satan. Not again, Darth and Luke, Han Solo and Bobba Fett, Abraham and Isaac. But oh boy, are you actually going to mess with that plot and maybe turn things upside down little and thumb the nose at Oedipus and Laertes and all that sniffling about Daddy should have loved me more!!

But Ad Astra shuts me up. Tightens my throat. It depicts the absolute vulnerability of men who never quite stop being boys who love and hate their fathers. Who are lovable and hateful. Pitt plays that apparently super-trained stone-faced legacy astronaut who must wrestle his own creator — father, god, mad scientist — to avert end times. Though the end times maybe a lurking, anyway. Doesn’t matter. It’s the triumph of love. For he meets his father gone mad with the ambition to be the greatest, the first discoverer of other intelligent life in the universe, who will sacrifice all existing loves and ties to chase that chimera. And with the utmost compassion, the purest grief, and the most mouth-trembling pathos, he sacrifices his father for the good of humanity. Thank you, James Gray.

Finally. One big boy who doesn’t blow up a world to avenge his Daddy and honor his Daddy’s glorious failed dream.

And thank you, Mr. Pitt, for your Roy. Already sighting an Oscar. Splendid and fatigued. Golden and grey. Sceptic and existentialist. Does his job as a cog in the machine till he won’t any more. Till the juggernaut has gone one bound too far. And out there in space, his mad God the father spun off into the bottomless infinity of souls forever lost, he asks, “Why go on?”

And realizes that the answer is “for the others.” For the love of the planet. Because the drama of father and son as lovers and antagonists at the same time is deathly dull now. Dull and deathly. It’s brought our planet to the brink of ruin in the form of war, greed and violence.

This planet

This gorgeous gem in the sky. This jeweled green. This cresting blue. It’s the only one we’ve got. One planet, only one. Mars colonization and conquest of the galaxy aren’t the answers. Keeping this planet, staying on it, loving it, depending on those we already have and know and love, are the answers.

We need more anti-love- stories about fathers and sons. Less Oedipus, more community gardening…. As Volatire’s Candide said, “Let us cultivate our gardens.”

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