One of the more interesting aspects of the long-running television series was how skillfully Julian Fellowes managed the transition from 19th century British mores to the 20th. From the introduction of the automobile to the radical concept of a chauffeur marrying into an aristocratic familly, almost every episode had some element of gradual change in the lives of upper class gentry and glimpses of how the downstairs servants could begin to see their aspirations materialize, frequently with the support of their benevolent upper class employers. While all this was happening, we had the best-written character of Lady Grantham, played to perfection by Dame Maggie Smith to represent the other side of these “advances” with her clever and witty pronouncements of the old-fashioned way of thinking and doing.
Here are some things you should know before skipping Ad Astra: It is very long and boring. As a substitute for characters and plot, it has space jargon, space gibberish, space clutter and Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones as attempted compensation for all that. Neither one can save this movie from its emptiness and glaring inadequacies. Best to try to find 2001 and replay Part 1 of that to see what Stanley Kubrick was able to do with infinite space and limited time - even if you’ve seen it before, it will seem fresh compared to watching Ad Astra for the first time.
Since it isn’t possible to spoil something as dull as this, I can tell you that Ad Astra ends with the same heart-warming message as Wizard of Oz - without the music, talent and joyfull ebullience of course. Now if Brad Pitt had worn those spangled red shoes, this might have been a movie deserving of a real review. As it stands, I’ve sent you a warning instead - proceed at your own risk of feeling very stupid as you empty the theater and don’t dare say I didn’t tell you so!
The first time I heard John Lennon’s “Imagine” in 1971 I hated it, interpreting it as a call for worldwide socialism. What could not have been predicted way back then was that the song could easily be the anthem for the Democrat Party in 2019.