Inevitably, when a new space-set film or TV series arrives, there are a ton of scientists and other folks that want to critique the project based on its scientific accuracy. Sometimes, this is a valid thing to look at, especially when you’re talking about a feature like “The Martian,” where the science is at the forefront of the story. But in James Gray’s space drama, “Ad Astra,” if you’re worried about the physics shown on screen, the filmmaker thinks you’re missing the point.
Speaking to producer Rodrigo Teixeira (via IndieWire), Gray opened up about the critiques of “Ad Astra” that he deems as unfair or invalid. For those who haven’t seen the film, “Ad Astra” is a story about an accomplished astronaut that is given the suicide mission to venture into deep space to find out what happened to his missing father (also an accomplished spaceman). The film, though beautifully shot and exciting, is most definitely a drama, first and foremost. And that’s something Gray feels people missed when they wrote detailed science-based criticisms.
“We were trying to do a kind of fable or a myth in space,” Gray explained. “There are people who criticize your films, and a lot of times to my face they say things. It’s pretty funny. The assumption is you are a director and everybody lies to you. That’s not true in my case. Everyone comes up to me and is like, ‘You know what I hate about your movie is…’ A lot of the times they make a good point, but one of the things that troubled me about ‘Ad Astra’ was when people said, ‘Well, in the actual science his hair would be floating in zero-G or he wouldn’t be able to sail through the rings of a planet.’”
He added, “To me, it’s a very fatuous level of critique. You don’t read the myth of Icarus and say, ‘Wax on feathers wouldn’t allow you to fly.’ Of course that’s true, but it’s all about metaphor essentially. I felt that we were trying to get at, and [cinematographer] Hoyte van Hoytema understood, something mythic, almost like a fable. He lit the film in that way. It’s a visually arresting movie. I’ve had people tell me they don’t like the movie but they remember how it looks completely. It’s a lot due to Hoyte’s boldness.”
This isn’t to say that “Ad Astra” is immune to critique. There are many that didn’t connect to the film, even with its father/son drama and themes. Gray clearly understands that, but just don’t try to tell him about the science involved.