I am capable of forgiving many things when it comes to science-fiction. It’s a genre that is equally defined by campy films as it is stunning blockbusters with massive budgets. It’s the genre that most allows me to suspend my disbelief and just accept the world that is presented. Great science-fiction is born in unlikely places. But I can’t forgive a movie that doesn’t “movie”.
“Astro” is an independent science-fiction film from writer and director Asif Akbar (“Top Priority: The Terror Within”). Cast members include Gary Daniels, Marshal Hilton, and Courtney Akbar.
“Astro,” tells the story of a billionaire’s private space exploration program returning to Earth with an abducted extraterrestrial from a newly discovered alien planet.
This synopsis, in a funny way, embodies the fundamental problem with “Astro”. It’s a story that’s cool, in theory, but falls short because it’s not fully realized. The movie, after screening it, isn’t really about anything. It says it’s about a lot of things. It begins to tell a bigger story. But it never really gets there. I remember looking at the clock and seeing that there were only 20 minutes left in the film and breaking out in a cold sweat because I didn’t see how we were going to get a climax and resolution during that time. This film is nearly as long as “Star Wars” and does not make use of the time.
Which is a real shame because the elements of the story were quite good. We had this ancient history of intervening extraterrestrial forces. We had this mysterious space exploration. We had a star child, with a complex history of his creation and race. We had a kidnapping and action and political intrigue. I’m baffled as to how it was possible that we had all these interesting elements and still ended up with no movie?
“Astro” had potential and that’s what makes it even more disappointing.
I spoke earlier on the film’s 1 hour and 44-minute runtime. The pacing was a real issue in “Astro”. The story was allowed to meander. We spent too much time on things that we would eventually realize didn’t matter at all. The climax of the film was abrupt and appeared and disappeared so quickly that I had to rewind and confirm that that’s what I had just seen. The whole script could have used some tightening and the execution could have been more focused. Again, this was a movie with a ton of intrigue that got lost in the weeds of its own plot and ended up, nearly two hours later, with no actual story.
The performances were underwhelming. Nothing really negative to say but not quite living up to what the film promised. That will be an underlying theme for this entire review, in case you haven’t noticed.
I may have some dissenters on this point but… I was incredibly pleased with the practical effects. This was an independent film that was highly aspirational and shooting for a vision that lived well outside of its budget. Was the CGI mindblowing? No, but it got the job done. Practical effects and makeup were on point for the aliens; with the exception of Vivian. Another victim of “Astros” Underwhelm Syndrome. For a character that was so important, I need a little more than teased hair and an extended eyeliner look to convince me of an alien transformation. That being said, I do not take away from what “Astro” was able to do. They did some solid world-building on their budget and it was appreciated by this critic.
Honestly, something that “Astro” did really well was the action scenes. Fight choreography and big conflict moments were a lot of fun to watch and were fairly well-executed. Did I completely understand the purpose of some of these scenes? Not really, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying them.
I give “Astro” a C minus. A soft recommendation for the real sci-fi enthusiast looking for a way to kill a Friday night. I did my best to come up with an “Astro” drinking game, but to no avail (stay tuned). “Astro” is available on VOD now.
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. She currently serves as the Lead Film Contributor for Shuffle Online; other notable bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.