Astro (2018)

Astro first published by SciFiNow

Astro opens with a portentous quote from Plato that is only superficially linked to what follows, and is therefore, in its way, programmatic for the lack of economy to come. Hereafter, two things quickly become apparent: first, that the film’s obviously small budget (the cheap sets, the ropey CGI) is no match for its grand ambitions, spanning events on Earth in 1947, 1988 and over five momentous days in December 2018, and in space over eons; second, that the plot is to hinge upon a series of mysteries. For example, why – as a news anchor puts it near the beginning – has “space pioneer and billionaire  Alexander Biggs (Marshal Hilton) left Earth and departed for space – unexpectedly”? Why is Laura Adams (Courtney Akbar) visited by a weird alien (Max Wasa) all covered in metallic makeup like a refugee from Goldfinger? What has happened to Laura’s father Jack (Gary Daniels), a widowed rancher who decades earlier served in the Special Forces alongside Biggs? “How”, as Jack asks earlier, “does a beer-drinking grunt like Biggs build an aerospace empire in less than twenty years?” And why/how does the alien that Biggs has brought back from deep space share DNA with Jack? 

The truth is that only some of these questions will be answered within Astro, while others are delayed for a putative sequel or even saga – but the real mystery is how anyone could imagine that more films will be wanted. Director Asif Akbar, who also helped write, produce and edit, certainly has big ideas, and crams into this film’s duration not just evil scientists and extra-terrestrials, but also home invasions, kickass karate action, war flashbacks, a knife fight, and a subplot involving Biggs’ abusive son Charlie (Orson Chaplin) being brought low by the MeToo movement, and then by his own father’s cryogenic freezing – but it is all told with the same deadening pace, the same tin ear for any dialogue beyond the purely expositional, and the same incoherent narrative nonsense masquerading as cosmic meaning deferred.

Strap: An ex-Special Forces rancher has alien encounters and human invasions.

© Anton Bitel