Director Asif Akbar (Smoke Filled Lungs) misses the mark with Astro, a sci-fi thriller that gets bogged down by its exposition-heavy script and convoluted plot.
Gary Daniels (The Expendables) plays Jack, a former soldier enjoying retirement on a ranch with his teenage daughter (Courtney Akbar) whose peaceful life is interrupted when an old friend from his army days, Alexander Biggs (Marshal Hilton), resurfaces after twenty years as a billionaire with a personal space program. Biggs offers Jack a job at his company, which has discovered an Alien life-form with DNA that resembles Jack’s. Much of the film centers around Biggs’ attempts to convince Jack to take the job, though by the end of the film it still isn’t entirely clear why Jack is so set on turning the offer down, or whether Biggs wants Jack dead or alive. Their conversations lack nuance and their actions are incomprehensible; as a result, the majority of the film is simultaneously baffling and boring.
Daniels’ delivers a forgettable performance as Jack. Though his martial arts skills are on good display in the film’s two fight sequences, I never connected with his character or felt invested in his journey. His scenes with Courtney Akbar are particularly frustrating to watch. The actors seem awkward and uncomfortable with one another, despite the close father-daughter relationship that the film tells us they have.
Astro is an obvious attempt to combine elements of classic sci-fi like Star Trek with martial arts action films, which would be fun to watch if it weren’t so poorly executed. From the aliens that can be distinguished from humans only by their shiny metallic face paint to dialogue that is painfully on-the-nose, I found it difficult to identify a redeeming feature. There wasn’t a single line in the film that felt natural or believable. The cinematography offers one or two nicely shot moments, but they are overshadowed by an overuse of awkward fade transitions between scenes and slow-motion sequences that are more distracting than dramatic.
Astro seems to have forgotten that movies – especially genre films – should be enjoyable. You don’t need a huge budget or jaw-dropping special effects, but the audience does need to have a good time. All in all, Astro is a dull and confusing mess of a film.
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