Ad Astra is this fall's big new sci-fi movie and is already garnering strong reviews, but what does the title mean? Directed and co-written by James Gray, with Ethan Gross also in charge of the script, Ad Astra stars Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, and Donald Sutherland.
Ad Astra follows astronaut Roy McBride (Pitt) who travels to space to find his father, Clifford McBride (Jones), who disappeared on a mission looking for clues about extra-terrestrial intelligence. Roy’s journey will uncover some secrets that threaten the survival of humans on Earth and challenge the nature of human existence and its place in the universe. The story is fully immersed in science fiction and space, and it all starts with the title.
When the project was announced back in 2016, Gray shared he wanted to make the “most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie”, and because of this he paid attention to all details, included the title. “Ad Astra” is Latin for “to the stars”, and is used in many Latin phrases, the most common one being “per aspera ad astra”, which means “through hardships to the stars”. This phrase has been used in many books, films, and TV shows, such as Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series, Ridley Scott’s The Martian, and Star Trek The Next Generation, just to name a few (and that also follow the space theme). Ad Astra joins these and many more pop culture products that have used this phrase or part of it to further illustrate their theme.
The phrase has its origins with poet Virgil, who wrote “sic itur ad astra” (“thus one journeys to the stars”), as well as Seneca the Younger, who wrote “non est ad astra mollis e terris via” (“there is no easy way from the earth to the stars”). “Ad Astra” has been used as the motto of many organizations, mostly air forces, such as the Ad Astra Rocket Company and the United States Air Force Academy (Class of 2007). It was also the name of a computer game in 1984 which was an outer space shoot-em-up with a 3D perspective – Gray’s Ad Astra is in great company when it comes to its title.
While many other films have added the phrase either as dialogue, motto, or background detail, Ad Astra went on a more direct route by using it as title, which is very fitting not only with its theme but also the story, as both McBrides went to the outer edges of the solar system. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see if the phrase will be used within the story or if it’s just the title of the film.
- Ad Astra (2019) release date: Sep 20, 2019