Part sci-fi focusing on the marvels and dangers of discovery, part thriller starring a middle-aged action man. This is the crude summary that Asif Akbar’s newest movie deserves. Astro sees chiselled veteran Jack Adams (Gary Daniels, best known for The Expendables and Tekken) get roped into a shady aerospace job by his old acquaintance Alexander Biggs (Marshal Hilton) which involves, among other things, a captured alien that shares Jack’s DNA. Cue a lot of concerned faces and Jack demanding to see his daughter again (is that Liam Neeson knocking?).
Although the poster promotes Astro as a space adventure, the first half of the movie is a lot of contextualising and ass-kicking firmly rooted to this planet. There is some nice drone footage which makes it look like a flying saucer is observing characters from afar. Given the involvement of the Roswell Incident in the plot, this is likely no accident. That, however, is about as interesting as it gets. After a laborious build-up, Astro never materialises as thrilling, creepy or even remotely interesting. Great movies often demand patience, but this is taking the mick, especially since the alien Jack will eventually meet is introduced far too early. There is boredom where there should be suspense.
Things fail to pick up when Jack enters Bigg’s space facility. You never see or hear enough of the alien itself, despite it easily being the film’s best asset. The make-up and prosthetics on Subject A (Luke Gregory Crosby) are eerily beautiful, but he never emerges as anything more than other-worldly eye candy. He is horrifically underused.
This is not Astro’s most endemic problem. The technical aspects of the film are a joke. Too many low budget movies have done much better than this for Astro’s chronic weakness to go unnoticed. Better special effects have been seen in kids’ game shows from the mid-2000s. The sound is not much better, with dips in quality and volume ruining what little atmosphere the film generates.
The script suffers chronically from unnatural dialogue and tries to cram so much into such a short space of time, including a pointless and superficial reference to #MeToo. Injustice is felt hardest by Jake’s daughter Laura Lee (Courtney Akbar). Underdeveloped and underplayed, she exists merely as a cooing mess constantly fawning for her father’s attention. It is painful to watch, and she is one of several characters not given the attention they need.
This is what happens when a director lets ambition run away from him. Astro tries so hard to be relevant, entertaining and intriguing, and it ends up being nothing. So many ideas, so little running time, and so little capacity to realise Akbar’s vision renders this project a near-failure.
ASTRO / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: ASIF AKBAR / SCREENPLAY: ASIF AKBAR, BERNARD SNELLING / STARRING: GARY DANIELS, MARSHAL HILTON, COURTNEY AKBAR, MAX WASA, LOUIS MANDYLOR / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 6TH (US), TBC (UK)