Warner Bros. // 1999 // 109 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // July 16th, 2012
How well do you know the one you love?
"Something happened up there that these men did not train for!"
Commander Spencer Armacost (Johnny Depp, Sleepy Hollow) is an astronaut who has just embarked upon a new mission. Midway through the trip, something startling happens: Spencer and another astronaut leave the shuttle to repair a satellite, and suddenly there's an explosion. Radio contact with NASA is lost for approximately two minutes, but the repairs are made and the two astronauts eventually return home. Spencer's wife Jillian (Charlize Theron, Young Adult) is thrilled to have him back, but it isn't long before she notices that Spencer's behavior is rather...different. Something affected Spencer out there in space during those mysterious two minutes, and Jillian must work to discover the truth before her husband's increasingly menacing persona reaches a boiling point.
Astronaut. Mission. Beautiful Woman. Apostrophe in Title. Sex in Public. Pregnancy. Escape. Outer Space. Possession. Retirement. Alien Possession. Barefoot. Venereal Disease. Suburb. Depression. Woman in Jeopardy. Paranoia. Robbery. Box Office Flop. Punctuation in Title. Villain Played by Lead Actor. Husband Wife Relationship. Alien. Tragic Event. Psycho Thriller. Marriage.
These are the keywords IMDb uses to describe The Astronaut's Wife, an awkward sci-fi thriller that borrows a host of elements from other movies and mixes them into an unsavory stew that is ungainly at best and just plain ugly at worst. I'm tempted to simply leave the review with that, but then I would be guilty of putting as little effort into my review as the movie does into engaging its audience. The film offers Charlize Theron and Johnny Depp poorly written roles that almost certainly rank among the most embarrassing of their generally respectable careers, and offers audiences an exceptionally grating and overheated cinematic experience that becomes almost completely intolerable on more than a few occasions.
The movie was directed by a man named Rand Ravich, who previously had penned the screenplays for such prestigious efforts as Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh and The Maker. There's no telling how some of the lines he permits to slip into The Astronaut's Wife managed to make it past the first draft, with poor dialogue being thrown at us around every corner. Consider a scene in which Jillian (who is an elementary school teacher) asks her young students about the fruits that grow in different parts of the country.
Jillian: "What does California have?"
Jillian: "What does Georgia have?"
Jillian: "Good! And what does Florida have!"
Little Boy: "And spaceships!"
Jillian (smiling and looking wistfully out the window as she thinks about her husband): "Yes...and spaceships."
That's bad enough, but wait until you hear the monologue in which Johnny Depp (employing a good ol' boy southern drawl) waxes eloquent about the incomparable fantasy of having his entire body enveloped by Charlize Theron's lady parts. I'll spare you the horror. The only thing worse than the script (which relies on so many conventions that we've figured out that ending long in advance of its arrival) is the direction, which practically batters the viewer with obnoxious visual and aural excess. It's such an unpleasant film to listen to, as the tin-eared dialogue is backed by a host of metallic scraping noises and a shrill George S. Clinton score. Elsewhere, pacing is sloppy, some crucial special effects are corny and cheap-looking and subplots are introduced and thoughtlessly abandoned at a remarkable rate (what on earth is Tom Noonan's character doing in the movie, anyway?).
I like both Theron and Depp, but neither actor seems to have any idea of what to do with their respective characters. Theron simply turns in a watered-down version of her work in The Devil's Advocate, looking concerned and upset while dutifully spitting out her lines. Depp seems to be aiming for a kind of slimy wickedness, but his efforts are undercut by the film's inconsistent characterization. Other supporting players struggle to make sense of their characters, as well. Just about the only person who survives with his dignity intact is Joe Morton (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), who takes his character from point A to point B in convincing fashion without tripping over himself.
The Astronaut's Wife (Blu-ray) arrives sporting a rather underwhelming 1080p/1.85:1 transfer. It looks much dingier than some of the considerably older sci-fi catalogue titles (Brainstorm, Altered States) Warner Bros. released on the same day. The image generally seems flat and lifeless, with middling detail and murky black levels. It's not horrible, but it doesn't appear that much work has been put into this release. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is unpleasant to listen to, but much of the muddiness is due to the intentions of the filmmakers rather than to the disc. It serves its purpose well enough. The only supplement is a theatrical trailer.
I'd like to say that there's a good film hiding within The Astronaut's Wife, but it's hard to imagine anything of value being salvaged from this mess. A terrible film gets an underwhelming Blu-ray release.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R