Review: ASTRO (2018)

If the plot of Asif Akbar’s film ASTRO sounds like it came from the back cover of a science fiction novel, there’s a good reason for that feeling. The film is meant to kick off a series of books as well as a film franchise. We start out as 19-year-old Laura (Courtney Akbar) lays in her bedroom, very vocally missing her father. From literally nowhere, Vivian (Max Wasa) appears, looking like she stepped out of the original LOST IN SPACE and telling her she can take her to her father. We then flash back to five days before and the main story begins.

Billionaire aerospace entrepreneur Alexander Biggs (Marshal Hilton PRIMAL RAGE, THE DEBT COLLECTOR)has an interesting problem. His latest probe has returned with an alien being on board. Captured and put into suspended animation by the craft’s robots, it has the same DNA as his old friend, ex-special forces operative Jack Adams (Gary Daniels FIST OF THE NORTH STAR, I AM VENGEANCE). These days, though, Jack is content to leave his past behind and live a quiet life as a single father since the death of his wife (Dominique Swain, THE 6th FRIEND, BLOOD CRAFT).

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When he turns Alex’s sudden and lucrative job offer down, the powers behind Alex’s empire are not happy. They’re another race of aliens, and the connection between Jack and this specimen is of much interest to them. Operatives are sent out to bring him in…

For a film starring a DTV action hero like Daniels, ASTRO has precious few fight scenes. Given the cast also includes Michael Pare (STREETS OF FIRE, MAYDAY) and Spice Williams (THE GUYVER) I was expecting an old-school sci-fi action film. Even the few fights we do get use very obvious sped-up photography, a real disappointment given Daniels’ relatively young age.

There’s also zero logic to many of these scenes. While under sniper fire Jack and Laura run out of a house onto an open lawn. In another, one of the villains simply stands there and watches while Jack improvises a knife out of broken glass and his shirt.

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The film still might have worked if the plot wasn’t so hard to follow. Akbar and co-writer Bernard Selling have tried to cram so much into ASTRO that it becomes almost impossible to follow at times. It’s like they tried to introduce every plot thread for their proposed franchise all at once. Multiple dream sequences and flashbacks within flashbacks only add to the confusion. And I’m not even going to get started on the horrible effects. Just think of the animation for a Windows 95 era video game…

What should have been a fun throwback along the lines of HANGAR 18 ends up being a talky, confusing mess. The few interesting ideas ASTRO does have been ultimately squandered and lost in the confusion.

ASTRO will be released on DVD June 5 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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