The Astronaut's Wife
Warner Bros. // R // $19.98 // July 10, 2012
Review by William Harrison | posted July 28, 2012
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It may be but a distant memory at this point, but Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron used to make some bad movies. In 1999, they got to make one together, The Astronaut's Wife, which is described in nearly every review as "Rosemary's Baby in Space!" Fine, but the movie does not take place in space. Depp plays an astronaut who returns to earth after a mid-orbit accident and unnerves his wife, played by Theron, with strange behavior. The cinematography is the only thing of note here, in what turns out to be a glacially paced dud that wastes the talents of its leads. The Astronaut's Wife sorely lacks thrills, and it may put you to sleep.

Shuttle commander Spencer Armacost (Depp) is outside his shuttle on a space walk when he and a fellow astronaut, Alex Streck (Nick Cassavetes), lose contract with NASA for two minutes. There are shots of the pair in space that appear in the film's trailer, but they did not make the final cut. Jillian Armacost (Theron) rushes to the hospital to see her comatose husband, and NASA can only describe a non-specific accident. Spencer eventually wakes up and makes the publicity rounds with Streck, who grows distant and aggressive before mysteriously dying. Spencer then decides to retire from NASA, and he and Jillian move to New York City. Jillian quickly gets pregnant with twins, and notices that Spencer has not been himself since returning from space.

The premise of The Astronaut's Wife is not terrible, but Director Rand Ravich botches the execution. The film moves so damn slowly that it takes over an hour for Jillian to seriously consider that Spencer is acting strangely. Jillian asks Spencer what happened during the two minutes he was lost in space, but he never gives an answer. NASA provides an unconvincing cause of death for Streck, and Jillian notices similar aggression and detachment in Spencer. Had The Astronaut's Wife used its slow burn to ramp up the tension it might have been more successful, but the film never builds to anything. Spencer is sullen and quiet, but Jillian never tries to get him to snap out of it. Instead, she frets over her unborn babies and meets with a NASA outcast (Joe Morton) who thinks Spencer is bad news.

The icy cinematography by Allen Daviau is accomplished, and The Astronaut's Wife is a very attractive film. Theron and Depp are decent, but the clunky script does them no favors. After 90 minutes of tedious exposition, the film reaches its silly climax; complete with cable TV-grade effects. The Astronaut's Wife tanked at the box office, and its release on Blu-ray before other, superior New Line/Warner Brothers titles is likely meant to capitalize on Theron and Depp's current fame. The Astronaut's Wife is no Rosemary's Baby. Apparently, the thrills, twists and satisfying conclusion stayed in orbit.



The 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is kind of dingy, with flat textures, anemic skin tones and a general lack of high-definition detail. The print is clean, but there are a number of soft, smeary shots. Some of this can be attributed to the source, and some scenes impress more than others. Black levels are decent but crush is evident in darker scenes. Noise reduction does not appear to be a huge problem, but some waxy faces lead me to believe a bit of digital tinkering may have occurred here.


The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack fares better, and an early rocket launch is fairly aggressive. Dialogue is clear and audible, and the track occasionally uses the surround speakers for ambient and action effects. The score is resonant, and nothing is particularly lacking with this mix. A German 5.1 Dolby Digital track, a Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital track, and a Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Digital track are also available, as are English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Dutch subtitles.


Nothing but the film's theatrical trailer (2:25/SD).


Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron have moved on to bigger and better films since the 1999 dud The Astronaut's Wife. When an astronaut comes home after an accident in space and starts acting strangely, his wife fears for her life and the lives of her unborn twins. Glacially paced during its uneventful buildup, The Astronaut's Wife torpedoes straight into the ground with its silly climax. The movie is terrible, and the Blu-ray is unexceptional. Skip It.

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