Wow, I was really surprised at how much I disliked this movie. A big budget. A couple stars I like, Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones. Pretty good reviews from the professionals. But I kept nodding off…
It's set in the near future where travel within the inner solar system is an everyday thing. Brad plays Roy McBride, an astronaut famous for keeping his cool head in a crisis. But his dad (Mr. Jones) set off to Neptune years back on an extraterrestrial intelligence hunt, disappeared, and is presumed dead.
Except the inner solar system is now being bombarded with weird emanations seemingly coming from the Neptunian area, wreaking havoc with power supplies and communications. Can't have that! So (this is complicated), Roy gets drafted into communicating a message to his dad. Which must be sent from Mars. Which involves first stopping on the Moon. And Roy has abandonment issues with Dad. And there's a lot of secrecy involved in the mission. And Roy's marriage to Liv Tyler is rocky because of his emotional distance or something. (Isn't she shy of getting involved with space guys from Armageddon?)
Roy also endures a fall from a huge antenna sticking from the earth's surface into space; encounters with moon pirates with lunar dune buggies; face-eating space monkeys. None of that has much of anything to do with the main plot.
And (oh yeah) Roy's laser-borne message from Mars to his dad on Neptune: everyone acts like they expect an immediate response. I looked this up: at best, Neptune is about 4 light-hours from Mars. Even an "immediate" response wouldn't show up until at least 8 hours later. For a purportedly-hard SF movie, this is unforgivable.