Johnny Depp is my wife's favorite actor, so she bought The Astronaut's Wife from a bargain DVD bin when she saw his face on the cover.
The plot's a little garbled, but it goes something like this: Capt. Alex Streck (Nick Cassavettes) and Commander Spence Armacost (Johnny Depp) go off on a space mission. When they come back, they're different. Some kind of weird sound-it sounds like shrieking static-was beamed into their bodies. What it is, exactly, we're not sure. Let's call it "a possessing entity."
This malevolent entity wants to have children. Twins, to be precise. So Spence becomes fixated on 1) molesting his wife Jillian (Charlize Theron), and 2) building a spacecraft for two pilots. And then Jillian finds out she's pregnant! And soon, Streck dies of a seizure and his wife Natalie (Donna Murphy) commits suicide with a toaster! And it turns out she was pregnant…WITH TWINS!
Scary stuff, right?
Well, no. It's not scary. In fact, the film lingers and drags. Struggling to inject some urgency is the frenetic Sherman Reese (Joe Morton). Sherman is convinced something is wrong. He goes about it all the wrong way, of course, babbling on about aliens from outer space, harassing poor Jillian, and basically ensuring that he's a one note character, not an actually developed person.
This movie is a blatant rip-off (or homage, if you think it's good) of Rosemary's Baby. This explains Theron's pageboy haircut, but doesn't excuse anything else. The battle of wills between husband and wife is really a battle of viewer's patience. Will she escape her husband? Will Jillian abort the children? Does anyone care?
It's hard to care. For much of the film, we're not entirely convinced that there's anything actually wrong with Spence. He seems genuinely concerned with his wife; if the movie had bothered to keep us guessing, this would have made for an interesting twist (maybe she WAS crazy all along!). But it devolves pretty quickly.
There's lots of sexual symbolism, and not the good kind. Yes folks, this is the first film I've ever seen that seriously showed a subway train entering a tunnel overlapped with Depp's "Oh" face (fans of Office Space will know what I mean). Is that symbolism or what?
Finally, Depp has affected a southern accent for no discernable reason. It turns into something of a vague mumble and he shifts in and out of it (especially when angry), such that we're not sure if Spence really ever had an accent. Wouldn't it have been cool if the accent disappeared when the alien possessed him? Yeah, that would have been neat movie.
Rosemary's Baby was very much a product of its time. The Astronaut's Wife has all the pretty people and slick special effects, but never really bothers to reinforce the sinister nature of the people from beyond. EVERYONE gets that the Devil is evil incarnate and that you don't want to have his baby. The Astronaut's Wife never actually proves that the aliens are bad…Jillian's twins could go on to create world peace for all we know.
Fortunately, Depp and Theron would go on to do much better works. Alas, the Astronaut's Wife serves as a reminder that you can't just swap out religion with aliens and assume it will be a great movie.