In the years before Jack Sparrow took over the multiplex every other summer and adorned everything from cereal boxes to alarm clocks, a Johnny Depp movie was something to behold. This quirky loner who refused to conform to Hollywood standards could be counted upon to deliver an intriguing performance regardless of the material, and everything he touched was embraced by fans. These days Johnny Depp doesn’t seem as much like a unicorn as he used to, and in retrospect, not all of his films were fantastical creatures worthy of reverence and awe. The Astronaut’s Wife, while reasonably entertaining, is considerably less magical than I originally thought.
While attempting to repair a satellite, astronauts Spencer Armacoast (Johnny Depp) and Alex Streck (Nick Cassavetes) lose contact with NASA for two full minutes. Clearly some sort of mishap caused the disconnect, but everyone is thrilled to find the men in one piece and they are welcomed home with open arms. In all likelihood, the whole thing would be forgotten if not for the astronaut’s wives. Who else, after all, would know the men intimately enough to detect that something is very, very wrong.
Though Jillian (Charlize Theron) senses a change in her husband from the moment he returns, there’s no reason to think anything is amiss. After all, he survived a potentially life-threatening situation and that’s likely to leave anyone a bit discombobulated. Or cocky. Or crazy-aggressive in bed. Though the change certainly isn’t for the better, Jillian and Spencer carry on with daily life. When she learns she’s expecting, the news seems happy enough, but there’s an unsettling intensity to Spencer. He’s simply not the cheerful expectant father she thought he would be.
Two pressing questions quickly come into play: Is Spencer the same man who went into space? And are the twins Jillian is carrying human? Though Depp gives an interesting performance as the creepily altered and subtly sinister Spencer Armacoast, there’s not much call for repeated viewing of The Astronaut’s Wife. We never really get to know Spencer and Jillian as they were before The Incident, so the changes in Spencer and in their marriage are far less compelling than if we’d been invested in them as people. Barring a strong connection to the characters, it doesn’t matter that the story itself is a decently-executed thriller.