This could've been, or probably would've been a spellbinding sci-fi movie amongst the likes of 2001 A Space Odyssey or Interstellar, and even has a lot of aspects of both those films in the visual designs and musical cues.
At some point in the near future, NASA detects three separate transmissions coming from the solar system which clearly indicate intelligent life. They send Captain Roger Nelson, aka Prince, aka Captain Makes-Poor-Choices to go to all three sources of the signals and find out what's making them and study them and analyze them and such. Why they choose just one man to go to 3 wildly distant locations (Eris, Triton, and Neptune) instead of mounting 3 parallel missions is utterly beyond me, especially as the threat of a rival Chinese mission lingers over them to the point of rushing the mission ahead on a 2.5 year timetable rather than an 8 year timetable.
This sort of thing doesn't bother me much or seem to affect the story much, but they end up coming back and making a significant, severe impact on the story because of Captain Makes-Poor-Choices living up to his name and making poor choices.
Straight off, either because this is a movie cliché or Captain Makes-Poor-Choices makes poor choices, once he finds the source of the first transmission, some manner of glass-or-metal-like sphere, he touches it and it affects him in some odd way. His only excuse for this monumentally stupid action is "I felt drawn to it". This whole fetish of his of touching the spheres becomes a major conflict point in the messages with NASA which he, frustratingly, just keeps doing.
Throughout much of the middle of the movie, we keep being slipped hints of plot points that end up either going nowhere or suddenly removed, as if a big chunk of the film were edited out of the final cut. Initially, the control guy Becker in a recorded transmission warns Prince that his wife tried to record a message to him, then deleted it, and that there was something wrong with her. I thought immediately that she had ended up losing her mind or committed suicide or was maybe hearing his thoughts via some alien technology. He tells Prince this moments before his first expedition, then says don't actually watch the transmission until after he's done.
After that, this "concerning" transmission is never mentioned again, and Prince's wife Abigail is back to normal, sending him normal loving transmissions every so often.
Additionally, the guy keeps touching the spheres and apparently seeing things or dreaming while in stasis, which is supposed to be impossible. It's unclear what the content of these dreams are, as we keep getting shots of space, and potentially flashbacks of him and his wife talking, and shots of what may be some manner of alien tree branch or just a fuzzy earth tree branch.
These dream things too end up amounting to absolutely nothing. A complete red herring.
There's a bit of needless drama at one point, with him slipping and falling on Triton and coming within a minute of missing the time window to escape, which serves no purpose, while the best chunks of the film involve him actually scouring the surfaces of the moonsplanet, and analyzing the contents of the spheres and reporting them back to NASA.
At some point, it's revealed the Chinese parallel mission failed and all the Chinese astronauts were killed. At that point, for no apparent reason, the Chinese apparently attempt to hack the Magellan's AI system, Ferdinand, in an attempt to get Prince killed for no clear reason. They even make Ferdinand start speaking Chinese out of nowhere to really drive home how blatantly obvious the hack attempt is.
This too goes nowhere and is rather easily, if not entirely, resolved.
Finally, we reach the climax of the film, as the true intent and function of the spheres is apparently revealed as Captain Makes-Poor-Choices touches all three of them at once. There's a big expo-dump dialogue between him and Ferdinand which, despite being an expo-dump, is monumental and utterly exciting, with mindblowing implications beyond "we found life outside of earth in the form of amino acids and proto-dna". Think the United Federation of Planets.
Then, suddenly a fourth signal appears, emanating from the Oort Cloud, about 38 years away from the Magellan. Captain Makes-Poor-Choices, fully living up to his wholly deserved name and title, sends some last transmissions to NASA then takes all three spheres and orders Ferdinand to prepare the ship to go to the Oort Cloud.
Which means he will be in stasis for 38 years. Which means NASA and all of Earth, which has just discovered from him that there is life on other planets, is essentially told to get effed and left behind with nothing as Captain Makes-Poor-Choices decides he knows better than everyone else and he deserves to potentially make first contact or discover whatever else on his own, despite being the complete idiot who thought it was a good idea to touch a completely alien artifact that might've given him Space Cancer or turned him into a The Thing.
A lot of other reviewers seem to be complaining about the ending, how it just ends at this point, without going further. In my opinion, that isn't the main problem, as I've already said, as Captain Makes-Poor-Choices leaves the in-movie humanity with probably the greatest single legacy of any explorer: Never send just a single expedition, and never send them alone.
Review by phenomynouss from the Internet Movie Database.