That headline sounds more appropriate for a Transformers movie, but I couldn’t think of a better way to lead into my review. As I am usually excited about Wes Anderson movies, I made it a point to watch the main trailer for this film when it first dropped. Usually, I avoid some trailers because I hate when the previews spoil too much of the initial viewing experience. Anderson and whoever cut the trailer did a fantastic job avoiding spoilers and helped make Asteroid City a wonderful surprise.
That is not to say I didn’t like this movie trailer. No. I enjoyed what I witnessed in the preview of the film. But I love that I could experience an added dimension to the story I was not expecting. Asteroid City is a fictional tale. Well, duh! That much is evident from the trailer, but it is a fictional story within a slightly bigger account. Just trust me when I say that Cinephiles and fans of Wes Anderson are in for a big treat.
As the trailers and promotional clips reveal, Asteroid City tells a tale where a group of wide-eyed and intelligent star gazers and aspiring “space cadets” travel to a minimal desert community where an asteroid once struck the terrain. These aspiring scientists and their families have assembled for a convention where they will share their exciting science projects and observe some astronomical phenomena that they can see in the desert. These people are surprised when an extraterrestrial flies close to them and steals the asteroid previously landed there.
Because these excited and confused people have had close contact with an alien lifeform, the government places them in quarantine, and they are forbidden to leave the premises until further notice. While they are stuck there, photographer Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman) must face the recent family crisis involving the untimely death of his wife and the mother of his children. All the people trapped in Asteroid City have some personal troubles of their own and take the time to deal with them in their way.
While I just made this movie sound more sad than it is. Asteroid City is a delightful and entertaining movie that works well on many levels. With its mixture of quirky and distinctive comedy, the film also serves as a beautiful time capsule of the era in which it takes place. The movie reveals so much of what has influenced Wes Anderson’s filmmaking. He studied television and films during America’s 1950s and does an extraordinary job of recreating this era with his exaggeration.
There is so much I wish I could reveal here, but I would hate to spoil the overall experience for my readers. If one is not a fan of Wes Anderson’s unique style of storytelling and his sense of humor, then this is not the film for you. This movie is so Wes Anderson that I don’t know how he will top this in the future. Now, I am not saying that this is his best film. The movie does have a problem where the humor and aesthetics sometimes distract from the deeper meanings and messages Anderson wishes to convey.
Nevertheless, the entire massive ensemble cast assembled for the movie has an excellent understanding of Anderson’s brand of filmmaking, and everyone plays their part well. There are too many talented players to list here, but trust me; every performer knows what they are doing. The two main standouts are Jason Schwartzman and Scarlett Johansson, who are both wonderful. It is also truly remarkable to see Tom Hanks in a Wes Anderson film, and he makes a great addition to an already stacked cast.
While this film is probably not in my top five of Wes Anderson’s movies, I still hold it in very high regard. Again, if you don’t like his style of comedy of movies, there’s no point in watching Asteroid City. However, if you are a Wes Anderson cadet and find his films exciting, entertaining, and refreshing, see this movie in a theater.