There is a reason the “Shoot a video like you’re in a Wes Anderson movie” trend has become so popular on Tik Tok you can hardly scroll past two videos and not find one! Wes Anderson’s style as a director and visualiser is so unique you can spot one of his movies from basically the first shot. Symmetrical layouts, centralised objects, specific colour palettes and a star-studded cast are only one of the few things that distinguish Wes Anderson’s movies from all others.
His latest project, Asteroid City, is the same. Already getting rave reviews from critics and early screenings at film festivals like Cannes, Asteroid City is projected to be one of Anderson’s best movies yet. The film uses Anderson’s unique lens to discuss romantic relationships, familial relationships, hopes, dreams, theatre, government programmes, aliens; you name it! Despite trying to answer multiple questions – one being the biggest of all – Asteroid City seems to have been able to nail its message.
Before you and the world see the movie everywhere on June 23rd, let’s look at the plot, the expected message, the Wes Anderson touch and the star-studded cast.
The Alienation of Asteroid City
Asteroid City is a film about a TV show about a play in a small town in the United States. Let’s try and deconstruct that sentence!
On Sep 23, 3007 BC, an asteroid hit a particular area in a fictional Southwest town in the United States. These days scholars and alien-obsessed people flock to this part of the US every year on Asteroid Day to commemorate the day the actual asteroid fell. They gather in rented cabins, talk about space, and present their space-related inventions to the government.
The film starts with a playwright being interviewed on TV. The playwright, Conard Earp (played by Edward Newton), introduces the audience to his latest play, Asteroid City. The play follows a group of people who flock to a Southwest town where an asteroid once fell. The group consists of adults and teenagers—some parents with their children and a teacher leading a school trip.
Throughout the play, relationships between the characters and real-life relationships between the actors behind the scenes start to bloom. The movie seamlessly goes back and forth between the in-movie play and the events unfolding between the actors.
This might seem a little confusing at first, but once you get the rhythm of the switch, it all gets fascinating. With a background of supposed alien invasions and sightings of spaceships, Asteroid City is a movie full of emotions, heartbreak and love. The events fold out beautifully, and the characters look deeply into their hearts and psyche while maintaining the Wes Anderson humour and deadpan delivery.
The Wes Anderson Effect
Certain expectations come with a Wes Anderson movie. As a director and a writer, Wes Anderson has a unique and particular style. He is a visualiser that uses the screen and the objects and people within in a specific way that it would be almost impossible to confuse his movie with someone else. Anderson does not take a risk in Asteroid City, but that is sometimes good.
Beautiful summery colours, a 1950s aesthetic and a yellow-washed filter all over the movie, this is the visual identity of Asteroid City. Most of the movie’s events occur in a Space Camp in a town in the desert. Anderson uses his distinctive style to frame the characters and the events through a stunning lens. His camera work makes the film visually pleasing and serves his multi-narrative technique. The film’s story seamlessly goes between the events of the fictional play and the events unfolding behind the scenes between actors, especially the romance between two parents and their children.
Wes Anderson has been criticised before for his movie lacking emotional impact. Between all the symmetrical scenes and the beautiful costumes, most of Wes Anderson’s movies need more heart, making it hard to connect with his characters. Even before he made a movie about aliens, Anderson’s character usually felt alienated from reality and lacked human connection.
However, according to early reviews of Asteroid City, Anderson finally broke this curse. The characters of Asteroid City driver Anderson’s distinctive style while still being able to grab at the audience’s hearts. Behind the perfectly timed jokes and the dry humour, most, if not all, of the characters have a deeper story to tell. They put their hearts on their sleeves and deliver lines that will hit you straight in the heart.
The Stars of Asteroid City
No one says no to a Wes Anderson film. Always able to attract A-listers to join his project, Wes Anderson did not disappoint with a star-studded cast for Asteroid City. With multiple Oscar winners on his roaster and a cast of incredible actors, it is tough for Asteroid City not to become a film classic.
Scarlett Johanson is an American BAFTA Award-winning actress. She was the world’s highest-paid actress in 2018 and 2019. Johnson started acting as a child actress in the fantasy comedy North (1994). From then on, she has starred in no less than seventy movies so far. Her role in Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation earned her a BAFTA for Best Actress and a Golden Globe nomination.
Johanson’s career is astonishing, from working with acclaimed directors such as Sophia Cappola, Woody Alan, and Christopher Nolan to becoming a worldwide sensation by joining the MCU as Black Widow and playing the character for ten years in multiple movies.
In Asteroid City, Johnson plays two characters at the same time. Midge Campbell is a famous actress who brings her daughter Dinah to the stargazing camp, and Mercedes Ford plays Midge in the play. Johnson does a great job balancing the two characters and their individual stories and how they intersect.
Jason Schwartzman is an American actor who started his career at 18. He starred in many movies, including Marie Antoinette (2006), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) and Saving Mr. Banks (2013). Schwartzman also worked as a voice actor in several animated movies, such as Klaus (2019) and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023).
Schwartzman is a Wes Anderson favourite. Astroid City is Schwartzman’s 8th Wes Anderson film. He worked with the esteemed director on various other past projects such as Rushmore (1998), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Isle of Dogs (2018), The French Dispatch (2021) and many more.
In Asteroid City, Schwartzman plays two characters just like Scarlett Johanson: Augie Steenbeck, a war photographer who brings his son Woodrow to the Space Camp and Jones Hall, the method actor playing Augie. His in-play and out-of-play characters fall in love with Scarlett Johnason’s characters.
A highly esteemed actor and filmmaker, Tom Hanks is a worldwide movie star. Starring in drama and comedy films, Tom Hanks receives various awards, including two Academy Awards for Best Actor for his work in Philadelphia (1994) and Forest Gump (1995).
Tom Hanks is a seven-time Emmy Award winner and four-time Golden Globe Award winner. Throughout his career, he starred in more than one hundred movies, including five Stephen Speilberg projects: Saving Private Ryan (1998), Catch Me If You Can (2002), The Terminal (2004), Bridge of Spies (2015), and The Post (2017).
Hanks has received numerous lifetime achievements for his contributions to cinema, including the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2002 and the Golden Globe’s Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2020.
Asteroid City is Hanks’ first collaboration with Wes Anderson. His character Stanley Zak is the father-in-law of Schwartzman’s Jones Hall. Zak’s daughter and Hall’s wife have recently died, which strained their relationship, mainly because Hall decided to postpone letting his children know of their mother’s death. Hanks’ character is a grumpy old man with a bad temper who loves his daughter and struggles to have a relationship with her family after her untimely death.
Jeffrey Wright is an American actor who proved his immense talent as a movie star, television star, and theatre actor. He is a Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe award-winner. Wright started his career off-Broadway, participating in various projects until he landed his Tony award-winning role in Tony Kushner’s award-winning play Angels in America in 1993.
He played Martin Luther King Jr in Boycott (2001), earning himself an AFI Award. He then went on to star in several film projects, including James Bond: Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008) and No Time To Die (2021). He also starred in more blockbuster movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) and Matt Reeves’ The Batman (2022).
Wright plays General Grif Gibson in Asteroid City. A US General is present in the Space Camp to oversee the children’s inventions and take them to be used by the US government in the future.
Asteroid City has a large supporting cast consisting of many A-list actors, including We Need to Talk About Kevin’s Tilda Swinton, Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, Fight Club’s Edward Norton, and The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Adrien Broody.
Film Festivals and Early Screenings
With such a star-studded cast list, Asteroid City is projected to be one of 2023’s biggest movies. Already generating discussions online before its release and gaining positive criticism from film festivals and early screenings, Wes Anderson’s latest film might be his best.
The film had its world premiere at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palm d’Or at the Grand Palais. Wes Anderson attended the premiere along with Scarlett Johanson, Tom Hanks and Jason Schwartzman, witnessing the film’s six-minute standing ovation.
The film is available in select theatres for early screenings, primarily for critics and movie reviewers. However, for you, our beloved general audiences, you’ll have to wait until June 23rd to enter the fascinating world of Wes Anderson’s alien drama.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the future Asteroid audience’s most asked questions. If you still have questions about Asteroid City, you might find your answers right here!
Is Asteroid City out yet?
The film will be out for general audiences on 23rd June all across the UK. If you’re lucky enough, you can catch it on a limited-release screening right now; however, if you cannot, don’t worry because it will be available for everyone to watch very soon.
Where is Asteroid City located?
Asteroid City was filmed and produced in Chinchón, Spain. Even though the events are supposed to take place in the United States, the filming location was in Spain, which fit Wes Anderson’s vision a little better than the States.
Is Asteroid City a Book?
Asteroid City is not based on a book. The story is an original story by Wes Anderson, written and directed by him. However, Wes Anderson will be publishing a book under the title Asteroid City where you can read the entire screenplay of the movie as written by Anderson.
A certain amount of expectations and pressure always accompanies movies by prominent directors, A-list casts and big budgets, and Asteroid City is no different. Whether the film will live up to the hype with the general audience, become a cult classic that we look back at twenty or thirty years later and say, “damn, that was a great movie!” or sink into the graveyard of good potential, we will have to wait and see.