Asteroid City – Asteroid City – Like a Living Andy Warhol Painting

MOVIE REVIEW – Wes Anderson’s latest film takes us to the sci-fi genre with a star-studded cast. Did the director manage to reinvent himself, or did he just copy his usual style to a different world? Here is our opinion on Asteroid City.



The film is set in a small American desert town, named Asteroid City, because it was hit by a meteorite three thousand years ago. The town hosts a government observatory, but also holds an annual Junior Astronomers convention, where the most talented high school students present their amazing scientific inventions. This year’s event is attended by Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman), a widowed war photographer, who brings along his grumpy father-in-law Stanley Zak (Tom Hanks), to help him look after his kids. The man falls in love with Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson), a neighboring movie star mom, who has a brilliant son Billy (Jacob Tremblay). The local commander General Grif Gibson (Jeffrey Wright) is played by Jeffrey Wright, the motel owner Hank Williams (Steve Carell), the town mechanic Johnny Cash (Matt Dillon). The singing cowboy Montana (Rupert Friend) appears as well. Sandy Borden (Hope Davis) and J. J. Kellogg (Liev Schreiber) invented a spy robot (voiced by Bill Murray), who also come as parents to the convention. And everyone says their lines very seriously.



Asteroid City – The Emptiness Behind the Colorful Chaos


Wes Anderson’s films have always been known for their meticulous and visually stunning craftsmanship. Asteroid City is no exception: the director created a whole new world on the screen, full of details, humor and style. The film is like a living Andy Warhol painting: vibrant with colors and pop cultural references. The 1950s America seen through Anderson’s glasses is both nostalgic and futuristic.

However, the film does not only want to impress us with its form, but also with its content. The story focuses on what happens when an alien civilization contacts humanity. This event isolates Asteroid City’s residents from the outside world: the president orders that no one can leave or enter the town until the danger is over. Thus, the people have to live with each other for a while. This would open up many opportunities to get to know them better, to see how their relationships develop or fall apart, how conflicts and alliances arise among them.

Unfortunately, these opportunities are not exploited by Anderson. The film does not give enough space to the characters’ development or motivations. The characters remain more like extras in the background of the director’s peculiar visual world. We do not feel any attachment or interest towards them, we cannot identify or root for them. The film thus loses that emotional charge and dramatic tension that would be essential to captivate us.



Asteroid City – The Paradox of Wes Anderson’s Sci-Fi


The film’s other big problem is that it cannot decide what genre it wants to move in. Anderson mixes sci-fi elements with comedic twists and romantic threads. This would not be bad in itself, if they harmoniously fit together. But unfortunately they do not.

The sci-fi parts are too serious compared to how light-hearted and ironic the others are. The encounter with the aliens raises serious questions about humanity’s future and place in the universe, which make the rest of the film seem shallow and insignificant. It does not help that Anderson does not explain why Asteroid City was chosen as the target by the aliens.

The comedic parts are too forced compared to how elegant and stylish the spectacular parts are. The film is full of jokes and situations that are more awkward or boring than funny. For example, the whole frame structure that runs through the film: we see that a drama writer (Edward Norton) wrote this story as a play (which actually looks as unrealistic as a film), and he also plays in it with a love quarrel with an actress (Margot Robbie). This whole thing only serves to highlight the film’s artificiality and self-indulgence. Anderson seems to say that he knows that this is all just a game, and we do not have to take it seriously. But then why would we watch it? Why would we care about a story that has nothing to do with reality or human emotions?

The romantic parts are too clichéd compared to how original and creative the sci-fi parts are. The film is full of clichés and twists that we have seen a thousand times in other films. For example, Schwartzman and Johansson’s relationship is based on nothing but physical attraction and shared parenting. There is no deeper bond or conflict between them that would make their romance exciting. At the end of the film everyone lives happily ever after, as if nothing had happened.



Asteroid City – The Light and Shadow of the Actors


One of the biggest attractions of the film is undoubtedly the cast. Anderson has once again brought together some of his old favourites (Schwartzman, Norton, Swinton, Dafoe, etc.) and has also brought in some new faces (Hanks, Johansson, Robbie, etc.) The actors all play their characters very well and enjoy the director’s unique sense of humour and style.

However, the actors can’t do wonders with their characters not being well developed or interesting enough. The film does not give them enough space to show their talent or diversity. Most characters are built around a single trait or stereotype and do not develop or change throughout the film. This makes it difficult to distinguish them from each other or make them memorable.



Asteroid City – A Disappointing Experiment


Wes Anderson’s latest film was a bold experiment to bring his unique vision and style to the sci-fi genre. The film is visually stunning and full of ideas, humor and style. However, the film fails to keep our interest or emotions, because its story is flat and boring, its characters are clichéd and bland. The film thus remains an empty form, that does not fulfill the function of a good film: to enchant us and make us think.



Asteroid City

Direction - 8.2
Actors - 7.2
Story - 4.3
Visuals/Music/Sounds/Action - 9.2
Ambience - 6.4



Asteroid City is a spectacular sci-fi comedy by Wes Anderson, where a small desert town’s residents meet the aliens. The film is full of star actors and stylish details, but it cannot captivate or touch the viewer, because its story and characters are weak and dull. The film thus remains a living Andy Warhol painting: colorful, but empty.

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines – including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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