Asteroid City, Wes Anderson’s latest movie, just released a trailer for it. From the little sneak peek we got, it looked like it had all the lovely hallmarks of a Wes Anderson flick, plus Aliens! That’s right, in the middle of the quiet desert city Asteroid CitySteven Spielberg’s gigantic spaceship, glowing bright green, landed in the movie just as the plot was beginning to develop. The way it’s been used seems to resemble Wes Anderson’s charming style that fans will find familiar. It appears to be flapping on the strings the same way the inside of Steve Zissou’s boat was cut in half.

the Asteroid City The trailer was a delightful little snapshot of everything that Wes Anderson is sure to come up with on our next trip. Of course, there were all the usual scenes for the auteur: scenic two-dimensional landscapes, satirical excerpts from Americana, and the occasional special effects (in a good way). But this time, Anderson tackles the story of all that surrounds American alien myths. Set in a small town out west, the people of Asteroid City worship a fallen meteor with their science fanaticism. Once Jason Schwartzman hangs out with his kids, the weirdness and romance begins.

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the Asteroid City The trailer begins with the family station wagon rolling to a lone mechanic in the desert. Schwartzman’s character uses a single phone booth outside the local diner to call his disgruntled father-in-law, played by Tom Hanks. It soon becomes that he’s coming to pick up his three young granddaughters while Schwartzman and his son stay behind to wait for the car to be repaired. Then we get the big title screen readout Asteroid CityWhile the shot taken on a train looks a bit reminiscent Darjeeling Limited.

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Then, Jeffrey Wright stands far behind the rostrum addressing “young stargazers and space students” as he explains that this was the day, 3,000 years ago, when that meteorite landed in this small western city. Here’s where we get our first look at Wes Anderson’s flavor of science fiction. A kid almost flies away in a primitive jetpack while his father holds him by a rope as if it were a science fair. Then a kid makes a plate of air with some sort of improvised laser.

When a nuclear bomb goes off remotely, Scarlett Johansson gets out of her car. She identifies Schwartzman’s character as Mitch Campbell, though we’re not told who he is. He explained that Johansson’s character is an oft-seen movie star with a huge following Breakfast at Tiffany’s Sunglasses and a drink in her hand.

Wes Anderson Science Fiction

Asteroid City Wes Anderson alien spaceship
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Midway through the trailer, we notice that Schwartzman’s son is slightly smarter than the average resident of Asteroid City. He begins to wonder what certain readings inside the radar station mean, but the operator admits she doesn’t know. The teacher at the school goes on to say how some of his knowledge of space is still limited, but Billy proudly declares, “Maybe there is an alien now.” And we see a large glassy structure glowing green below itself above Asteroid City crater. Wes Anderson immediately follows up with a traditional government invasion when all the scientists in hazmat suits come to scout the city and seal off everyone inside. Now father and son cannot escape.

When Schwartzman starts talking to Scarlett Johansson again, he tells her that the “alien”, assuming someone landed and we didn’t see him, looked at them like they were doomed. And Johansson replies, “Maybe we are.” Now sink into all those deeper questions that pair so well with the silliness of Wes Anderson movies. Schwartzman’s son expresses hope that the world will never be the same, as government scientists put plastic tubes in the diner and adults wonder when they can leave town.

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Everyone’s mind is open, both literally and figuratively. The psychological test booth features images of a Girl Scout repeating over and over that she sees an alien jumping, wearing a hat, or some other weird pose. The son is standing in an observatory, staring off into space now, believing there might be meaning to life somewhere in the universe. At the same time, his father confesses to Scarlett Johansson’s character that his wife died three weeks ago. Then to add the cherry on top, the father confesses to his sons that their mother is in heaven. Which does not exist, but they are Episcopalians, he explains.

This mixture of hope, despair, longing, and comedy makes Wes Anderson so pure. Suddenly the movie is about faith and the ability to believe, maybe not just in aliens but in each other as well. In this trailer, Wes Anderson shows us how his first sci-fi movie could still be as crisp and blocky as any other from our beloved auteur.


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