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Asteroid City Trailer: Wes Anderson Goes Back to the ’50s

(Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

Auteur filmmaker Wes Anderson has two films planned for 2023 release. Later in the year we may see another Roald Dahl adaptation with The Wonderful Story of Henry SugarThe first film in a possible 2023 double-feature year is his new film Asteroid City, to be released by Focus Features and Indian Paintbrush studios and rumored to debut at Cannes in May. Co-written by Anderson and Roman Coppola, it stars an ensemble cast let by frequent collaborators Jason Schwartzman, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe, Tony Revolori, Edward Norton, Jeffrey Wright, Steve Park, and Bryan Cranston. Alongside those regulars are a number of A-list actors appearing in their first Anderson film: Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson, Hope Davis, Steve Carrel, and many more.

Asteroid City continues Anderson’s characteristic of ever-growing ensemble casts inhabiting his unique and quirky original stories, with elaborate production/set/costume designs conveying a period-piece fictional setting. Not since 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited has Anderson chosen a modern story setting for his films. He teams again with Roman Coppola who has had a hand in almost all his films. His crew is often the same for every production, including cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman as he has for his entire career. Although Anderson has never made a franchise film, many fans consider his filmography to be its own cinematic universe.

The Asteroid City trailer delivers the goods for Anderson fanatics. Set in a fictional period-piece aesthetic, the design uses light browns/yellows to contrast with light blues. While black and white design dominated his previous feature The French Dispatch (2021), Asteroid City looks and feels more like his The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) , which used a colorful palette of popping purple and pinks to flesh out his storybook visuals. Asteroid City teases the story of a Junior Stargazer convention being upended by the interruption of alien life. Touched with a western backdrop,  Anderson leans into the themes of 1950s science-fiction/melodrama. After an alien spacecraft encounter locks down Asteroid City and authorities arrive searching for answers, it would appear hilarity and snappy dialogue ensues between characters.

Anderson is no stranger to creating flawed characters dealing with interpersonal conflicts. The trailer shows the characters played by Jason Schwartzman, Tom Hanks, and Scarlett Johansson reacting to the unusual circumstances.  Hanks tries to play the grandfather role for his widowed son-in-law and four grandchildren. Schwartzman is still grieving his dead wife and returning the flirtations of Johansson’s actor character. Following a number of quick-witted comments from the large ensemble cast, the trailer concludes with Johansson’s character asking Schwartzman’s if he’d like to see her nude scene: he forgets to answer before comically saying yes.

Scarlett Johansson in Asteroid City
Wes Anderson frames Scarlett Johansson with his famous symmetry for a reverse shot with Jason Schwartzman. Photo courtesy of Focus Features.

The trailer is set to the lively pace of 1957’s “Freight Train” (feat. Nancy Whiskey) by the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group.  These familiar Anderson tropes may add up to a tired formula for some. However, fans of his films should embrace the technical brilliance and shift in genre. His films have often inhabited the same world or “universe” as some may say, but he seems to be willing to shift genre when needed for his stories. Asteroid City brings his quirky characters, dry wit, stylish cinematography, and lavish production design to life.

Asteroid City poster
(Poster courtesy of Focus Features)

Asteroid City is produced by Focus Features and Indian Paintbrush studios.  It has a limited release of June 16, 2023, with a wide release to follow.  It is directed by Wes Anderson, and written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola.

Written by Seth Lamey

Film Studies graduate from Winona State University. Cinema management experience and multimedia film criticism/analysis work.

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