When it comes to Wes Anderson, you either love his style or hate it. He has a very distinctive visual palette and voice, one that has spawned thousands of imitators. But there’s only one Wes Anderson, and let’s be real here, he’s an incredible director. Now I hope this review hasn’t deterred you from going forward, especially for those who are not fans of Anderson or who think his films are just self-pretentious and ostentatious. In my opinion, Anderson films should always deserve a second viewing. There’s just so much going on his films that you’ll either miss something or want to revisit a certain moment that will stay with you. After watching Asteroid City I knew I had to watch it again.

Asteroid City Is A Film Within A Film

Now first things first, the trailers for Asteroid City only give you glimpses of the story. So whatever you’re assuming you’re going to see is quite the opposite. In a way Asteroid City is Anderson’s “Lockdown” film. The plot is as follows: In a remote desert town on the Nevada, California, Arizona border, the Junior Stargazers convention finds itself in a lock down after encountering an alien life-form. Simple enough right? Anderson defies your expectation and makes it a film within a film.

Bryan Cranston plays a Rod Serling-type narrator who frames the narrative. He introduces the audience to a TV anthology show from the fifties that dramatizes the creation of a famous play, and the dramatized scenes we’re seeing are the film’s main plot. We’re introduced to playwright Conrad Earp (Edward Norton) who’s writing his play Asteroid City. Here we meet his large ensemble cast led by Jason Schwartzman‘s Jones Hall, who plays Augie Steenbeck. Still with me? Anderson has his largest cast to date with the likes of Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Matt Dillon, Jeffrey Wright, Maya Hawke, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, and Jarvis Cocker. And Tom Hanks looks to be having a blast eating up every scene and delivering Anderson’s quick dialogue.

Bryan Cranston stars as “Host” in writer/director Wes Anderson’s ASTEROID CITY, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features

Gorgeous Landscape And The Perfect Cast

The film goes back and fourth from black and white to a TV-style 1:33:1 aspect ratio. The Asteroid City stuff is in blazing color and CinemaScope style widescreen, which makes it look like a John Ford epic. It’s here where you see Robert D. Yeoman’s gorgeous cinematography in all its typical Anderson-esque beauty. Personally I loved the back and fourth between aspect ratios, but I can see it taking people out of the story. In Asteroid City you get to see Schwartzman shine as Steenbeck.

(L to R) Jake Ryan as “Woodrow”, Jason Schwartzman as “Augie Steenbeck” and Tom Hanks as “Stanley Zak” in writer/director Wes Anderson’s ASTEROID CITY, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features

The movie follows two couples – Schwartzman (Steenbeck) and Johansson (Midge Campbell), as well as their kids, played by Jake Ryan and Grace Edwards. Campbell’s daughter, along with the Augie’s son and other Junior Stargazers, are visiting for a convention. The town is built around a mysterious asteroid. During the convention, an alien appears to reclaim the artifact, leading to the military, commanded by Wright’s character, ordering everyone to be locked down.

(L to R) Steve Carell as “Motel Manager”, Aristou Meehan as “Clifford” and Liev Schreiber as “J.J. Kellogg” in writer/director Wes Anderson’s ASTEROID CITY, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features

Asteroid City is the type of film that deserves to be seen twice. It’s Anderson’s most heartfelt film since The Darjeeling Limited in terms of emotion and depth. He hasn’t done a film like this in a while and I’m here for it. Asteroid City has everything a Wes Anderson film always has. From its crisp framing, traveling panning shots, quirky characters with muted delivery, familiar faces, and a sense of humor that is silly while sophisticated. But if you focus on the color, the symmetry and vibe of the film, you’ll miss out on the heart and longing at its center.

Asteroid City premieres in theaters June 16.