The arrival of a new Wes Anderson movie is always greeted with enthusiasm as he has a track record of coming up with unusual and quirky movies which are strangely also fascinating to watch. One of my personal favourite from Anderson is The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014. He was also responsible for a string of equally unconventional gems including Moonrise Kingdom, Isle of Dogs, The Darjeeling Limited, and more recently The French Despatch.
Once again Wes Anderson takes us into a world that is uniquely his. The plot takes place within a fictional play that takes place in 1955 in a fictional small town called Asteriod City. It sort of have a dual storyline running that gives us a background on how the writer (played by Edward Norton) came up with his play. This background story is told in black and white and 4:3 format, while the rest of the movie is in filmed in a strange exaggerated colour palette that makes the whole thing look a bit like a cartoon. So immediately the film transports us to a visually unfamiliar terrain. Then, as with so many of his movies, we are bombarded with a string of characters each chattering their dialouge at lightning speed. I have to admit that all this made it difficult for me to follow the idiosyncratic story about a small town that is near an atomic bomb testing site, and where a giant asteriod crater is the town’s main and only attraction. As usual we have a string of familiar faces (some are Wes Anderson regulars) gracing the screen with the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, and Liev Schreiber. Some have more to do than others, while others were just wallpaper.
So, what we have here is typical Wes Anderson stuff and yet … for me, this time, the magic was simply not there. I just did not connect to the story as I would have liked to and the story just went nowhere with no high points to reach. The humor was there and I did find the Anderson brand of humor amusing at the beginning, but this soon wore off and they felt less and less funny. For me, there was no clear main characters for us to follow which made the movie feel pointless. At the end all there was to admire was the visual spectacle and the string of ideas and jokes that may be funny on their own, but which I struggle to connect to the main plot. There were no standout performances from anyone despite its impressive assemble cast and I honestly cannot pick out any favourite moments from the film either, which is usually a sign of how much the film impressed or did not impress me.
Perhaps the movie, like most Wes Anderson movies, require multiple viewings to be fully appreciated and I will give this movie a second try to see what I might have missed out from my first viewing. Otherwise, be forewarned that this is not going to be an easy Wes Anderson watch. His unique trademark is evident everywhere but perhaps this time, it was more like an overdose!