I was looking forward to Asteroid City for months. I know better. Every time I build a movie up in my mind, it's almost impossible to meet those expectations. I didn't much enjoy this movie. I'll also spoil the snot out of it, so if that sort of thing annoys you, stop reading now.
The good news is that there is a lot of fun stuff in it, scenes I mean. Asteroid City is where this tiny metallic meteorite fell to Earth. It's a tourist attraction but also the site of a science competition. So we get a mixture of tourists and competitors with their families staying in a collection of tiny bungalows. They are forced to stay together because the government quarantines the place. In true Wes Anderson style, each character is severely quirky, so when they are forced to interact, you get the fun stuff he is famous for.
That is, there is a bunch of fun, quirky characters who are pretty entertaining, scene by scene. The problem I had is that those scenes aren't stitched into anything resembling a coherent narrative. And, yes, I've seen other Wes Anderson movies that have similarly weird characters that very obliquely meander their way through a plot. So, I didn't expect much of a pace, or plot, really. But Asteroid City is incoherent, both for the lack of a salient plot, and the structure.
Structure? Yes, structure. There are two movies in this movie. One was filmed in the desert in a washed-out pastel palette, and the other is a black-and-white flick set in a city theater. Constantly throughout the movie, they cut to Bryan Cranston doing stuff in this theater company. I can't say I parsed much of it because it was so disjointed, but it appeared to me that the black-and-white stuff was talking about developing a play for the stage, the story of which was the color footage interwoven into the film. So everything gets a bit meta, so to speak. The black-and-white stuff seemed to inform the color stuff. Pardon my vagueness, but I was not interested in trying to parse out some clever mote of wit from the pile of crap dumped on the screen. If there was something there, it took more effort to ferret out than I cared to put out.
One big problem is that the cast is too large. They can't service everyone. Margot Robbie appears in one single throwaway scene. Jeff Goldblum has maybe five seconds, sitting in a space alien rubber suit. Matt Dillon gets a little more screen time playing the auto mechanic, and on and on. It felt to me like Wes had to rotate through each of the big-name actors to fill a quota or something. Bizarrely, there is actually a brief glimpse, blurry, on a dirty mirror, of Scarlet Johanson fully nude--maybe half a second. Why? That's one of a thousand questions I had bouncing through my head as I watched this thing.
By the end of the movie, I was bemused. A good portion of my brain wondered if there was something wrong with me. Perhaps there is. The movie stopped more than ended. I don't know if anything was resolved. There certainly wasn't any emotion to it. It ended. I walked out. In the future I will likely skip Wes Anderson movies until someone convinces me he produced something worth watching.
As failures (for me) go, this is an interesting one, but I hope to never see it again. I encourage anyone who feels they have to watch it, to not do so sober. I suspect this movie would be much more enjoyable in an altered state of mind.