The industry's most hoarder accumulates more and more gadgets and pinals. His breakthrough, the stark and stylized "The Royal Tenenbaums" seems like low-budget social realism in comparison to later works – where only the fast-paced adventure "The Grand Budapest Hotel" has reached the level of previous success.
"Asteroid City" is a colourful tableau. It's the 50s and a presenter invites us to a TV program about a play, which in turn is a play, which we see on film, set in a reality that is directed down to sensible detail. Total meta spin. Which is fun.
The setting is a den in the Nevada desert where a meteorite struck a couple of thousand years ago and which is now a military research center where some families have come for their nerdy youngsters to receive prizes for their imaginative inventions.
Possibly this is the most gadget-filled work of the miniature artist. Each scene makes the brain work at full speed trying to take in all the details, sending signals to the corners of the mouth to be stretched in an appreciative, constant smile. If you were to put the film under a microscope, another layer of animated pedantry would surely appear.
The whole is – as is usually the case with Anderson – so entertaining and consistently executed that it should be enough and left over, but towards the end there is still that ossified feeling that it echoes rather empty even in the play uncle's most recently decorated dollhouse. He hasn't even bothered to weave a supporting plot around all his quirks.
In short: what is it all about?
There are probably common Anderson themes about grief, loss and perhaps above all about man's doomed desire to control existence. Just when you think you have control of life, a green man comes from Mars and forces you to re-calculate the whole lab.
True, undeniably, but it's a tense that seems strikingly dull next to the crackling aesthetic.