Asteroid City

And he does it without AI

The storyline in Wes Anderson’s most Wes Anderson movie to date has to do with a Junior Stargazer convention organized in the title fictional desert town amid the Cold War paranoia of the ‘50s aimed at bringing together students and parents for some fun, scholarly competition. To avoid spoilers, suffice it to say the kids get more than they had bargained for.

But as anyone who has absorbed (“watched” just doesn’t do it) any Wes Anderson movie knows, it’s rarely about the story, or in this case the story within the story. The great directors have had the ability to share their consciousness, to get inside your head and attune you to their wavelength. And now Anderson has progressed beyond the stylist we’d pegged him to be to emerge as a filmmaker far more political and profound.

Anderson’s movies have a “look,” so no review would be complete without a special nod to the (purposefully) stagey visual elegance of his cinematographer, Robert Yeoman. And there’s a fine, retro-cool soundtrack.

More than a whimsically beautiful film, this is also a layered existential experience, a treatise on linking humanity with the secrets of the universe. It’s also constantly (and deceptively) fun, highly effecting, full of surprises and simply a blast.

Everybody wants to be in a Wes Anderson movie, so the star-studded cast includes Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johannsen, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Rupert Friend, Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston and dozens more, some just cameos. (105 min)

In theatres September 1 in Japan.