The first thought that came to our mind after watching Asteroid City is that the film isn’t meant for everybody, and there would be a huge segment of the audience who wouldn’t understand what is happening in the film. The film is basically about the quests of different characters, trying to find meaning and purpose in their lives, running from their fears, hiding from their reality, finding order within chaos, challenging authority, and much more.
Asteroid City tells us that the story goes on even if we cannot interpret it correctly or find any sense in it. The film talks about the grief and loss that an individual witnesses throughout his life span on Earth and how, in many of these instances, they are able to ascertain what the meaning of it all is. Human beings have this incessant urge to find the meaning behind everything in life, and we are left bemused in the end when we are not able to demystify the universe. Personally, apart from the various metaphors and symbolism, what stands out is how it proves that there is this longing inside human beings to restore what is lost and there is an insurmountable sadness that they know is going to be their constant ally as long as they are alive. There are a lot of things in Asteroid City for which there is no explanation given, and it is left to the audience to decipher their own meaning out of it. We agree that to some, it might be intriguing and fascinating, while to others, it might be very infuriating. We won’t be surprised if people are left scratching their heads after the film finishes, as evidently, the intention of the film is not to appease the masses.
Wes Anderson’s narrative is as abstract as it can get, though there are a few moments where the characters decide to talk to each other in an unambiguous manner, giving us an opportunity to take a quick glimpse inside their psyche and, moreover, the perspective of the director himself. In Anderson’s universe, cinematography, colors, symmetry compositions, and miniatures play a very crucial role, and in Asteroid City, too, he captivates your attention with his stylized filmmaking techniques. So, let’s find out what’s happening in the play inside Asteroid City.
What Happened At The Space Convention In The Play?
Asteroid City takes us back to the year 1955 and starts with the host (Bryan Cranston) of a television show telling the audience about a play directed by an exceptional playwright by the name of Conrad Earl (Edward Norton). He tells the audience that the story and the characters of the play are fictional, and there is no such place as an Asteroid City that exists in real life. From hereon, we get to witness the play and what happened during the pre-production phase, where the playwright was still in talks with the director, Schubert Green, about who to cast in which role. Actor Joans Hall is shortlisted for the role of Augie Steenback, whereas actress Mercedes Ford, after having a heated argument with the director and almost making up her mind about not doing the play, bags the role of Midge Campbell.
The play starts, and we witness Augie and his four children coming to the space camp being organized by the United States military science research and experimentation division. Every year, mothers and fathers brought their children to the space camp, where they celebrated Asteroid Day (as on that particular day, an asteroid had fallen on Earth) together and presented their own marvelous creations in front of the esteemed judges. These children were geniuses who had a keen interest in astronomy and saw the world from their own unique perspectives. People from the military and the government were a part of the organizing committee, as they were on the lookout for inventions they could use for their own benefit.
Obviously, the children felt that it is a matter of pride if their invention is selected by the government, but in reality, it is being stolen by them and was going to be used for their own vendettas. Woodrow and Dinah were Augie’s and Midge’s children, respectively, and just like their parents, they, too, became close during their stay in the camp. Midge was staying just opposite Augie’s camp, and they developed a very uncanny bond, probably because they were going through a similar phase in their lives. Midge told Augie that she felt that they were the kind of people who didn’t like exposing their deepest and darkest feelings in front of the world, maybe for the fear of being judged. She saw the pain in Augie’s eyes; he had recently lost his wife and was carrying her ashes in a Tupperware. He didn’t know what she had done to deserve such a fate, and for the longest time, he hesitated in telling Woodrow, his son, and his three daughters that their mother was no longer alive. Stanley Zak, Augie’s father-in-law, also arrived at the camp, as he was supposed to take the children with him to his house. An astronomical event that was going to take place during the tenure of the space camp was also one of those things for which everybody was very excited. But during that event, something absurd happened that had an impact on the entire proceedings that were to follow, and the seriousness was such that the military had to take charge of things, and the people were kept in quarantine until the government knew what exactly had happened.
‘Asteroid City’ Ending Explained: Did Augie Get An Answer For His Dilemma?
When the celestial event was going to take place in Asteroid City, a UFO arrived out of nowhere, and an alien came down from it and took the asteroid and left. People didn’t know what to do about it after that, and they were all asked not to leave the camp unless and until the government gave them an order to do so. Everybody was asked not to communicate with anybody outside the camp about what had happened, and the government officials started brainwashing them into believing that they hadn’t seen any aliens. Richard Cho, one of the space cadets, was an anarchist by nature, and he managed to spread the news that there had been an alien sighting in the camp. During the ending of Asteroid City, when the chaos settled, Augie and his children decided to go with Stanley Zak, and the alien once again came back and returned the asteroid that it had stolen. Stanley and Augie were not able to stand each other before, but their relationship improved with time.
The actor playing Augie had some confusion about the play, and he went off-set to inquire about it directly from Schubert Green. He asked Mr. Green why his character was doing what he was doing, as there were a lot of things he did not understand in the play. He told Green that he felt lost and had no idea about the motivations of his character. He didn’t know why he suddenly burned his hands or if there was any answer present in the cosmic wilderness that could give him a better idea about the psyche of his character. Augie confessed that he didn’t understand the play, but Green, at that moment, advised him to not try to find a reason or motivation behind each and every action and just keep telling the story.
Asteroid City never gives us any straightforward answers but, in its own twisted way, tells us that every individual perceives things in their own unique way. Everybody has their own perspective, and a lot of times, things cannot be termed as merely right or wrong. Asteroid City tells us how people have their own way of dealing with their grief, trauma, existential crisis, vulnerabilities, and insecurities. Maybe, just like in the play, there is no meaning to anything, and because our species has this desire to attach a lot of importance to our existence, we live our entire lives in delusion. Maybe we would never know anything about the secrets of the universe, and just like Augie, we would have to keep doing the needful without having a full understanding of our story.