See Tom Hanks Go Up Against Aliens And The Government

Tom Hanks will star in Wes Anderson's new UFO-themed film Asteroid City.

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

tom hanks asteroid city

One of the reasons that Tom Hanks gets cast in so many different roles is that he handles different characters and genres like a champ. For example, he can quickly pivot from being a gruff cowboy in the Western News of the World to being the world’s sleaziest manager in Elvis. Now, though, you can see Tom Hanks like never before in the trailer for Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, a Focus Features movie about an alien visitation that disrupts life in a sleepy desert city in 1955.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Tom Hanks and just about everyone else cast in Asteroid City is dressed very colorfully. This is one of the trademarks of a Wes Anderson film, where the term “colorful characters” is a valid description of their fashion as well as their personalities. And the director’s films often blend colorful characters with dark humor and absurdism to create a movie experience that you won’t get from any other filmmakers.

But what character is Tom Hanks playing in Asteroid City? He seems to be playing a gruff grandfather whose daughter died in the recent past. This leaves him in an odd emotional place (pretty much where all characters start in an Anderson film) as he tries to maintain a relationship with his daughter’s husband, a man he is not quite sure if he loves like he loves his grandchildren.

That husband is played by Jason Schwartzman, and he and Tom Hanks headline Asteroid City, a film that also includes heavyweight actors such as The Office veteran Steve Carrell, Breaking Bad badass Bryan Cranston, and Marvel Cinematic Universe alumnus Scarlett Johansson. But the bulk of the plot looks like it will center on younger characters who are in town for a Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention. They are gathered together to share in their mutual love of outer space, but things go in unexpected directions when actual aliens make contact with the town.

Will Tom Hanks and others have to drive the aliens out of Asteroid City? That remains to be seen because the trailer doesn’t really show us much of these aliens beyond their retro UFO. Though we do get an interesting line from Schwartzman about how he didn’t like that the alien looked at them “like we’re doomed,” prompting Johansson’s character to quip “maybe we are.” At least, we think it’s a quip, but we wouldn’t put it past Wes Anderson to make a movie about an existential threat to humanity and dress it up in his usual twee dialogue, characters, and set design.

We obviously have a lot of questions about what Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johansson, and other actors (including the always wonderful Jeff Goldblum) will be doing in Asteroid City, but we won’t have to wait long to get answers. Anderson is debuting the movie at the Cannes Film Festival in May followed by a limited release on June 16 and then a wider release on June 23. If you can’t see this one in theaters, though, you can always wait for one of these mysterious UFOs we’ve been seeing to make a landing and then live the film out yourself (but we call dibs on playing the role of the cranky old man).