Isle Of Dogs
Jacob Richardson | 11/04/2018
Wes Anderson brings his quirky, symmetrical charm to stop motion once again; and while it’s no Fantastic Mr. Fox, it’s definitely still a good boy.
When the mayor of Megasaki, Japan exiles all dogs to trash island, he unwittingly makes an enemy of his young ward Atari (Koyu Rankin). Atari, learning that his bodyguard dog Spots (Liev Schreiber) has been exiled there too, takes a plane across the channel and begins his search. He’s aided on trash island by a quintet of dogs; Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray) and Duke (Jeff Goldblum). Back in Megasaki, he is aided by foreign exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig), who tries to change the popular opinion on canines to allow them to come home.
Isle of Dogs is immensely charming. Much of this is in it’s attention to detail. Anderson does things with stop motion that you don’t think are possible. His kidney transplant scene, for example, is tremendously detailed. The film is dense, and this not only makes you feel immediately immersed in the story and world, but also, undoubtedly, will allow for repeat viewings. The detail also, often, makes for hilarity. Scenes like the testing of a dog-flu cure are impossibly well detailed, and then subverted almost instantly by Anderson’s own comedic timing and the need for simple dialogue measures in this often-Japanese language picture
The film is also, undeniably, beautiful. Whether it’s the inimitable symmetry of Anderson’s style, the incredible creativity in the depiction of trash island, the welling of tears in Atari’s eyes or the camera movements as Atari limps to the stage to deliver his big speech, the film is saturated in engaging visual aesthetic. It makes it an utter joy to watch.
But visuals and detail can only go so far, and the film wouldn’t be half as charming if it weren’t for it’s interesting story. Story, here, is the real king, and we are engrossed by both the ridiculousness of the tale and the implausible intimacy any dog owner, or ex-dog owner, would feel to the central relationships in the tale. It’s a masterclass in relatable fantasy, and Anderson delivers gut punch after gut punch amongst the comedy, extravagance and irreverence.
There’s certainly some iffy moments in terms of managing the interface between Japanese language and English understandability, and the repeated use of techniques seems, at times, to be grating. There’s also extremely limited use of female characters, with the only really fleshed out female being Tracy Walker, and even there her agency is questionable, as she is seemingly entirely defined by her obsession with Atari.
Nevertheless, Isle of Dogs is innovative, triumphant and super, super cute.
Rampantly funny, enjoyable and entertaining, Wes Anderson’s beautiful Isle of Dogs is a must see.