“Isle of Dogs” was written and directed by Wes Anderson and stars Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig and a whole laundry list of other stars. The film is about a dystopian Japan that shipped all of its dogs onto an island full of trash, and one kid named Atari Kobayashi (Rankin) who travels to the island in search of his dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber).
Anderson is one of the most consistently strong directors working today, while also being one of the weirdest, so I am always excited to see the newest project that he thinks of. Specifically, with “Isle of Dogs,” he was going back to the stop-motion that worked so well with “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and with an absolutely loaded cast, so I was very excited to see this film, especially with its amazing trailer.
Though it may be way different than anything done by Pixar or Disney Animation, “Isle of Dogs” is one of the most visually stunning animated movies in recent memory. Every single frame in this movie feels like a work of art, whether it be the fantastic work done on the dogs and humans, the beautiful pieces of scenery or incredible use of practical effects to make the stop-motion work.
Anderson has made his directional style a genre of his own with an extreme use of dry humor, symmetry and familiar actors, and “Isle of Dogs” is the epitome of Anderson’s weirdness. The symmetry is there in every shot, the dry humor is consistently hysterical and very well-executed and Norton and Bill Murray, consistent favorites for Anderson, both shine in their supporting roles.
Cranston is the lead for the majority of the film, and he is terrific as Chief. His relationship with Atari is terrific, and Cranston does a great job with voicing a certain amount of anger and emotion throughout pivotal scenes in the movie.
The supporting cast of dogs were usually used for their comedic abilities, and they all did a tremendous job. Norton shined as Rex, but I loved Jeff Goldblum as Duke. Goldblum was the funniest of the supporting dogs, especially with each successive “rumor” that he offers the group.
This movie is smart with how it uses translations, as there are numerous times that characters speak in Japanese without any sort of subtitle. The only English translations the audience gets are through translators or the occasional subtitle, and that simply added more flair and creativity to each scene. I only received translations for what was important, and it made characters, especially Rankin’s Atari, emotionally impactful even without knowing a single word of what he said.
Deep down, there was just something I loved about Anderson’s vision of a simple idea: a boy searching for a dog he loved. The themes and the world become much grander than this, and in all the right ways, but the fact that this movie’s deepest theme is something so simple that every audience member can appreciate, made the emotional potency work on a much larger scale.
There were a few scenes here and there that felt a bit unnecessary or never fully connected back to the main storyline that I wish were cut or more strongly developed, especially in the human storylines.
Even though it was in typical Anderson style, I thought that the ending ten minutes of the movie was a little cheesy, even for someone who is such a huge fan of Anderson’s work. Without spoiling, I just felt that the end was too wrapped up in a nice little bow for its own good, and I wish that the film ended on a more open-ended, or less sugary sweet note.
“Isle of Dogs” is yet another terrific film under Anderson’s belt as it uses stunning visuals, tremendous voice acting and brilliantly implemented comedy to stay consistently entertaining and heartfelt. There were only small complaints to be had, as this was a phenomenal film from start to finish with so much to appreciate at every turn.
Though it may not be a film for everyone, Anderson’s style is incredibly quirky and his humor is an acquired taste, I highly recommend anyone to give “Isle of Dogs” a try, as it is one of the best films of 2018 so far.
What did you think of “Isle of Dogs”? Comment below with your thoughts.