Film Review “Isle of Dogs”

Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” was an outstanding movie. It was weird, like all of Anderson’s other movies. It had a hidden depth, like all of his other movies. And most importantly, it had so much care put into every shot, which is another characteristic of Anderson’s movies. “Isle of Dogs” is also a stop motion animation, which means that the characters are miniature models that animators move by hand for each individual frame. Anderson revealed prior to the movie’s release that about eight hours of shooting each day would produce about 30 seconds of usable film, meaning that the making of the movie was a painstaking and arduous process. The result, however, was a finely crafted movie with loving detail in every shot, every character, etc.

The setting is in a futuristic Japanese city called Megasaki where evil cat-loving Mayor Kobayashi and his goon named Majordomo claim that due to an outbreak of dog-flu, all of the dogs in Megasaki are to be exiled to Trash Island. The movie follows two different plot lines corresponding to the two settings. In Megasaki, Kobayashi’s rival is working on a cure for the dog-flu and Kobayashi is attempting to suppress this knowledge. On Trash Island, Kobayashi’s ward, Atari, crash-lands while looking for his dog, Spots. Atari is helped by a democratic pack of dogs. Among them is a stray named Chief, played by Brian Cranston. Throughout the movie, Anderson switches back and forth between these two settings.

The art in this movie is incredible. The city of Megasaki is stunning with science labs, Kobayashi’s lair and city hall being major landmarks. Trash Island has a gross look about it, as one might expect, and yet is charming in its own way. The dogs themselves have realistic-looking fur that has a mangy quality, showing their suffering on Trash Island. The film also blended 3D stop motion with 2D animation; any shot on a television was two-dimensional. This created a unique effect, as most of the television was Kobayashi’s proclamations or his version of the media. To me, this implied that his version of events is less true than the other sources of information in the movie. Anderson also takes great care to replicate Japanese cultural images such as a storyteller reciting an ancient tale at the beginning. All of the Japanese characters, additionally, spoke Japanese in the movie. Atari, Kobayashi and other Japanese characters spoke in their native language almost without any subtitles. Translation was either not present at all or was translated by an interpreter.

What I really enjoyed was the love for man’s best friend in the movie. For the most part, the movie is a piece of a comedy, yet Anderson often proves the point that life would be so sad without dogs in the world. From Chief’s transformation from an angry stray to a loyal friend, to Atari’s search for his best friend, the core of the movie is a touching tribute to the canines we all know and love.