The first appropriate word to describe Wes Anderson’s new stop-motion animated film, “Isle of Dogs,” would be the one that is associated with the rest of his films—different. It is a richly-ordained artistic film that is a reserved delight for fans of both Anderson and inventive cinema.
Set in the future realm of a Japanese archipelago, the city of Megasaki grows malicious towards the town’s canine population after an epidemic of ‘dog-flu’ breaks out, threatening both man and his best friend.
The town’s sinister mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) decrees all dogs will be banished to the neighboring isle that is called ‘Trash Island,’ a once populated area that is now the city’s desolate garbage heap.
The story centers on five dogs: Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Duke (Jeff Goldblum) and Boss (Bill Murray), who are led by Chief (Bryan Cranston.)
Their lives are disrupted when a young boy named Atari (Koyu Rankin) crash-lands on their island, seeking his dog Spots (Liev Schreiber,) who was deported years earlier.
Together, the canine group journeys with the boy to find his lost friend, while along the way they discover some interesting and surprising things about their own being. Meanwhile, back on Megasaki, a young American exchange student named Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) leads a social group of ‘pro-dog’ protesters conducting a deep investigation to unearth the believed conspiracy and corruption within the Kobayashi government.
The acclaimed director’s second stop-motion animated film (after 2007’s Fantastic Mr. Fox) is a charming tale of alienation and its inspiration to seek the antidote that is love, stitching the seams of reconciliation firmly between the dog characters and the humans.
Despite its enriched setting, there are some setbacks to this film and I wish to divulge them first.
I am surprised to admit I did not find the characters that interesting, and this is even more distressing when I remember the satisfaction I have felt for other characters in Anderson’s films. I was attached to the situation and to the objective these individuals were trying to reach, but as characters themselves, I did not feel attached. The film displayed backgrounds and motivations, but the nuances of them were not deep enough to provide equal support to the characters themselves.
This is the main problem with the film: though the characters are given backstories, they only serve to express their brief uniqueness, leaving everything else to the imagination.
Despite these setbacks, for us Anderson fans and art connoisseurs, it is a treasure to watch.
There is the expected flamboyancy of the film’s physique and setting that does not disappoint.
Understandably, the occasional reference to Anderson’s previous works, seen in the atmosphere and scenery, fail to make up for this relatively flat experience.
It is a colorfully rich world and it is only a skilled director like Anderson himself that can make places such as a dump heap appear whimsically attractive.
Through every physical part of the film, it is all elaborately baptized by the quirky filmmaker’s imagination. This helps Anderson achieve once again something he has always managed to do—create a fantasy world that is fantastically realistic.
This is definitely not a top choice if I were to rank my favorite Wes Anderson movies.
I prefer Fantastic Mr. Fox when it comes to comparing the two of Wes’s animated films, but “Isle of Dogs” definitely earns its special place among these hits.