I was recently able to have the extremely delightful fortune to watch Wes Anderson’s latest animated feature film, Isle of Dogs. It was exactly as quirky, imaginative, heartfelt and painstakingly detailed as I expected. It is a Wes Anderson film after all.
Anderson’s latest film has drawn a fair amount of criticism and praise alike for its representation of Japanese culture. (click the link for a thoughtful, informative review on the film’s specific cultural details) I am fully aware that I viewed this film as a white American and undeniable Wes Anderson fan, so please take my opinions with my view-point in mind.
I loved this film, was it on Fantastic Mr. Fox level of love? Personally, no, but there is no denying that this film was a fantastic feat in original storytelling and voice casting. Isle of Dogs may have one of the best ensemble casts of any Wes Anderson film, yes maybe even better than The Royal Tenenbaums. The cast includes Anderson favorites like Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, and Bob Balaban, but it also introduces some new blood. Notably in the narrator Courtney B. Vance, Liev Schreiber, Yoko Ono, Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, and Asian-American or Japanese actors like Ken Watanabe, and Koyu Rankin among many other small roles that are cast and chosen with exacting precision.
The film centers itself around a classic trope –– boy and his dog. The boy is Atari (Rankin) and the missing dog is Spots (Schreiber) , and in his search he meets other dogs who help him because ” He’s a 12-year-old boy, dogs love those.” Wes Anderson gives the coming of age tale his quirky twist, and thus we get the almost dystopian world in which all dogs are marooned on Trash Island and left to their fate of illness and extinction. What follows is a daring rescue mission, corrupt government actions and propaganda campaigns, impassioned student protestors and activists, and an ending fitting of an Anderson film. The animation is stunning, at almost any moment you could take a still of one the scenes and it would be a “perfect shot.” As with any of his films color and symmetry play a very large role. Isle of Dogs has a slightly harsher color story than other Wes Anderson films, but he makes sure his trademark yellow makes a few appearances! The film narrowed in on red, I believe because this color has cultural significance, and the film also maintained a minimalism in its design as well. This film is a wonderful tale that was very heartfelt at its core, despite the slightly dark comical premise. Let’s just say this, whenever the dogs are tearing up you probably will be too. Isle of Dogs made me laugh, cry, and have a ridiculous grin on my face the entire time I watched this whimsical, adventure. If you are a Wes Anderson film, trust me, you already love it.