By Austin Santiago
Published: April 18th, 2018
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
It seems as though director Wes Anderson has mastered the art of simple story telling, as well as creating an aesthetic in his films that leaves audience members mesmerized. Anderson has successfully combined those talents to give us the critically acclaimed film: “Isle of Dogs.”
A tale of love and companionship, the film stresses the importance of the relationship between a man and his best friend. With a star-studded cast including Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, and Scarlett Johansson, it seems as though every canine we meet in this film has its own distinct personality. The film follows the journey of 12-year-old Atari Kobayashi, who is the estranged nephew of the corrupt Mayor Kobayashi, the main antagonist attempting to rid Japan of all dogs. All dogs on Japan have been exiled to Trash Island for fear of dog flu. Among those dogs on the island is Atari’s own dog, Spots. With the help of Chief (Cranston) and a rag tag group of loyal companions, the search for Spots is on, as well as a plan to get all of the dogs off of Trash Island, and back with their loving owners where they belong. Not only is the story well-written, it is presented incredibly well through stop motion animation, a style that Anderson has become well known for.
Sitting in the theater, the movie was not even halfway over before I decided that “Isle of Dogs” is one the most amazing looking films I have ever seen. Anderson worked closely with Andy Gent, who was responsible for creating the character puppets used in the film. Behind Gent was a team of 70 artists who worked on creating the fictional world of Trash Island, using different types of garbage for different landscapes. Of course, being set in Japan means Anderson went out of his way to showcase Japanese culture in almost every frame of this movie. We are treated to a barrage of bright colors and nods to Japanese storytelling, where the claymation style actually transitions to a more traditional form of animation briefly. However, Anderson faced initial backlash over his casting choices, with many stating he was “white-washing” Japanese culture. Upon watching the film, you realize that most of the lines are delivered by Japanese characters in their native language, and all Japanese characters were voiced by Japanese actors.
Out of all of the characters in this movie, the one I found the most entertaining was Tracy Walker, voiced by Greta Gerwig, an exchange student studying in Japan. Not only does Tracy offer comic relief, but also a vague social commentary, often wearing her “pro-dog” headband, and leading demonstrations against the authority figures in the film. The aspiring journalist proves to be a lighthearted representation of a modern social justice warrior.
If “Isle of Dogs” has one drawback, it is that it can cause sensory overload for the viewer. There were a couple of times when I found myself blinking an extra few times because my eyes couldn’t handle the explosion of colors and stop motion on screen. However, I find this a small price to pay for the experience “Isle of Dogs” gave me at the theater. This film served as a reminder that cinema and art are synonymous, and it is for that reason I give “Isle of Dogs” an A+.