Wes Anderson’s latest film, “Isle of Dogs” is just now hitting local theaters. The production marks Anderson’s second full-length stop-motion film—the first being the critically acclaimed “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009). Despite such a high precedent being set, “Isle of Dogs” manages to impress and surprise.
For those who aren’t familiar with Anderson’s work, his films have a very particular style. The color pallet is typically diverse, but muted. The characters are always peculiar in unrealistic ways, and the plot tends to spiral in unexpected, new ways.
“Isle of Dogs” is set in the near future in the fictitious city of Megasaki, Japan. Dogs have become overpopulated and diseased—threatening the human population with a potential health hazard. As a result, the mayor banishes all dogs to a nearby island used as a massive landfill. This prompts young Atari’s adventure to the island in search of his dog.
The main characters are the pack of dogs that find the boy and assist him. Fans of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” will recognize some returning voices in very different roles.
Visually, it is impossible to look away from “Isle of Dogs.” The characters’ movements and the environment are brought to life through spectacular stop-motion. Some particularly impressive effects are used for visualizing smoke or fog. Using what appears to be dark cotton, the animators created beautiful-looking scenes that incorporated this synthetic haze.
Quirky humor plays a major role in every Wes Anderson film, and “Isle of Dogs” is no different. Viewers that are fond of situational or awkward humor will enjoy how the film delivers comedic relief. Occasionally, the film’s sheer absurdity will be enough to earn a laugh from audiences.
Subplots are quirky, yet captivating. The occasional cut looks at drama unfolding back in Megasaki. These scenes do a good job of never making the film feel like it’s slowing down or getting off track. Rather, these scenes find a roundabout way of creating a high-stakes climax.
Despite all the movie’s positive aspects, there are a few complaints to be had. One of which is the depiction of Japanese culture. Representing East Asian culture is a great idea, but using a foreign culture solely as a plot device is troubling.
Many of the Japanese characters speaking never have their lines translated, forcing audiences to see their dialogue as unimportant. Meanwhile, an English-speaking character is inherently deemed more important due to audiences being able to understand them.
Using Japan as a setting is a great idea, but “Isle of Dogs” could have had a much better execution.
Wes Anderson films have their charm, but they are certainly not for everyone. “Isle of Dogs” is a great introduction to the renowned director’s work, and the stop-motion film lends itself well to Anderson’s classic style. For those looking to catch a new movie, “Isle of Dogs” is one of the most unique cinema experiences that can be found in mainstream theaters.