The newest film from Wes Anderson shows him treading new ground while continuing many of the same trends that we have come to expect from the director. Isle of Dogs is a strange and heartfelt film that deals with as much absurdity as it does a cheerful love of dogs.
The movie is set in Japan in the somewhat near future where an epidemic of dog flu and snout fever has ravaged the island and threatens to cross species into humans. The dictatorial Mayor Kobayashi decrees the transport of all dogs to Trash Island which lies just off the coast of Japan. The first dog transferred to the island belongs to Atari, the orphaned nephew and ward of the mayor. Atari flies to Trash Island to find and rescue his dog while meeting plenty of new canine friends along the way.
Many interesting decisions came together to make this film feel unique. The first is that the film is made with stop-motion which always amazes with its sheer scope. Moving and crafting the tiny character models and the amount of detail given to background items are just some of the things that can intrigue an onlooker.
Another interesting and tone setting choice was for actors to only speak their native language with little to no subtitles. So, all the Japanese spoken is either translated within the context of the film by a news reporter, or other characters recapped what was happening. This made for less reading and more interpreting.
A wide cast of well-known actors were placed in the roles of the main dogs. Big names such as Bryan Cranston as Chief, Bill Murray as Boss, Jeff Goldblum as Duke and Scarlett Johansson as Nutmeg. Each dog felt like they were made with the actor in mind and each performance feels perfect for how the character is being portrayed.
Despite all of the interesting aspects of the film, they don’t change the fact that it is completely strange. The dystopian world and slow pace mixed with a strange plot will leave most of the average moviegoers confused. Those used to Anderson’s style will find plenty of details to love, while those uninitiated may be left scratching their heads.
Through all the craziness the film displays why dogs are man’s best friend and how one person can make a difference. There is plenty to enjoy about the Isle of Dogs if all the absurdness can be overlooked.