Isle of Dogs
Wes Anderson has undoubtedly created his own genre. His films can’t be categorized by the current cinematic standards; they contain wit and humor with an underlying darkness, his symmetrical shots and quirky characters have become instant classics. Anderson likes to take his time with his films, releasing one every three or four years, it allows for a meticulous calculation and crafting. His most recent film is only his ninth (having released his first film in the late 90s), and his second as an animated feature.
Isle of Dogs is an adventure story. In the distant future in Japan, a bout of dog sickness threatens humans, so all the canines are dumped into an isolated trash island. However, a young boy named Atari, (Koyu Rankin) the ward of mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) who deported all these dogs goes to the island, to find his beloved Spots (Liev Schreiber). Once on the island, he encounters a band of dogs: Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rev (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), and Duke (Jeff Goldblum) who agree to help him find his banished pet. The story also has a parallel subplot where we see a political struggle between mayor Kobayashi and scientists and student journalists (hmm wonder where the inspiration for that came from?).
The film is as Wes Anderson as you can hope it to be. However, it must be noted that just because it’s animated and looks friendly, doesn’t mean that it’s meant for kids. Anderson’s films may seem light but many have dark undertones and sudden bouts of violence that are not suited to many children. These aspects are frequently overshadowed by the incredibly witty script and original deviations, however, and they are certainly prevalent in Isle of Dogs. It’s a humor that doesn’t rely on references, and gives the film a rather timeless feel.
However, one aspect that I’ve noticed in many of Anderson’s films is that the finale always feels a tad anticlimactic. It’s as if spewing all this original content clouds the writer/director’s mind into letting go of his characters; we end up getting very timid endings that don’t match the colorful intensity of the rest of the film. If Anderson were to tweak this feature in his films, he could cement his position amongst the directing legends.
Anderson’s creativity isn’t only on paper however; he likes to populate his backgrounds with a treasure of details. Dabbling in animation let’s Anderson explore this part of his filmmaking even more; paired with the beautiful stop-motion we get little details like fleas crawling around a dog’s fur, or the welling up of tears in characters’ eyes as they try and restrain their emotions, that accentuate performances from the beautiful puppets. If stop-motion animation weren’t such an arduous task to pull off (every frame has to be set up, Isle of Dogs ties the longest stop-motion film ever made with Kubo and the Two Strings at 1hr and 41 minutes), you wonder if Anderson would delve more in the genre, as it suits him and his style tremendously.
In the end Isle of Dogs is a refreshing viewing. Anderson brings his talent and delivers yet again, giving us an original and compelling story that is so absent from the filmmaking world of today.