Wild Imagination Goes Untamed in Isle of Dogs


Directed by Wes Anderson | Prod. by  Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson | PG-13 | 1h 41m | Adventure

 Wes Anderson is a director who has received immense praise throughout his career, and with Isle of Dogs, he adds another acclaimed movie to his filmography. Much like the film’s title (Isle of Dogs sounds quite a bit like “I love dogs”), this movie is about the relationship between dogs and their respective owners. Isle of Dogs takes place in a near-future Japan, where a corrupt mayor has exiled the entire population of dogs to a place called “Trash Island.” The mayor’s reasoning is that of protecting his city from the diseases the dogs supposedly carry; however, after a cure for said illnesses is discovered, the truth is revealed. Mayor Kobayashi is a part of a long lineage with a grudge against dogs, and he is willing to do anything to have their entire species banished.

 Here we find the mayor’s 12-year-old ward Atari, who, after his own dog Spots is sent away, decides to take off in a prop plane in search of his friend. Upon crashing on Trash Island, Atari embarks on a journey alongside a group of celebrity-voice-acted dogs to find Spots. However, there is a language barrier between Atari and his newfound companions: see, they speak… dog, (which we hear “translated” as English) while Atari speaks Japanese. The very same language barrier is present between the English-speaking viewer and Atari as well, as his speech is not subtitled or translated in any way throughout the film. Herein lies one of Isle of Dogs’s most interesting aspects, in that we do not necessarily need to know what Atari is saying, as the voice acting conveys some of the necessary emotions on its own. However, this is not always true, as sometimes the viewer may be left a bit  unsure or lost, which is simply an example of style over substance. Not to worry, though, as this issue is a rarity in the film; the other characters who speak Japanese are either subtitled or translated, unlike Atari. Regardless, an aspect of the film that never falters is its stellar animation, much like one of director Wes Anderson’s other films The Fantastic Mister Fox. Said film and this are Anderson’s only two stop-motion animated films to date, and yet the movements of the characters are lifelike and look as if they were real dogs walking around on the screen.

 The film’s soundtrack borrows elements from Japanese music and even has some original songs from a variety of Japanese musicians. The score perfectly ties in with the visuals, exemplified by the hard pounding drums to build tension and even some intrigue at the very start of the movie. Despite a few hiccups in regards to voice acting, Isle of Dogs is a watershed stop-motion film that shows what animated movies sometimes do that live action films cannot. We confidently give this film a 9/10.