Several years in the future of a fictional dystopian Japanese society, all dogs are suddenly plagued with a unique flu that jeopardizes the health of every citizen. While scientist search for a cure, the evil cat-loving mayor issues a decree to exile all dogs onto a remote trash island. The story follows a young boy, Atari, on a quest in search for his exiled dog, Spots.
Isle of Dogs is a brilliantly crafted stop-motion animated feature that I loved deeply. Writer and Director, Wes Anderson uses his unique style, iconic symmetrical framing, and quirky humor to tell a richly entertaining story that all dog-lovers should appreciate.
Director: Wes Anderson
Koyu Rankin = Atari (voice)
Bryan Cranston = Chief (voice)
Edward Norton = Rex (voice)
Bill Murray = Boss (voice)
Jeff Goldblum = Duke (voice)
Bob Balaban = King (voice)
Liev Schreiber = Spots (voice)
Frances McDormand = Interpreter Nelson (voice)
Seriously, who is not in this film?
Immediately the audience is introduced to Chief, Rex, Boss, Duke, and King who believe they are the alphas on the island. However aside from Chief, the only thing that makes them alphas, are their cool names. They are wimpy house dogs with nice table manners. The pack aligned themselves with Chief, who is a tough as nails stray dog outcast. Together they are searching for food scraps, when suddenly they witness a plan crash on the island.
The little pilot of the plane crash is our young protagonist, Atari. He stole a plane and flew it to trash island with the hopes of finding his companion, Spots. The pack (minus Chief) immediately decide to help Atari to find his lost dog. Together they go on a quest to find Spots, but along the way, Chief unwillingly goes on an internal side quest to discover love and his purpose.
I loved this story so much. The dogs are deeply loyal, and considerate towards Atari and his mission. Since Atari speaks Japanese, the dogs and the audience are left to interpret him for themselves. Love transcends barriers, and this movie reflects that in special moments like the one pictured below. I watched this film with a huge smile on my face and I hope you will have a similar experience with Isle of Dogs.
There has been much criticism surrounding this film, primarily for allegations of cultural appropriation regarding the Japanese culture and characters. The Japanese characters are not subtitled, and instead Interpreter Nelson translates a portion of their dialog to English. However, when their dialog isn’t translated, the audience is left to interpret for themselves. This was problematic because it created a barrier between the audience and the characters.
Meanwhile, the dogs spoke English and they are voiced by white-american actors. You can see the issue this causes regarding the “White Savior” complex Hollywood has. I personally was not troubled by this aspect like many others were, however I just believe Wes Anderson could have constructed the Japanese characters more carefully.
Wes Anderson’s films are not for everyone because of his unique style and quirky dry humor. However, I believe if you are a dog lover and/or a fan of Wes’ films, then I’m sure you will enjoy your experience watching this flick.
Where does this rank in the list of Wes Anderson films I have seen?…Well I’m glad you asked.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
- Isle of Dogs (2018)
- The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
- Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
- Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Not yet seen: Bottle Rocket (1996), Rushmore (1998), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Leave a comment what your favorite Wes Anderson films are!