Isle of Dogs review
Wes Anderson has one of the most unique styles of modern cinema. His combination of specific color patterns, off kilter soundtracks, comedy, consistent still camera angles, and occasional reoccurring actors like Bill Murray and Edward Norton gives him the rare distinction of having movies that really don't resemble someone else's. I think that a lot of it comes from how even with a large cast, his movies manage to feel like small, unimportant independent movies…even though their still filled with passion. Wes Anderson has shown that he's not afraid to try out other genres ; his most prominent example being that of Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009.
Fantastic Mr. Fox was his chance to not only do something more family friendly, but was his first (and as of 2018, his only) adaptation of another story. But unlike other animation styles of Disney and DreamWorks, Fantastic Mr. Fox embraced it's identity by combining stop motion that looked intentionally unclean, but still kept a lot of the typical Wes Anderson traits. The movie came out great and I'd had always wanted him to do another animated movie. Not only is Isle of Dogs another stop motion story, but one that's also original.
Set in the near future in Megasaki City, Japan, an outbreak of dog flu is spreading amongst the canine population. Mayor Kobayashi decrees that all dogs are to be quarantined to a nearby trash island until a cure is found. Six months later, the dogs have formed a variety of tribes and packs, with the only goal of surviving. In one group, we have the leader Chief (played by Brian Cranston), Rex (played by Edward Norton), King (played by Bob Balban), Duke (played by Jeff Goldblum), and Boss (played by Bill Murray). All except for Chief had lives of families, celebrity, and comfort. Chief was merely a stray that became leader.
About six months after the decree, a boy Atari Kobayashi crash lands his plane on the island, looking for his bodyguard dog Spots (played by Live Schreiber). Though the dogs can't understand his Japanese, they understand what he's looking for and agree to try and find him. Meanwhile, back on land, there is a conspiracy that the mayor doesn't want a cure found and would rather exterminate the dogs. Transfer student Tracy Walker (played by Greta Gerwig) tries to get some answers for her school newspaper.
I'm happy to say that not only is Isle of Dogs a great movie, but it's an improvement on Fantastic Mr. Fox. Even though I like that movie as well, the latter film suffers from a story that seems to be focused on trying to be a crowd pleaser. Isle of Dogs doesn't talk down to people. In fact, I'd say the movie is a combination Japanese samurai, political thriller, and a little bit of a Woody Allen comedy. And yet it all still feels like it fits into Wes Anderson's style.
The animation, which is clearly representing something like Raken-Bass, keeps a lot of the roughness featured in Fantastic Mr. Fox. Though you can tell that some things were touched up by computers, this is an example of good C.G.I, when it's merely used to remove strings. It's never overpowering and it maintains the "unclean" look that's still intentional. Each of the dogs look different and make it easy to tell who is who. There are even similar breeds that stand out thanks to the voice acting.
Let's talk about the voice-overs. Wes Anderson is an actors director, who knows how to take advantage of each persons skills. He gets a quality mix of Brian Cranston's eccentrics and stern demeanor. This develops into a character that’s troubled, but someone who could still be redeemed. Though we certainly get plenty of time with the other animals, Brian Cranston's character gets the most focus and rightfully so. What about the humans? Wes Anderson made the interesting decision to keep the majority of human cast speaking Japanese. A lot of it isn't even translated and were simply supposed to figure out what their feeling or tying to get across. This will definitely stress some audience people that want something more straightforward, though this creates more of a visual experience. I'd compare Isle of Dogs a lot like a silent movie with dialogue.
I'll give this five robot dogs out of five. Isle of Dogs is more proof on why Wes Anderson is one of my favorite directors. He's an artist whose not afraid to keep evolving his work to create something that's all his own. It's hard to imagine Disney or even Pixar making a story like this. It's heart felled, funny, interesting, and impressive. Go see this and then give our dog a hug.