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Sign of the Times in Isle of Dogs


Director Wes Anderson’s newest animated film, Isle of Dogs, is an odyssey, exploring the lengths humans go for their canine companions.

Isle of Dogs tells the tale of Megasaki City, a place where dogs have been exiled by order of the corrupt, Mayor Kobayashi, to nearby Trash Island. Surviving in nomadic tribes, the diseased dogs are constantly fighting over rotten food. To say the least, Trash Island is hellish. One particular band of dogs, consisting of Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), and Duke (Jeff Goldblum), stumble upon a “little pilot” who has crashed his plane on Trash Island. The “little pilot” is Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) a distant nephew of the mayor. Atari is in search of his exiled bodyguard dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber). The movie follows their expedition in search of Spots over the radioactive wasteland that is Trash Island.

With such a star studded cast and such an acclaimed director, one would expect this movie to be wholly wonderful. . . however that was not the case. While the movie was full to the brim with the well thought out, quirky stop-animation technique of Anderson, the plot presented a confusing maze which was at times sickeningly fast paced. At the start of the movie, everything was presented clearly and the characters were understandable. As the film progressed, though, more and more characters were introduced and quickly the story went from easy to understand to extremely convoluted. Anderson introduced too much in a short amount of time.

Additionally, Isle of Dogs was plagued with stereotypes of Japanese people. In this film Anderson was trying too much to mimic the striking style of Studio Ghibli. This was also reflected in the constant change in language. While some scenes would be in Japanese without translation or subtitles another scene would be dogs talking in English. The variety of dialects was confusing. The movie is also marketed as a comedy, which is ironic because although there were some witty lines nothing about it was memorably hilarious.

All that being said, the film was still wonderfully Wes Anderson. The small, eccentric details and vintage color palette made every frame a meticulous work of art. The soundtrack was eerie and magnetic; a symphony of percussion and whistling, which suited the movie perfectly. The plot, however tangled it got, was still apparent and relatable in many regards. For example, the corrupt mayor was extremely similar to the current political climate in the United States. Laced with propaganda, it was strikingly and disturbingly alike to the dystopia that Americans are, arguably, living in. There was also a powerful allusion to the power youth harbor. In the movie, it turned out a band of high-school kids were what caused the reform of the decree against dogs. This sounds a lot like the gun reform walk out that high school kids recently participated in across the country, no?

Even though Isle of Dogs had a tangled plot, it still delivered and it’s a must watch, even if one merely admires the stylistic beauty Wes Anderson has become so famous for.