Isle of Dogs - 2018
Director(s): Wes Anderson
Writer(s): Wes Anderson (screenplay) / Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi Nomura (story)
Cinematography by: Tristan Oliver
Editor(s): Edward Bursch, Ralph Foster and Andrew Weisblum
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Fisher Stevens, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Frank Wood and Yoko Ono.
Synopsis: Set twenty-years in the future in a fictional Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy's odyssey in search of his lost dog (IMDB).
There are very few directors in all of Hollywood’s history whose style is described only by their name. Their name becomes synonymous to the look, tone, story and every other aspect that encompasses their movies. Sergio Leone and his spaghetti westerns, Edgar Wright and his quickly edited action-comedies, Quentin Tarantino and his ultra-violent, word-heavy dramas. But all pale in comparison, in my mind, to Wes Anderson. There is no better way to describe Isle of Dogs or any of his movies than to say it’s a very Wes Anderson movie. Everything from the deadpan shots, the dolly zooms, the quirky characters, set designs, color coordination, transition shots and perfectly symmetric shots that make my OCD happy beyond my wildest dreams is exactly the way Wes Anderson wanted his movie to be.
Quick note: this is not a kid’s movie. If the trailers lead you to believe this, then consider that this movie is graphic and doesn’t shy away from adult themes.
Isle of Dogs has all the Wes Anderson trademarks we have come to love. 1. Simple yet unique storyline. Set in a futuristic Japan a mysterious dog flu spread through the entire dog population leading to the government to exile their canine companions. One boy decides to go on a mission to rescue his dog and a pack of dogs from the island help him out in his quest. 2. The cast is very Wes Anderson as well with his regular players coming on board to voice most of the dogs (see above). 3. The humor is dry and at times unpredictable, having lines delivered so dramatically that it forces the audience to laugh at the cheer craziness of the situation. But the reason this movie truly shines is in the control that Wes Anderson has over every single frame of the shots due to it being a stop motion animation (his second movie in this genre, Fantastic Mr Fox his first).
The stop motion animation is breathtaking in this movie. Honestly, knowing how hard and meticulous this craft is and watching all the intricate shots and sets Anderson and his team pulled off is awe-inspiring. This medium allows Anderson to control the way the wind blows, how the light reflects in the background and how the characters move, allowing his vision to truly come to life. There is a sequence in which we get an overhead shot of a chef preparing a meal. We see how the chef kills and cuts up the fish and turns him into sushi. I’m 100% sure Anderson studied how sushi is traditionally prepared and went out of his way to re-create it in a stop motion animation sequence. Just keep the complex sets and the intricate movements in mind while watching these elaborate and entertaining shots. An animator’s 10- to 12-hour day of shooting a scene can essentially yield seconds of the overall product in the movie. Every single detail draws in the audience and makes you believe this world is real and rich of history.
The cast is wonderful and play to their strengths. Edward Norton is hilarious as Rex, the second in command in a pack that has no leaders since they are all leaders. He is constantly deciding for the group but then putting up for vote since, well, there is no leader. Bryan Cranston plays Chief, the stray that doesn’t know how to love his human counterparts and his arc is great. The running joke with Duke, voiced by Jeff Goldblum, is hilarious as he always has a new rumor to tell the group, despite them being always together. Greta Gerwig is wonderful as the foreign exchange student Tracy Walker who leads the charge against the government. Every single actor that lends their voice has at least one moment to shine in the movie and I love Anderson for it.
Quick note: some question if Wes Anderson is doing some cultural appropriation through setting this movie in Japan. Is it racist that the dogs speak English and the human characters speak Japanese without subtitles? I don’t feel I’m qualified to address this controversy since I’m not of Japanese descent. But meaniful conversations are happening around this and I encourage you to read a bit more into the subject.
Isle of Dogs is the most Wes Anderson movie Wes Anderson has made to date. It has all the tropes you come to expect from him and his fans will deeply enjoy every second of it. The set and the character designs are more intricate than any animation movie in recent memory and the fact that its stop motion animation only adds to that claim. The story is funny and unique, even though it is familiar if you know Anderson’s resume. The cast is great and the humor is on point. Even though we are three months into the year, I’m confident this movie will be in my favorites. Wes Anderson is back and my OCD is completely satisfied for the rest of the year. Wes Anderson is why I love movies.
Isle of Dogs (pronounced “I-love-Dogs”) is currently playing in theaters. Stop and motion your way to your nearest theater. Watch it.
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