Everyone and their mother knows I’m a big dog lover. I’ve got two big fur-babies that I love very, very much. So that was definitely a hefty contributor to my dire need to see this movie.
Isle of Dogs comes from the mastermind of perfectly symmetrical scenes with vibrant colors and quirky writing, Wes Anderson. It stars a whole slew of famous folk: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Greta Gerwig just to name a few.
The story follows a young boy named Atari Kobayashi on a quest to find his dog Spots. He ventures to an island off the coast of the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki called “Trash Island”, where all dogs have been exiled by order of the mayor due to an epidemic of “snout fever” and “dog flu” that has plagued the city. At the aid of the young boy, referred to throughout the story as “the little pilot”, is a motley crew of hounds named Duke, Boss, King, Rex and Chief.
The stop-motion animation of this movie is incredible to watch unfold. It’s so meticulous, with every detail being used in the best way possible to bring life to the characters and their environment. It holds true with Wes Anderson’s style of filmmaking with abrupt gestures and fast-paced movements that show no sign of sloppiness. There’s also very snappy dialogue throughout that’s fun to keep up with. As someone who works a day job with dogs, my friend and I got a kick out of the conversations between the animals. It’s truly a marvel to watch with some amazing cinematography and visuals to boot.
For me, I had one downside with watching this film. In the beginning, we’re given a title card that states that there will be no subtitles for the Japanese citizens, only an occasional interpretation from a translator, voiced by Frances McDormand, or from Greta Gerwig’s foreign exchange student. Though adding in at the bottom that “all barks have been translated to English”, causing a laugh from the audience, I still found it difficult to get past the fact of not having any other form of translation for the people of Megasaki. This was something that sparked a heavy conversation on Twitter amongst many people, begging the question of cultural appropriation. Though Wes Anderson has stated that he was inspired by many classic Japanese films while making this, watching this felt more like a tourist’s viewpoint that admired the culture and setting of Japan, but didn't do justice for its Japanese characters. I still very much enjoyed this movie, but there are questions to be asked about certain aspects of it. It’s worth a discussion, and I love seeing that. That’s the beauty of film after all, right?