Japan. Dogs. Wes Anderson
Three things that I really like in life come together in film format and it (not surprisingly), didn’t disappoint. Just like how the title of Wes Anderson’s latest movie sounds like, I loved Isle of Dogs.
And such a name was no coincidence because this film is not only about an island of dogs but it’s more so about people who love dogs. Which in reality, is quite a lot. But, in the movie, is one that has many divided and turning on man’s best friend, as a new plague of dog flu and disease has crippled our beloved pets and have seen them banished to live in solitude on island aptly titled as “Trash Island”. Will someone step up and save our now seemingly lost and sick canine friends? Can humanity be so cruel to those that have been with us for almost all our lives and who have listened patiently to every word we’ve told them without saying anything back?
The answer to those questions is of course no. But Isle of Dogs explores the journey of man’s connection with his animal best friend and it’s done so in glorious stop-motion animation.
Like another great film that used this technique and was also directed by Wes Anderson, Fantastic Mr. Fox, the production on his latest is simply outstanding. As soon as I saw the opening scene, I knew it was going to be a work of art. That single frame alone has bested anything else visually that has come out this year, but this, again is no surprise because this is what I’ve come to expect from watching a great director and master at his work. Though his live-action films are also great, working in the medium of stop-motion animation feels like it suits him even more so.
Wes Anderson is an intricate and detailed scene selector. He knows exactly how everything is meant to be shot and knows exactly where everything is meant to be placed. It’s often why people have called him out for his love of having objects being centered in a symmetrical way but what’s the problem? Sure, it might be somewhat a repetitive trait across most of his films but when it’s something that’s done intentionally to produce an aesthetic look, that actually fucking looks nice, how can you complain? I love the time and effort being put into making things fit in a frame setup and that can still deliver an equally, if not more so, entertaining film compared to others that use an overabundance of different shots and can’t replicate the same aesthetic appeal that Wes Anderson can.
But of course, all of this isn’t just credit to solely Wes Anderson, as almost all the credit should go to the great production team behind him. Whether it be from the details of the characters themselves, with each dog that you see having their own distinct features that make up who they are and what unique look they comprise of. Or just the great set designs and background artwork that I can tell was worked on for an extended period of time, and often only used for one second of a particular scene as Anderson’s famous lateral tracking shot passes quickly by. The love and joy to make all this happen fully knowing that it might only appear briefly in the film and not be shown ever again is just another testament to the greatness of this film.
But if I was to have any real qualms with Isle of Dogs, it’s probably more so with the fact that the story doesn’t necessarily match the production quality behind it. It’s nothing terrible or dramatic to be detrimental enough for me to hate, but compared to Moonrise Kingdom or Fantastic Mr. Fox, I enjoyed some of the takeaway themes and humor in those films more so than Isle of Dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked the messages and comedy in his latest film, but it wasn’t as significant compared to others and I’ve had a more enjoyable time with those aspects elsewhere.
Nevertheless, Isle of Dogs is still a very well-made film and probably one of the best production designs that will come out this year. It also has a stupendous amount of all-star voices behind the cast of characters which is also an added bonus that gives you an opportunity to hear some talented actors act on their use of dialogue alone, which was interesting to take note of. I think Jeff Goldblum and Bryan Cranston were particular standouts, even if Jeff Goldblum was simply just being Jeff Goldblum and Bryan Cranston was just reiterating his great acting talent that I’ve come to know from him.
But the production of this film is what you should all come to see. It’s unbelievably gorgeous to look at and I can’t wait to give it another watch again and use certain stills as future wallpapers for my desktop when the Blu-Ray comes out. Wes Anderson continues to impress on his filmography with a lovely and touching story about man’s best friend, and one that is just a visual joy to see on screen. See it.