Isle of Dogs Review

  • 3/5
Isle of Dogs (2018)

Isle of Dogs is the newest film from acclaimed filmmaker Wes Anderson. It also happens to be his second animated feature after Fantastic Mr. Fox and following in trend with that movie, Anderson ditches the Pixar-esque CGI animation and instead opts for the more personal and classical stop-motion format.

That is what has always set Wes Anderson apart. His movies are set in his own world. The outside world doesn't exist to him. He does what he sees right regardless of what the world is doing. In that sense all of his films have always felt so small-scale - in the best sense of the word - they're deeply sensitive, contained and personal features.

With Isle of Dogs however, things seem a little different. You wouldn't expect it, but this movie - which focuses on a young boy travelling to a secluded island inhabited with infected, quarantined dogs in order to rescue his pup, is possibly Anderson's most overtly political film to date.

With regards to that, the film is impressive - it manages to dissect the problems the current world is facing with power structures using the Fifth Estate to create and breed fear. This leads to fostering subsequent hatred which in turn often leads to the creation and isolation of marginalized groups - which in this case happen to be dogs.

Another aspect that is impressive is the voice acting - with a cast boasting the likes of Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Edward Norton and Bryan Cranston - you get what you expect.

Where the film falls short however, in what I feel is a trade off for its larger-scale political ambitions, is lose out on the emotional depth found in Anderson's earlier, more personal films.

Anderson's films are never necessarily sad but always involve a certain sense of moving melancholy - a scene or two that doesn't overtly command you to display a showing of emotion, but subtly nudges you towards it.

It's something that I've always marvelled at when it comes to Anderson - the way he makes the downright weird seem so touching.

There's a scene in Fantastic Mr. Fox where Mr. Fox comes face to face with his only fear - a wolf. It's not a scene that's essential to the plot at all and rumour has it that Anderson had to fight to keep it in the film.

But that simple scene is quite possibly one of the most moving scenes I have ever seen. There is one such scene in Isle of Dogs that takes on the mantle of the gentle emotional cue - but it doesn't work as well as it should - you can understand it, you appreciate what's being done, you know you should feel something, but you don't.

That I believe is what encapsulates this movie - it's visually stunning and uniquely Wes Anderson-ian in its plot, but there is a disconnect - what I imagine a teenager would feel when looking at a classical work of art. There's an acknowledgement of something beautiful and well crafted no doubt, but not something that necessarily moves you.

It's a movie that's easy to marvel at, but not necessarily enjoy.