Isle of Dogs Review: Wes Anderson creates a masterpiece

Throughout the history of cinema, films created about dogs have been very popular. Many dog films are animated or are used in live action. Movies that come to mind include Old Yeller, 101 Dalmations and The Lady and the Tramp. Although many great movies have been made, no other film about dogs has incorporated stop motion.

Wes Anderson’s ninth feature film, and second stop motion, Isle of Dogs is one of the most unique films he has created yet. It contains two dominant languages throughout, English and Japanese. During the sequences with Japanese, subtitles are not provided and are meant to show the dichotomy between the dogs and humans. Anderson casted a variety of stars for the film including Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansson and Bryan Cranston.

The story follows a young boy, Atari, and his quest to find his lost dog Spots on the new island of deported dogs. On the way, he crash lands his airplane on the island and encounters the main characters of the film: a pack of dogs. These characters are played by Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban and Jeff Goldblum. This pack of dogs helps Atari on his search for Spots, but along the way many conflicts ensue with the government. They meet these conflicts due to Mayor Kobayashi’s hate towards dogs and his efforts to end the race forever.

Throughout the story Atari tries to communicate with the dogs to tell them directives, but he speaks Japanese. The dogs directly acknowledges the language gap and how it is a conflict.
The story is able to move forward due to the relationship Atari and Chief develop. At first Chief is weary of him, but in the end they build an unbreakable bond. The story keys off of the connection made by humans and dogs and emphasizes the phrase that dogs are, “Man’s best friend.”

Anderson uses puppets to create this stop motion masterpiece. Previously, Anderson had done one stop motion film with The Fantastic Mr. Fox. In Isle of Dogs, he uses techniques from his previous films. This can be seen through the character Frances McDormand plays; she is the narrator of the story and this is similar to almost every other Anderson film.

One way the film excels is the use of the character blocking and camera angles. The way the puppets are placed in the film are always meaningful. As well, Anderson utilizes the close up shot very often throughout to reveal emotions of the characters. He uses this both techniques to show dominance or weakness between characters.

Overall, the film has a strong plot that drives the movie forward and is beautifully captured. Isle of Dogs follows Anderson’s normal quirkiness, but he makes it unlike any other film made before.


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