Isle of Dogs Review


Filmmaker Wes Anderson’s latest film,“Isle of Dogs” is a bilingual masterpiece that tells the story of Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) and his epic quest to find his beloved dog Spots. The cat-person controlled world has left all dogs to be exiled to a filthy trash island; what ever happened to man’s best friend?

If you say Isle of Dogs five times fast, it begins to sound like the hidden message in this movie: “I love dogs.” Anderson derived the idea for film from his passion for dogs, and also paid homage to legendary Japanese filmmakers Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki. The played out story of man’s best friend was told in a fresh, original way.

Atari Kobayashi wakes up from a coma to find his parents dead, and his distant uncle now ruling the fantasy-city of Megasaki. Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) exiled all dogs to a bleak trash island, starting with Atari’s beloved companion Spots. Atari begins his search by hijacking a small plane to get to trash island. He crashes, and is woken by a group of dogs who fittingly call him the “Little Pilot;” missing masters of their own, the group of dogs are determined to help the Little Pilot find his dog.

The alpha pack of dogs guides Atari through the wasteland called Trash Island. Although the island is a disgusting scene, I found myself admiring it: the fur of the filthy dogs flowing in the wind, garbage bags being torn to uncover a variety of terribly disgusting garbage; it’s art.

Anderson’s second venture into stop motion animation had me in awe, even though it was in a place called Trash Island. The visually compelling illustrations and clay figures moving in harmony creates a perfect ensemble that can’t be described. Several times throughout the film I would whisper (loudly) to my sister next to me in the theatre:      

“Oh my god, that was so satisfying,”

“Did you see that? Wow.”

The dirty looks and loud shushes I received did not discourage my appreciation.

The stars of the show to me are the lovable mutts that help Atari on his quest. Rex (Edward Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), and King (Bob Balaban) are all abandoned housepets figuring out how to live without their beloved masters. Chief (Bryan Cranston), the stray of the group, doesn’t have a dependence on humans, but has problems of his own. The reason these dogs are unique is because of how uniquely human they are portrayed. They joke around, and each dog’s personality different and relatable somehow. They make clever remarks, but also get emotional. Most of all, these dogs yearn for human connection, which I think is the most human thing about them.

One critique the film has received is the use of both Japanese and English; most human characters speak Japanese and the dogs solely speak English. This American frustration with the lack of subtitles is a little absurd to me. The movie takes place in Japan, so why would people be speaking English? There is also a translator (voiced by Frances McDormand) throughout the film, but most of the story can be interpreted by watching. I also like the variation of language; it shows that the love between Atari and the dogs doesn’t need a common language. It’s love in its purest form.

If you’re interested in funny, heartfelt, or visually gorgeous films, Isle of Dogs is all three. The melancholic little details combined with the heartwarming story beautifully show the age-old love for man’s best friend.