“… an achievement for Wes Anderson as well as everyone else who worked on the project.”
Yesterday I drove for an hour to get to the nearest theatre that was showing Isle of Dogs. I don’t regret this decision, but I doubt I would do it again if given the chance. Isle of Dogs is the new Wes Anderson movie that follows Atari, a twelve-year-old boy who sets out to find his long-lost dog in a future-Japan where all dogs are sequestered on Trash Island due to a flu outbreak. The film is entirely stop-motion, and it features an insane list of voice-acting cast. So why didn’t I like it?
Well I didn’t exactly dislike Isle of Dogs, becasue it had a lot going for it that was amazing. First of all the animation was absolutely breathtaking. Throughout the entire film we are essentially treated to a feast for the eyes. The attention to detail payed in Isle of Dogs is astounding, and it really demonstrates the amount of work that was put into the film. And of course there are also smaller segments that stand alone as beautiful works of art, like the sushi crafting scene which left me breathless. And this aesthetic really adds to the Wes Anderson flavour that we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. I would definitely categorize Wes Anderson’s movies as ‘quirky’, or at the very least ‘highly stylized’. Usually, with his films being live-action, he has to use tricks to bend reality to his will. This is done with either elaborate sets, bizarre costumes, interesting performances, or direction that would make Stanley Kubrick’s head spin. But in a world where Wes Anderson is in charge of every single piece of hair and gust of wind, he’s allowed to fully embrace his eccentric nature. It’s also apparent that Wes Anderson has kept one-upping his movies in terms of quirkiness with each go-around, and with Isle of Dogs he had kind of backed himself into a corner so he decided to be quirky with another culture. The asian influence in Isle of Dogs is very apparent throughout the film, and I felt it was handled with the utmost respect. Isle of Dogs being set in Japan wasn’t a plot point of the movie, it was the movie. Wes Anderson did an amazing job to include cultural influences that really made Isle of Dogs feel like something special, even for a Wes Anderson movie. And this is shown in everything from the appearance of the film to the story itself, which is definitely not a kids movie despite the number of children in my showing yesterday. Isle of Dogs deals with a lot of mature themes and emotions, and it does it all while having to animate every single tear that rolls a character’s face. Isle of Dogs truly is a landmark for Wes Anderson’s career, if only for the work and care that went into making this film.
Now that I have all of that out of the way, let’s not forget that I wasn’t really a fan of Isle of Dogs. The biggest issue I had with the film was the fact that it seemed to get bogged-down too often in its quirkiness. It wasn’t enough that one character wold say a joke, we would have to sit on that moment for what felt like forever essentially replaying the punchline. It wasn’t okay to let the audience wallow in their own sadness for more than 30 seconds without trying to force in a laugh the likes of which would be scoffed at by even the most braindead of audience members. Isle of Dogs is what happens when Wes Anderson loses his touch on reality. In my opinion The Royal Tenenbaums is Wes Anderson’s magnum opus. Everything before The Royal Tenenbaums was trying to be The Royal Tenenbaums, and everything after The Royal Tenenbaums tried to recapture that lightning in a bottle. What makes The Royal Tenenbaums so good in my opinion is the fact that, despite being kind of out there, it is still firmly grounded in reality. This was Wes Anderson’s way of injecting some fun into the real world. When you remove the ‘real world’ aspect of that, things get a little too bizarre. You can’t spend the rest of your life eating cake and candy, at some point you’re going to crave some vegetables or a burger. Now none of this is to say that Isle of Dogs was a ‘fun’ movie. As I said before it dealt with a lot of mature themes in ways that really struck a chord with me in particular. The problem is it kind of didn’t know when to stop. It kept piling on the ‘fun’ and ‘outlandish’ jokes and characters, and after a while it got tiring. And it also seemed that the cast had the same opinion. Despite filling its poster with all of the A-list actors that agreed to lend their voices to Isle of Dogs, there wasn’t one actor in this movie that didn’t sound bored out of their minds. I’m not sure if this was part of the ‘charm’ of the movie, or if Wes Anderson had to drug all of these celebrities to get them to be a part of his film, but it legitimately sounded like they recorded their lines right after they had a warm glass of milk and got ready for bed.
Overall Isle of Dogs honestly is an achievement for Wes Anderson as well as everyone else who worked on the project. The story was pretty interesting, if a little slow at times, the animation was beautiful, and it was oozing with style. Despite all of these great things about Isle of Dogs, I just wasn’t much of a fan.
I give Isle of Dogs a C