Review // ISLE OF DOGS

Wes Anderson has crafted a beautiful adventure, in every sense of the word.



Grade: A


Though it isn't his first foray in animation, director Wes Anderson has mastered his visionary techniques with Isle of Dogs, an intellectual treat to the senses. The story is harrowing and the characters are incredibly crafted. Animated films are generally built for younger fans, but Isle of Dogs soars as a treat for the older crowd who will be enamored by its tiny touches of nostalgia and clever screenplay.


First and foremost, the thing that works with Isle of Dogs is the animation. Anderson has mastered a detail-oriented view of the worlds he creates in both his live-action and animated films. It's easy to know when you're watching an Anderson film, by the muted but eclectic colors and styles, down to each and every detail. In Isle of Dogs, he uses these to his strength in creating a very specific Asian-inspired land perfect for the story that feels one part tall tale and another part morality tale.


Secondly, Anderson's storytelling is fully on display with the winsome and charming story of a boy and his dog, but elevated with a story that has even broader strokes in terms of multiple dogs and the search for peace in all of humanity.


And, third, Anderson utilizes his choice cast members to his advantage. Over the years, Anderson has amassed a plethora of talent for all of his projects and Isle of Dogs is no exception. Anderson favorites like Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, and Scarlett Johansson, join newcomers like Greta Gerwig, Liev Schreiber, and Yoko Ono as voices of both people and dogs.


Anderson's first animated flick, Fantastic Mr. Fox, was special in its handling of the source material, keeping everything fresh and childlike, while studying adult themes. In Isle of Dogs, he does the same, but finds new ways of animating the story that give it an even more childlike nature, despite an almost solely adult-themed premise. An outbreak of canine flu in Japan means all dogs must be quarantined on an island. After his dog, Spots (Schreiber), is sent there, a boy gets the help of a pack of misfit dogs to find Spots. In the process, a group of hard-nosed dog lovers shake up the government and uncover deep-rooted conspiracies.


The action is delightful. The animation is pristine and delicious. There are moments where the story seems to drag, but thanks to Anderson's clever direction and symmetry in cinematography and artistic nature, the visuals make up where the story lacks.


The entire film is dazzling, to say the least, and definitely worth your time. It isn't going to be the year's best film, overall, but should follow through as the most original animated flick since Kubo and the Two Strings. It should easily be remembered once awards season comes around for its ingenuity and progressive use of classic animated tropes in a modern day format. Anderson is always pushing the buttons on storytelling, as easily seen in projects like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom. He follows suit here with a treat worthy of any boy, girl, or dog.

© 2018 by Scottie Knollin.

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