With Megasaki city on the brink of an epidemic, Mayor Kobayashi sets a decree to banish all dogs from city limits and ship them to an isolated island. The once beloved four legged animals are left to fend for themselves, thus beginning to form their own individual packs. During a typical day of fighting for scraps one of the groups encounters a boy who has traveled from Megasaki city insearch of his dog who has been stripped away from him.
The first act begins with steady world building and educating the audience on the lore of the film, but quickly picks up to a riveting journey that most would expect from a Wes Anderson project. Along for the ride are Anderson alumni Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and a few other notable voices you may pick up on. Much like Wes Anderson’s prior films “Isle of Dogs” gives the seasoned actors a chance to shine with simple yet impactful lines. The splash of melancholy within the delivery of dialogue works to the benefit of drawing the line between dog and human. On one side we have a sense of comradery, survival and group welfare, while the other is a society juggling conspiracies, propaganda and personal interests- thus making for a multilayered film that branches further than it’s family friendly competition.
For the most part the humans speak in unsubtitled Japanese, though it is cleverly disguised and translated via interpreters and narration in some instances. ‘Isle of Dogs’ flips the script on reality as the audience understands the dogs, but must decipher the body language and tones of the human counterparts in order to comprehend their actions. It’s a nice change and the techniques used work well in regards to storytelling.
Having an infatuation for stop motion I was curious to see how the animation would pan out with the combination of Anderson’s style. The humans have an array of features that distinguish one another like wrinkles in faces, imperfect teeth and size variations between characters; showcasing the artistic value of each. Each still manage to fit within the visual realm of Anderson’s style of elegance presented by simplicity. The dogs also look magnificent with individual strands of hair creating a life-like coat of fur. When speaking the dogs faces work in an anatomical way that is much more canine, but their mouths give off movements that are slightly more human. Fluidity is present no matter the given task, both wind blowing through fur and characters running look fantastic. On top of the characters, the overall usage of blissful symmetry and precision go hand in hand with the eastern setting and design of the Japanese backdrop.
The stellar cast and praiseworthy presentation combined with a creative spin on a reoccuring theme in Hollywood make for a highlight of 2018 film catalog. ‘Isle of Dogs’ might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but one that must be seen by those who are easily captivated by precise visual storytelling with an even deeper content meaning.