Very innovative, a fresh breath of air in an otherwise Pixar/Dreamworks style of movie making.
Man this movie was a unique experience! I know we tend to say that often for what seems like every 3rd or 4th motion picture we head out to a screening for, but this is different. Isle of Dogs was every Samurai flick, Japanese folk tale, American Spaghetti Western, and every Wes Andersonian motif you can imagine cramed into one film. That’s a good thing for all Wes Anderson fans out there, films like Rushmore and the Royal Tenenbaums are legendary. Anderson himself said this picture was strongly influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa and any Japanese cinema fans would be able to spot the similarities pretty quickly. I know I did.
Isle of Dogs is essentially a continuation of an intense, brutal history between men, cats, and dogs. The Kobayashi clan’s ongoing beef with dogs is bizarre, and holds the entire weight of this film’s premise. The kicker here though, is that an intense dig-flu has swept across the dog population. To sum it all up, Dogs are good and Kobayashi (or specifically, Mayor Kobayashi) is bad, bitter, and determined to uphold a discriminatory tradition. Kobayashi signs a decree that all dogs shall be sent to ‘trash island’ away from the rest of civilization. The mayor’s eventual heir whose parents were killed before the time of the film, has a dog that is sent to a far off island away from the rest of a Japan (some twenty years into the future). The heir’s name is Atari and he’ll spend most of the movie in search of the dog his uncle sends away. Dog’s name is Spots, and becomes known as Dog Zero, the first one to have been sent away to the island. Long story short the movie is about the search and rescue of Spots by Atari and five other dogs (King, Duke, Rex, Boss, Chief).
Isle of Dogs was every Samurai flick, Japanese folk tale, American Spaghetti Western, and every Wes Andersonian motif you can imagine crammed into one film.
The meat of this film is the relationships between the dogs, their environment, and their struggle to stay sane in an insane atmosphere. The dog flu is so devastating that it seems to render them all in constant pain, sneezing, starving, and suffering. The dogs have become so accustomed to the life that by the time Atari appears in the film, things like baths and haircuts seem ‘special’, distant memories. Anyway, this isn’t a spoiler review–the dogs essentially go on a journey across the island in search of Spots and then eventually to avenge their own misfortune essentially.
Back on the island, Kobayashi’s rival–a scientist actually finds cures and treatments to deal with the dog flu virus, but Kobayashi ain’t trying to hear all that. As you can imagine the battle there take on a more political and ethical front and serves as a solid secondary thread to the plight of the dogs and Atari.
What stands out about this film isn’t the story or the characters though. It’s without question the style of narrative at play here. It hearkens back to things like Kabuki plays in Japan or classic, samurai cinematic tales. The way characters or groups were introduced into the story. The way it’s narrated. Even just the facial expressions and gestures made whenever words aren’t spoken. And in this film, only the dogs speak English. Everyone else (aside from translators at the tv station) speak Japanese. Many times without subtitles. And it works. The actions shown in every scene like this are explained well enough without the need for subtitles and the like. Not something easy to pull off, but perhaps made a little easier with the help of animation. However, it’s worth noting the stop-motion tech used in the film is nothing to sneeze at either as the detail and depth of movements downright captivates. The technical and practical aspects of the film are the strength and generally enhance the quality of product here tenfold. If this was an ordinary, hand-drawn motion picture this film would be like every other straight to demand early 2000s flick you can find on Netflix or Hulu. But it’s presentation is second to none! Leave it to a director like Wes Anderson to raise the bar once again when it comes to narrative style and pace. Very innovative, a fresh breath of air in an otherwise Pixar/Dreamworks style of movie making. This one comes HIGHLY recommended from me!
What were your thoughts about the movie? How’d you like the style of storytelling we got here? Send me your thoughts over to firstname.lastname@example.org