Wes Anderson’s latest film is a joyous and aesthetically staggering adventure story about the loyalty between people and their canine companions. When Megasaki City is hit by an outbreak of canine flu, Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) declares all dogs to be quarantined on Trash Island. Atari (Koyu Rankin) thus begins an epic journey to rescue his beloved dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber), and, with the help of outcast canines, he inspires a pro-dog resistance to expose a government conspiracy
The film is bursting with the Andersonesque signature touches we know and love (or hate). It is daring that the film has been attempted to be told in Atari’s native tongue, using only sparse translations of the mayor’s interpreter and a foreign exchange student Tracy (Greta Gerwig). However, despite this technique working for the most part, the third act suffers with it as it is the American character of Tracy that leads the resistance, and her confrontation of professor Watanabe’s (Akira Ito) assistant is strained and inessential. In addition, some of the narrative is let down by abrupt detours and overly-extended sequences, which unfortunately only succeeded in taking the viewer out of the story.
However, the film also bears some great merits. Beyond the impeccable stop-motion animation and Anderson’s iconic satisfying colour palette, the film thrives the most in its dismantling of negative disfigurement representation which is stereotypically used to signal the antagonist character, a technique that major Hollywood films are especially guilty of. Anderson plays on this trope by using rumours of a cannibalistic pact of dogs that reverberate around Trash Island, and then disregarding it immediately, giving the film a greater sense of depth and sincerity than some of his previous works.
I was pleasantly surprised by the candid gruesomeness of the setting as well as the abundance of violence that added a punch to the animated adventure story, although I couldn’t help thinking if a part of this magic was to be owed to the stunning stop-motion animation. That said, Isle of Dogs is a funny and charming tale, and a true delight for dog lovers.