For those out there who are a part of Wes Anderson’s esoteric fandom, “Isle of Dogs” has had us wagging our tails ever since it was revealed to be stop-motion animation.
This is now the director’s second stop-motion picture overall, following the 2009 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
Painfully, this being a Wes Anderson film, it got a limited release before it opens everywhere but by good fortune, the Aperture Cinema in Winston-Salem was one of the select theaters that had showings and the mini-trek there was worth every single mile.
The movie’s plot, spoiler free of course, is about a little pilot named Atari, who gets stranded on the Isle of Dogs after he crashes his plane in search of his dog, Spot, after all canines are quarantined from the city due to an increased amount of infections. In the movie, people speak in their native language with the occasional help from the random subtitle or a translator to help the barks to be translated into English.
There are so many shots that almost tricked the viewer into forgetting that it’s a stop-motion movie. From the fluid camera movements and the amazing cinematography to the beautiful set design that sneaks up on you, the filmography is up to Wes Anderson standards. One moment the characters are surrounded by a pile of trash that looks most-foul, then a drastic change in lighting will occur mid-shot making the garbage seem like a recycled art piece that could be put up in a museum. “Isle of Dogs” is filled with the same unconventional beauty that permeates Anderson’s entire filmography.
“Isle of Dogs” contains many of Anderson’s trademarks that are often imitated but never duplicated. The dolly shots, the symmetrical framing, the whip pans and tracking shots, which you come to expect when you watch one of his movies, are all present.
The one thing in every Wes Anderson movie that no one will be able to duplicate is the quirky characters and genuine emotion that he brings to every film. Scenes can go from hysterical to heartfelt in the span of three lines.
His world is never black and white, his movies are never one genre in its entirety; there is always a bit of drama, a bit of romance, a bit of comedy and a bit of adventure which he can tie together like a pretty bow on a birthday present.
As for all of his movies, Wes Anderson called up his usual troupe of actors that are so big and noteworthy. Many talented actors lent their voice to this project, including Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Edward Norton and Bob Balaban, who all play as part of the main pack of dogs. Scarlett Johansson and Liev Schreiber play supporting dogs and Courtney B. Vance plays as a spot-on Wes Anderson narrator. Even Yoko Ono lends her talents to the project. He did bring in the unknown Koyu Rankin to voice Atari who knocked it out of the dog park.
One of the many good things about Wes Anderson is that so far, fingers crossed, he hasn’t made a bad movie. Some of his movies are better than the others and some people have a preference towards some of his films rather than his other films, but bottom line, none of them are bad.
This makes it relatively safe to say that when one walks into a Wes Anderson movie, there is little worry of disappointment. As with this one, there was little to no worry going in and nothing but pure satisfaction coming out. “Isle of Dogs” far exceeds expectations and has Criterion Collection written all over it.