Isle of Dogs

(4 / 5)

Before considering the world of Isle of Dogs, it is necessary to address the creative imagination of director Wes Anderson. There are filmmakers throughout the years who have come to define and influence specific decades. Celebrated for their unique perspectives on the world and how they communicate this vision through film. What differentiates Anderson from the rest of the reputable directors of this era is his use of sets, scripts, iconic acting talent and the infamous tracking shot. 

From Bottle Rocket to The Grand Budapest Hotel, he proves that his style can transcend cultures, history and genres. Whether audiences can appreciate his methodology, Wes Anderson has managed to show that movies can be reimagined, recreated and still manage to be entertaining. 

He first put his particular flavour of storytelling on the world of stop motion animation with the groundbreaking The Fantastic Mr Fox. With this newer venture, the famed director moves from children’s literature to a dystopian future in Japan where dogs have been banned from the island and relegated to Trash Island. The mayor of Megasaki City blames all canines for disease and systematically sends the animals to this garbage-ridden prison. 

In an attempt to save his beloved dog Spots (Liev Schreiber), from this wasteland, Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), the orphaned nephew and ward of the mayor, steals a plane and crash lands on the island. Despite a distrust of all humans, an unlikely pack of dogs attempts to help the 12-year-old boy to find his friend and pet. While they head on their quest across the vast landscape of rubbish, significant social change is occurring across the waterways in the capital city that will affect the future of animal and mankind. 

The bizarre combination of words that help to describe this film is quirky and profound. The animation technique and the talent-rich pool of actors as the voices of the characters give this story an unusual warmth despite some of the mature elements. This depth of emotion partnered with an underlying statement about some of the world political figures, causes this to become a ponderous journey amongst the dry wit of the scripting. This tale is coupled with the quirky manner of storytelling that is unlike anything else in animation or live-action films. What Anderson does is make these offbeat and philosophical considerations accessible to audiences, but it will cause most to think long and deep about the experience. 

The cast of talent range from the Academy Award winners Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton to the Anderson faithful of Bill Murray and Bob Balaban. This film does not suffer from a wide range of acting abilities. Interestingly, the script utilises each of the time needed and none overstay their welcome with the stand out being Jeff Goldblum as Duke. Despite these characters being stranded on a garbage heap, the cast will make audiences want to join the pack. 

Wes Anderson’s mode of storytelling is not for everyone, but he does offer a fresh perspective on each genre he decides to work. Isle of Dogs will cause audiences to pause to think, laugh out loud, may lead to the adoption of stray puppies, but if anything it will cause tails to wag with delight.  

Kids Korner: What should parents know about Isle of Dogs?

‘This film is not really for kids under the age of 12 years of age.’ – Caroline Matthews
Our family loved The Fantastic Mr. Fox and we were looking forward to the release of Isle of Dogs. Wes Anderson taps into the same magic of his other stop-motion children’s film, but the underlying message may be a bit difficult for younger viewers to understand. The story contains political statements, poisoning, abuse of animals and even a kidney surgery. All of them handled tactfully, but takes this from being a children’s film to an animated for a more mature audience. 
This dog’s tale will lead to some great conversations with older children and is exceptionally funny, but may prove to be rather confusing or boring for the younger set. 

Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

1. Does God care about animals? (Genesis 1:26-28, Matthew 6:26, Luke 12:6)

2. What is our responsibility to our pets? (2 Samuel 12:1-6, Proverbs 12:10)

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.