Film Review – Isle of Dogs (2018)

Title – Isle of Dogs (2018)

Director – Wes Anderson (Rushmore)

Cast – (Voices of) Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Koyu Rankin, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson

Plot – In a futuristic landscape, dogs from Japan are sent to a trash island to live out their lives outside of the human populace but all that is set to change after young pilot Atari (Rankin) heads to the island in search of his old dog Spots.

“Don’t ask me to fetch that stick”

Review by Eddie on 08/08/2018

By this stage in his career, 22 years on from his debut film Bottle Rocket and follow-up break out hit Rushmore in 1998, you know what’s in store when you sign up to watch a Wes Anderson film; oddball humour, arthouse tendencies and Bill Murray and for any acolytes of the esteemed indie filmmakers previous works, Isle of Dogs will be one of the years easiest to digest cinematic treats.

Showing us all he was a deft hand with animation with 2009’s memorable and very good Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson returns to stop-motion animation with his whimsical and fantastical Japanese set tale, that sees man’s best friend banished to a trash island, living a life of scraps and canine disease, whilst felines are allowed a life of luxury in the imaginary Megasaki City.

It’s a unique and colourful tale filled with eye-capturing scenery and one that fits Anderson’s sensibilities and imagination like a glove, yet while so much of Isle of Dogs is wondrous and engaging, there’s a sense that the core tale of Anderson’s fable isn’t one of the filmmaker’s finest moments, as we are thrown into a simplistic yarn about young pilot Atari trying to reunite with his old 4-legged friend Scraps after he was sent to Trash Island 6 months previously.

Joining forces with a rag-tag collection of mutts led by Bryan Cranston’s Chief and Edward Norton’s Rex, Atari’s journey starts off promisingly enough but unusually for an Anderson film, Isle of Dogs narrative begins to peter out as the runtime wears on and interest levels wane and despite the fine attempts of its voice cast and the beautifully constructed animation, Isle of Dogs is neither funny enough or thrilling enough to be considered up their Anderson’s most assured works such as Fantastic Mr. Fox or more adult oriented dramas such as The Royal Tenenbaums.

While its disappointing Isle of Dogs didn’t connect more emotionally or nail its comedic oddball tone to a higher degree, there’s no denying Anderson and his team’s commitment to their hard to master animation technique is a genuinely remarkable achievement and filled with Anderson’s creativity behind the camera, Isle of Dogs is abundant with visual wonder and acts as a colourful and memorable Japanese themed treat that is great for the eyes and senses, just not so much the heart or funnybone.

Final Say –

Some will be utterly charmed and dazzled by all elements of Anderson’s newest creative offering, while others will find this appealing work slightly disappointing on a higher level. Hard to dislike but arguably harder to love than the best of Anderson’s offerings, Isle of Dogs ends up being further proof that Anderson is a unique and unpredictable talent, to be forever copied, but hardly ever bested based purely on imaginary outputs.

3 black owls out of 5

14 responses to “Film Review – Isle of Dogs (2018)

  1. Great review. I wanted to see this film in theaters but didn’t get the chance too. Will check this out eventually.

    • Be keen to hear what you think once you do mate! I to missed it at the cinema which was a shame as the animation was fantastic and the film therefore provided a lot of fun visually.

  2. I’ll have to rewatch some of the older ones, but I think Grand Budapest Hotel was Anderson’s peak in that it had all that’s good about his style, while also having the appeal of a more mainstream comedy. The good thing about Isle of Dogs was that it felt similarly appealing. I agree, however, that the plot architecture could be stronger.

    • His older films are very much worth your time! Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and particularly The Royal Tenenbaums are just amazing films! And very very funny in a lot of instances.

      • I remember enjoying Bottle Rocket.

        Unfortunately, I saw Rushmore having already seen a newer film called the Trotsky, and Rushmore struck me as a weaker version of that one.

  3. I found it very simple yet engaging. I understand your point about the plot kind of dragging in a way. But I think it needed that since this story dealt with the idea of facing the inevitable. And that sort of slow, off-kilter pacing was part of building that idea out.

    • Visually I found it a real treat but yeh something about the story and plotting I didn’t care for that much. I usually really like Anderson films but for me this was one of his lesser efforts.

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