‘Isle of Dogs’ will leave you feeling stranded

‘Isle of Dogs’ will leave you feeling stranded

‘Isle of Dogs’ will leave you feeling stranded
April 16
23:25 2018

Wes Anderson has always been a hit or miss director, in my opinion.

While his prowess behind the camera is undeniable, it’s his choice to refine his style rather than experiment with something new that has always been a dice roll.

While he’s directed “Fantastic Mr. Fox — one of my favorite movies of all time — he’s also made one or two very odd projects recently that seem to lack spirit and soul beyond the unique visual style he’s known for.

It pains me to say “Isle of Dogs” falls squarely in the middle in comparison to his existing filmography. While “Isle of Dogs” is his most visually inventive film to date, it struggles to find a real reason to be.

I’ve felt on several occasions upon watching his films that Anderson has forgotten the function behind the innovation he’s been praised for. “Isle of Dogs” comes off as another one of his films ripe with distinct and wonderful visuals, but with animation and writing style choices that lack direct function to the story.

The movie follows a pack of dogs, who along with thousands more, have been banished to an island made up of trash. The Japanese city of Megasaki is facing multiple diseases perpetuated by dogs, thus making them illegal. The pack, voiced by Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bryan Cranston and Bob Ballaban, stumble upon a boy who has made his way to the island to find his dog.

The cast of dogs are fantastic, delivering oddball humor and disjointed scripting to the standard of previous Anderson movies. The visuals greatly compliment these characters as well, creating a very dry tone throughout. This extremely vivid interpretation of Japan is beautifully realized, and is without a doubt Anderson at his peak in terms of his visual creativity. Every shot is used to show off superb artwork and aggressively sell you on its world.

There truly isn’t a single frame out of place — not one shot that doesn’t use perspective or clever use of depth of field.

Complimenting this is a quirky story that does do just enough to keep me interested for the most part.

It was all so captivating that I almost forgot to ask why. Anderson’s appeal has always been his visual distinctiveness and sense of humor. His trademarks are all here, but you get the sense that he’s checking off boxes as he made this movie. There is no soul here.

Though there are several other forms that this movie could have taken, it seems that the only justification for the choice of animation was because it’s one of the only things making him immediately recognizable as a director.

Perhaps this is where personal taste comes into play most, but the movie also lacks any substance among its characters as well. There are protagonists, but at no point do you find yourself feeling any sort of attachment to them. A moment came about an hour into the film where it seemed several cast members were dead, and I assumed as such because sometimes Anderson likes to follow the rules of artistic and visual priority more strictly than the rules of maintaining well-written characters. His choice to let characters compliment and feed into the style of the movie was clever the first few times he did it, but his insistence on continuing this trend leaves him feeling like a director that’s not evolved with time.

In the case of “Isle of Dogs,” it feels like a movie suffering from a tired style of writing — it feels like every other Anderson movie. I say this is personal taste because some people see his work for its set design and clever use of camera technique. Many love him for the very reason I’m knocking him. But his work here feels extremely similar to the last five movies he’s done. No one is likable. No one is really “the good guy.” Things just kind of happen to facilitate the next impressive thing he wants you to look at.

Another issue I have with the movie is related to Anderson’s style of storytelling. He has a habit of introducing many characters relatively late into his movies, and often times, these new characters are unrelated to the established cast in any way.

Anderson does it again here, opting for the perspective of a dog activist group as well as a scientist working toward a cure for the disease. They are all protagonists in relation to the narrative, but they are hardly interesting. It’s impossible to empathize with them, and I did not care whatsoever about how their story lines concluded. Again, it’s Anderson’s regurgitation of insistence on rehashing the trademark tactics he has come to be known for. 

I do not think Anderson truly understands why his fans love him. For me at least, the reason I used to love him so much was his desire to innovate and his spirit of experimentation in an industry that’s very stale and safe.

His input on design and animation was exciting for me because it represented change to a very dull status quo, not because it was cool to look at (don’t get me wrong, this movie is gorgeous). But it feels like he has short changed himself here. He’s painted himself into a corner by relying on tropes and designs he’s used before, rather than taking the spirit he once had and trying something totally new.

“Isle of Dogs” is without a doubt an incredibly beautifully constructed movie. The only problem is that it feels like Anderson is trying to perfect themes of his previous work rather than create something truly new and unique.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Featured Image: Courtesy Facebook

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Zach Helms

Zach Helms

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