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Isle of Dogs Defies Limits of Animation

Illustration by Anya Chytrowski

The newest edition to the Wes Anderson cannon (which includes The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom, The Royal Tenenbaums and many others) is called Isle of Dogs. Isle of Dogs is an animated tale of a young boy called Atari and his quest to find his missing best friend. That friend is his guard dog named Spots, who was exiled to “Trash Island” along with all other dogs in Megasaki, a city in futuristic Japan. Atari is the ward and distant nephew to mayor Kobayashi. Kobayashi and his fellow officials (whom are all cat people) have sent away all dogs due to a pandemic of “dog flu” in an attempt to protect the human population from such viruses. The majority of the human characters (aside from an American exchange student and a translator) speak entirely in Japanese, while the dogs speak in English. Don’t let the animation and bilingual nature of the film stop you from seeing it. Isle of Dogs is for all people who like movies. Even people who prefer cats.

Although the character development, which consists mainly of flashbacks, is minimal, the characters are all complex, lovable and somehow relatable despite the language barrier.

Moreover, due to the superb animation and direction, the canine characters are able to emulate the behavior of dogs through human characteristics. This can be seen in the fierce sense of loyalty, stubbornness, and lovable quirks that are embedded in all of the canine characters.

Similar to other movies directed by Wes Anderson, the cast is full of talented Hollywood stars. Including Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Yoko Ono, Greta Gerwig, and Jeff Goldblum among others. The cast is able to well execute Anderson’s classic witty yet subtle banter and idiosyncratic humor.

But if you don’t see the movie for the heart-warming plot, impeccable cast, and humor, see the movie purely because it is quite frankly beautiful. The gorgeous lighting, colors and symmetrical camera angle that have become staples in the world of Wes Anderson creates an aesthetically wonderful movie. The stop motion animation is done so meticulously and colorfully, that every scene appears to be an exquisite painting. It is clear that there is no scene in the movie that was created without deep thought. Every brilliant decision added to the movie’s beauty. Although visually and content wise there are a lot of connections between Isle of Dogs and other Wes Anderson creations, this movie still somehow is in a category of its own. That is not to say that it isn’t clearly a Wes Anderson movie, it is, but what sets this one apart is its appeal to a more universal audience.

Although other of Wes Anderson movies are quite popular, they require a distinctive taste. In contrast, Isle of Dogs has something for everyone. I highly recommend the movie, especially in theatres. However, if that is not an option, the movie would be just as wonderful at home.