Isle of Dogs: A wild and waggy stop-motion masterpiece

by Meerkat
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If you’ve always wanted to see one of the most definitive movies of a director’s signature style then it isn’t hard to think of Wes Anderson in an instant thought. From vacant, close to, awkward stares to wry jokes that is just screaming for a giggle/laugh simply paints another masterpiece by the symmetric genius in every scene.

His latest creation, Isle of Dogs (saying it out loud literally sounds like “I Love Dogs”) is another example of why Anderson is at the peak of his own game and why his style represents an amazing quality that cinema today lacks but desperately needs.
Isle of Dogs was actually released back in March 2018 but thanks to Times Cineplex, Bruneians are now able to enjoy what should be a great eye opener to one of the many masterpieces Anderson has done.

Much like his previous movies, Isle of Dogs delivers on the promise of having its own unique twist to the Anderson style while also keeping the elements of innocence, quirky and entertaining dialogue a crucial part to the story. This time around, we’re given a taste of Anderson’s touch for Japanese culture and language that flows incredibly well with his own creative broth of ideas and storytelling.

It is also worth noting that the ENTIRE movie is animated through stop motion puppets – an aesthetic that really commends the craftsmanship and dedication put in to such an outstanding work of art.

The story centers around a dystopian Japan where dogs are exiled from the mainland to occupy a trash island. The diseased and rabid nature of dogs has been shunned by the people of Megasaki and their mayor Kobayashi campaigns for their exodus to make way for his own master plan. Meanwhile, a prophecy is believed that a boy would liberate the dogs from their exile and return to being man’s best friend after uncovering a conspiracy theory hidden by Mayor Kobayashi.

Honestly, it is simple plots like these that really keep the movie fresh given that it doesn’t overcomplicate itself and focuses on delivering its own dynamic of storytelling through its talented and diverse cast. That fact that there are barely any subtitles for a well known language such as Japanese yet the barks of dogs are fully dubbed into English just emphasises Anderson’s form of humour as well as focus on the victims of the tale.

The dialogue of this movie is delivered in pure Anderson fashion as well. From the narrator Jupiter (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) to Edward Norton’s character, Rex, who does an amazing job at setting the tone of the film in the early acts. It is clever and fast but quirky enough for you to get each character’s personality with but a few words.

Much of this is attributed to the cast, of course. With names like Bill Murray, Bryan Cranston Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson and even Yoko Ono, it becomes a fun game of identifying who plays which character throughout the film. (Except for Ono who was blatantly obvious).

The animation flows seamlessly with the dialogue as well, I found myself laugh much more at the moments leading up to a confrontation. The build up is small yet intense but when it happens, the animation just tickles your funny bone as the perfect punchline without discounting the moment. It is an art form and when a director knows how he/she wants to deliver it, you can’t help but appreciate that more when it is done in class and pride. The dogs are designed between the perfect blend of cute and raggedy with each having a distinct characteristic that sets them apart.

I personally loved Oracle and her “visions” of the future.

It should also be obvious to any Anderson fan that every scene and shot of this movie is symmetrical laid out. From portrait shots of a group being shocks to the traveling montages, almost everything in the scene is perfectly aligned and played by the Rule of Thirds that would satisfy every photographers’ and designers’ fetish. If that doesn’t ease your inner OCD then I don’t know what will.

The heart of this movie lies within the characters themselves. As much as I can do that obvious by praising Anderson for another great piece, it is the characters that really make this movie shine. It is simple, yes, but adding the craftsmanship, diverse cast, exceptional performances, unique style and beautiful integration of Japanese – you get one of the most ambitiously unique and artistically creative film of the year.

If you love Wes Anderson then this is no doubt a must watch but if you’ve never heard of him or seen his previous work then this is a good start.

Isle of Dogs – 9/10

PS: A few of Anderson’s past pieces you may enjoy as well from my personal favourites; Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel.


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