‘Isle of Dogs’ film review
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
Lots of us at the Other Press like Wes Anderson, and ever since his next film Isle of Dogs was announced a year ago we’ve been anxiously awaiting its release.
I thought that the film was going to be live action until our Social Media Coordinator Mercedes Deutscher told me that it was going to be animated like Fantastic Mr. Fox. Had it been live action, the film would have had to use a lot of CGI to make the dogs talk. Originally going to be released this month, Isle of Dogs was released a few weeks earlier on March 23 and was released in Vancouver on March 28.
The film takes us to Japan in 2038, where a dog (Courtney B. Vance) narrates our story in true Wes Anderson-style and explains that a dog virus is sweeping the country. Six months after Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) of Megasaki City passes a law that sends all of the dogs to a nearby island called Trash Island, his adoptive nephew and ward, Atari (Koyu Rankin), flies a plane to the island to find his dog Spots (Liev Schreiber). Atari crashes his plane on the island and is found by a few dogs including Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), and King (Bob Balaban). They all try to find Spots even though Chief does not like to take orders from humans—though as they spend more time together, Atari and Chief start to become more connected.
Wes Anderson’s use of details makes the film look realistic and creates beautiful images. If you watch all of Anderson’s films, you will notice trends in the camera movements and specific shots that he does. While Isle of Dogs takes place in the future, the cinematography makes it look like the 1960s.
Throughout the film, there are references to Japanese cinema, including the dogs sneezing a lot to reference the fart joke in the Yasujiro Ozu film Good Morning, and the score of Seven Samurai being played on a radio in one scene. Atari’s name is a reference to the Japanese game company. The film has both English and Japanese language and even the text is shown in both languages. There is a note in the beginning of the film that shows that the Japanese-speaking characters are translated through in-movie translators, and also states that dog barks are “rendered in English.” It is unknown if, in the Japanese version of the film, the Japanese-speaking characters will not be translated.
Mayor Kobayashi’s butler, Major Domo (Akira Takayama), is the scariest character out of all Wes Anderson films because of both how he looks and how he talks. Isle of Dogs has some of Anderson’s regular voice actors, while others are new to working with him, and some of the highlights include Greta Gerwig playing a foreign exchange student named Tracy Walker, Scarlett Johansson playing a poodle named Nutmeg, Frances McDormand playing an interpreter, and Yoko Ono playing a scientist who is also named Yoko Ono, and who looks like her younger real-life self. Some voice actors only say a few lines, including Tilda Swinton playing a pug named Oracle and Ken Watanabe playing a surgeon.
Isle of Dogs is my second favourite Wes Anderson film and one that fans of the filmmaker will want to see. If you’d like to learn how the film was made, you can go to a workshop by the film’s lead storyboard artist Jay Clarke presented by VIFF, which is happening this week between Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. at The Annex. Although it is sold out, rush line tickets might be available at the door.