Isle of Dogs
The mind of Wes Anderson must be an intensely busy and colourful place. He splatters his quirky style into every corner of each neatly organised frame – to the point where even those unfamiliar with his work would recognise its visual uniqueness. Now he’s back with his first animated film since Fantastic Mr Fox in 2009, and it’s probably his most ambitious feature to date.
Isle of Dogs is set in the despotic, dystopian Japanese city of Megasaki – in which dogs have contracted the widespread flu known as “snout fever”. The government orders every pooch to be exiled to the aptly named Trash Island. 12-year-old Atari (newcomer Koyu Rankin) hijacks a plane over to the banished colony to find his dog Spots (Liev Schreiber) and encounters a democratic faction of canines (voiced by Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Bob Balaban). They help the young hero cross the island in order to find his beloved pet.
This is just a thin slice of a rich and massive chocolate cake of wonders. Anderson fans are greeted with open arms and treated to his usual stylistic trademarks: symmetrical cinematography (crafted by Tristan Oliver, who also shot Fantastic Mr Fox), a ridiculously famous ensemble cast and a brilliantly childish imagination within a rough and dirty environment. Even more than this, the American auteur has built a world bursting with fairytale geography, war-torn history and unstable politics – all covered and understood within the first ten minutes. And – most importantly – this information is not provided at the expense of the characters’ journey.
However, another notable trait of the celebrated filmmaker annoys his latest project: the overwhelming male-to-female imbalance. This is not to undermine or understate the amount of talent in the movie – especially from Bryan Cranston, who proves he can do just about anything – but there are just too many hounds and not enough bitches. Although the female roles are strong, they are still reduced to being objects of attraction or giving birth to adorable puppies. Greta Gerwig does pop up as an American foreign-exchange student hell-bent on exposing the corruption in Megasaki’s government, but even she falls extraneously in love with Atari.
Nevertheless, the stop-motion adventure generates cinematic fun of the most magical, detailed and hilarious kind whilst still maintaining a high level of eclectic artistry. Anderson clearly draws from the Akira Kurosawa samurai pictures – incorporating their duellist desolation and honour-bound characters – but it never detracts from his own vision. Isle of Dogs could only have come from his singularly vibrant mind.
Isle of Dogs is released nationwide on 30th March 2018.
Watch the trailer for Isle of Dogs here: