FILM REVIEW: Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs" is an ode to love in its purest form
Amongst a flurry of wild anticipation comes Wes Anderson’s second stop-motion animated film, Isle of Dogs. With the legion of cinephiles and canine lovers crowded into the Luna Palace Cinemas, one would be able to tell this was a date much looked forward to.
As the prologue discerns, it's a cruel world where all dogs are exiled to an offshore garbage dump, and a tense political climate is ruled by a conspiratorial anti-dog regime. Envisioning a dystopian Japanese society twenty years in the future, Isle of Dogs elevates the dog versus cat spectrum and adventures into what it means to love and be forgotten.
The real action begins with twelve-year-old Atari Kobayashi crash-landing onto Trash Island in his attempts to seek out his beloved dog, Spots. Yet, there's a sliver of hope amidst the barren backdrop. Despite being neglected in appalling conditions and left to die, a gang of the island's nearest and dearest dogs band together to assist Atari in his search. The act itself is selfless.
The journey is unforgiving and at times, confronting, with death and the desperation of survival as common (and surprisingly light-hearted) themes. The dark humour and cynicism of the film's dialogue, set against a modest soundtrack, conjures ultra comedic scenes — where audiences are caught off guard as they barrel into fits of laughter.
Furthermore, the efforts that have gone into the intricate set design are evident; by blending a pastiche of colours, both the sculptors and animators have perfectly sculpted the urban Japanese landscape. Considering that each character set was meticulously handcrafted by 12 sculptors, and brought to life by 27 animators, it's a true show of skill its finest. From every freckle to facial expression, the subtleties are incredible.
Paired with the fact that Isle of Dogs is voiced by an all-star cast, it's an uplifting combination of screenplay and audiovisual elements that make for a hearty and intriguing movie. There's the familiarity of stars like Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson and Yoko Ono, to name a few.
Perhaps what is most stirring is the one hope that remains consistent: the innate desire to be loved and protected amidst an egocentric society. The canine heroes of the film break all conventional and emotional barriers — and as the film proves, Wes Anderson's works are to be universally enjoyed.
At the end of the day, the epic film is a tribute to dogs' reputation as man's best friend. As the film proclaims, “The heart of a dog is a bottomless thing.”
And so is Anderson's genius, it seems.