Isle of Dogs – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Isle of Dogs – 4/5 – Wes Anderson is a man known for his fun, exciting films (Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel, etc.).  What makes them so great are the unique blend of characters, dialogue and originality.  In his layer of oddities, he creates something odd but heartfelt.  Isle of Dogs is a film that draws you in and leaves you with a feeling of overwhelming joy.  With great animated characters, a deeply provoking journey and relatable themes, Isle of Dogs is another fine achievement from Wes Anderson.

Premise: In Japan, we follow a boy as he sets on a journey to find his lost dog.

The list of voice acting is long so I would recommend referring to the film’s IMDb page.  From the big names (Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson) to newcomers (Koyu Rankin, Akira Ito), you feel strong individualism in each voice actor/actress.  No matter if it’s an animated human or dog, the distinct quality is witnessed through interactions, confrontations or conversations.  With each character, there is a sense of true relationships.  That bond is a delicate creation that brings realism out of the imaginary.  From the main character of Atari to the pack of main dogs (Chief, Rex, King, Boss and Duke), the power of presence, purpose and emotional overtures are strong and real.  Through the witty dialogue, organic bonds and characterization, you feel worth in Atari’s journey.

The direction fuses a unique script with multiple themes, original concepts and unpredictable circumstances.  The general setting is a specific area in Japan where dogs are being isolated to a garbage island.  Once we are introduced to the setting, the story follows Atari, a young boy in search of his lost pet on the island.  He encounters a pack of dogs that decide to help him on his journey.  From here, the journey weaves through the abstraction of Anderson’s storytelling techniques.  He compliments the general detail of ‘the hero’s quest’ and ‘coming-of-age’ tropes with the surrealism of character creation and conversational dialogue.  This allows for the oddities of the props, settings and character models to infuse with realism.  You get a surreal sense of the place that the dogs encompass, but are grounded to the approach of living through Atari, the dogs and their evolving relationship.  The ambiguity in the visualization is layered with dialogue driven moments.  These moments lead into deeply invoking emotional themes of strength, anger, resentment, love and redemption.  This blends the originality, humanistic tropes and dark satirical elements, while driving the melodic nature of the characters.  The dialogue establishes the film as a journey of ourselves, by creating an encapsulation of the ‘boy and his dog’ story in an animated tale.  Its intransient because of the use of comical, sarcastic and blunt commentary in the conversations that happen throughout.  As Atari’s journey unfolds, the web of other social elements continues to be revealed, showing what lies are behind the creation of the island.  Through a lot of convenient plot points, we see how the main cast gets to the final ‘meeting place’.  Once the film hits the final act, there is a rush to bring all the over-exaggerated elements of social commentary into one ‘big show’.  That strikes an emotional chord that rises like a roller coaster and ends with twists you didn’t see coming.  The climax has a bittersweet tone, but the epilogue swings everything back to the oddities that make the journey and overwhelming achievement of animation.

The visuals are simply, amazing.  With the use of stop-motion animation, you get to see characters come to life in the forms of odd and miniature creations of lifelike forms.  From the dogs, people, the island and use of Japanese culture, you feel a sense of escapism in every place you encounter in the film.  The score is a mixture of enticing emotive music and rehashing of indie songs.  There isn’t anything that really stands out, just an obvious look at what is being played in the background.

Isle of Dogs is a film that brings about the surreal, but ends with a tangible sense of believing the journey.  If you’re a fan of original conception, animation or films by Wes Anderson, this is one for you.  It is worth the full price of admission, a fun night at the theaters.

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