Bark as good as its bite (Isle of Dogs review)

Wes Anderson has done it again! By which I mean made a bizarre film with a totally unique premise, melancholy undertones and ridiculously underplayed humour. And of course, I loved it.

Let’s firstly start by saying that this film is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Wes Anderson’s style is even more jarring when animated, and if you didn’t like his previous step into animation – ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ –  then you’ll really hate this. The awkward performances of the dogs, the underplayed humour and the constant translation of Japanese to English (and vice versa) makes the film very jarring to watch. Naturally, however, Wes Anderson fans are used to this, and mixed with the wonderfully symmetrical cinematography, it all adds up to a very charming and thoroughly enjoyable film.

The cast in the film are sublime. The poster very proudly brags the huge number of stars that star in the film, though if you’re a fan of anyone’s voice but Bryan Cranston, you may be disappointed. The sheer number of cast members makes it clear that most stars are there for one or two lines, and that makes the film a great ensemble piece, where no dog stands out further than they need to. Not only this, but the animation is utterly sublime. There is so much detail in the frame that it definitely requires multiple viewings. Reading further into the film, I have learnt that the animators actually only animated every other frame, and this gives the film a unique look. Another brilliantly quirky part of the film are the regular dog scraps, in which cotton wool is used to emulate a Looney Tunes style dust cloud fight.

What most struck me about the film however, was the melancholy and the deeper meaning behind the narrative. Though the film is fairly lighthearted for the most part, there are sudden deaths which shock, as well as themes of cannibalism, plague victims and social outcasts. There were definite calls to the natural disasters that have struck Japan, as well as a reoccurring theme of corruption in high government. Most dark, however, was a definite reference to the Hiroshima bombing, and the legacy and pain that it has left.

I’m really not sure who this film is aimed at. Despite the PG certificate, I don’t think it’s remotely a kids film. Firstly, there are several uses of mild bad language, as well as violent scenes including a dog’s ear getting bitten off, a spike going through a boy’s head, and live transplant surgery. No, really. Secondly, the deeper meaning and themes of the film would totally go over a child’s head. Not only this, but the film is long and very slow, though that actually adds to its charm. Despite the eye catching colours and beautiful animation, it’s certainly not a kids film.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Isle of Dogs, and while it’ll probably be one of Wes Anderson’s more underrated films (and granted, it doesn’t even come close to the brilliance of ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’), it is a fantastic film, and another beautiful addition to Wes Andersons catalogue.

8 Stars

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