Chang also noted that the dogs speak in American English, “effectively reducing the hapless, unsuspecting people of Megasaki to foreigners in their own city”. Meanwhile, murderously evil forces back home mobilize to retrieve Atari, after which they plan to euthanize every barely surviving dog on the island with wasabi poison. It doesn’t all come together, but it’s hard to be upset when you’ve got very good dogs leading the picture.
In some ways, though, fans should be warned that this film isn’t quite as quick-fire and polished a gem as some of Anderson’s previous films. Anderson shares story credit here alongside Kunichi Nomura and longtime collaborators Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman. And if it doesn’t win this year’s Oscar for animated feature, I’ll suspect a feline conspiracy. He believes that traveling and being outside your comfort zone “provides an extra charge” in the screenwriting process. It features his signature blend of erudite childhood, ideal visual symmetry, deadpan comic delivery, and the evolution of the stunning stop-motion animation we saw in Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s a form that perfectly complements his penchant for crafting meticulously detailed, hermetic fantasy-world dioramas.
“Isle of Dogs” is set in a future Japan, where an outbreak of “canine flu” combined with general governmental oppression has led to dogs being quarantined on a trash-filled island. He crash-lands his turbo-prop plane on the island in search of his loyal bodyguard, Spots.
So get ready to be treated to some equisite defamiliarisation of Bryan Cranston’s gruff, Breaking Bad tones, as he plays a stray dog who can not be tamed, but seems destined to come good as Atari quests to find his dog. In the process, the group learns of a larger conspiracy that could eliminate all dogs from the city permanently.
In that benighted place, the sneezing, filthy creatures roam the trash heaps, fight over maggoty scraps, and commiserate on the sorriness of their state in colloquial American English, delivered with disarming matter-of-factness (one of those disjunctions) by Bryan Cranston (the protagonist, a stray), Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Liev Schreiber, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson, F. Murray Abraham as a canine narrator and Tilda Swinton his diminutive oracle, who understands television. “Wes wanted to keep things within three basic scales we were working in, so our model-making team, led by Roddy MacDonald, and our painters, led by Roy Bell, had to come up with tiny, detailed props”. “The scowling look for the Mayor Kobayashi character was a homage to Kurosawa’s longtime muse Toshiro Mifune (“Seven Samurai“, Rashomon”). I wager that this extends throughout the film itself, whose cruelties mix with obtuse sillinesses (maybe another Anderson trait) amplified by cartoonish shenanigans, which makes for a low-stakes, unpredictably insincere fable on the whole.
“It was not really entertaining when it didn’t have enough authenticity”, Anderson says of the latter set piece. “That’s what we wanted it to feel like”. And you didn’t even make the movie-you only watched it.
The film’s climax comes, not in a battle to the death, but in a haiku. All my friends say, ‘Your dog is so chill, ‘ but he’s way beyond chill. So why then, I ask, is a film about dogs on a garbage island full of so many extended bouts of centered talking heads?
If this plotline sounds awfully dark for an ostensible kids’ movie, well, Isle of Dogs isn’t intended as a diversion for the very young-it’s much more of a lively art film to wow both cinema cultists and that smart and sophisticated 11-year-old you once may have been.
That exchange is attractive and part of what makes it exciting to live in an age where we can exchange culture so easily. We said: ‘Why are they here? One small detail: the camera spins around a trio of drummers, beating out a tune in time with the soundtrack. I’m a firm believer in the advent of sensitivity readers, and while I’d argue that Nomura’s contributions on the writer’s end (he’s also a main character/voice actor in the film) seem suggestive at best, and maybe a little help-me-please-only-Japanese-guy-I-know, it all seems motivated by a responsible intention to get things right. More than likely, it’s Animated Feature or bust, where it could be Isle of Dogs going up against The Incredibles 2. At one point, she even smacks down a scientist voiced by Yoko Ono.