Isle of Dogs (2018) Film Review

Wes Anderson returns back to the world of animation. Instead of Foxes, Anderson decides to enter the world of canines through a Japanese style of visual wonderment. After the successful Grand Budapest Hotel, can Isle of Dogs hold a candle to Anderson’s previous outing?

In a dystopian futuristic Japan, the Mayor, Mayor Kobayashi, hates dogs and a mysterious flu infects the canines and to save the humans from being infected, he exports the dogs to Trash Island. The first dog transported is his distant nephew, Atari, bodyguard dog, Spots. 6 months later, Atari, hijacks a plane and lands on the island to try and find, Spots. (I know the word dogs is repeated a lot here but it was hard not to continually repeat it. This film has a lot of dogs)

I have always been a massive fan of Wes Anderson as a director. His visual style and unique kookiness is a complete joy to watch. Every release is highly anticipated that delves deeper into the creative mind of Anderson. The return to animation is a welcomed one just because I love the style of stop motion. Fantastic Mr Fox was a fantastic retelling of the Roald Dahl classic. The stop motion style showcases the love and passion put into a project. The evidence of an actual human finger touching the figures to move them is shown in every frame. The charm of stop motion is translated in Anderson’s animations and this is no different to Isle of Dogs.

The Japanese aesthetic is fantastic and a marvel to look at. The constant oriental soundtrack by the hugely talented Alexandre Desplat and the Japanese setting and style fits Anderson’s quirkiness. The amount of attention of detail and passion put into every single scene is outstanding. It is a blink and you miss it kind of dedication that is similar to the rest of Anderson’s work. It is hard to find such dedication to every frame from any other director, especially by an American director. This is another visual treat that fits the memo of Wes Anderson but it does evolve with the use of the Japanese setting. The dialect, cultural imagery, soundtrack used throughout moulds into a magical formula of a taste of Japan through the viewfinder of an American tourist.

The humour of the film is very deadpan, just like the rest of Anderson’s films. The film knowing of the audience and straight delivery is where the film gets most of its laughs. The outlandish nature of the plot and the journey is central to the humour. The multiple dogs in the film have unique personalities that each have their few moments of hilarity. Maybe there were too many dog characters to keep up with and I got lost at one point of  keeping track of who’s who. However the voice cast is fantastic, the Anderson regulars return, such as Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Ed Norton, Frances McDormand etc. Along with welcomed new members to his crew such as the fantastic Bryan Cranston and an unusual inclusion of Yoko Ono.

There were a couple of moments the pacing was a bit slow and dragged a bit in the middle section of the film but it picked up coming into the third and final act and it is a real fun ride of canine joy. This film will probably not create any new fans of Anderson as it is still as weird as his previous films, if not more. However, if you are a fan, you will love this. It is Anderson turned up to ten because of the freedom of animation. It is crazy, it is wacky, it is fun. Isle of Dogs is a fantastic visual treat filled with beautiful Japanese imagery and will appease and overjoy current Wes Anderson fans. This style of animation may take years to make but the look and charm of it is much to be desire. I’m going to sound old and say they don’t make films like this anymore and I am just glad that Wes Anderson’s has the freedom to make creative and kooky films because this film is just outstanding.

Rating – ★★★★ 1/2


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