**In this post, I discuss the movie Isle of Dogs, there are spoilers for the movie.***
Isle of Dogs or I love dogs if said right (A rather clever play on words), is a 2018 stop motion animated movie. It’s a story of a 12-year-old boy looking for his dog Spots. After an outbreak for dog flu, and canine overpopulation, all dogs are banished from the fictional Megasaki City, Japan (I guess it’s a play on the city of Nagasaki) to Trash Island.
The film does have a large voice cast. I found it difficult to follow which actor was what part in the movie. The main story seemed to follow Chief, a stray from a liter of only 2 puppies that lived, reluctantly following and helping Atari find Spots. He is with a pack of 4 other Alpha Dogs Rex, King, Duke, and Boss. There didn’t seem to be too much focus for me on the other four dogs. Just that they were the domesticaed dogs and Cheif was the only stray of the group. I even forgot they had back stories about their lives before they got banished to Trash Island until their stories were mentioned in the end of the movie. They were main characters who felt like they were just there just to keep the story going and provide dead pan humor. Spots is found an hour into the movie and an elite guard dog for Atari and brother to Chief. It was a kind of strange but OK. I found it stranger when Atari bathed Chief at one point of the movie, his fur went from black to white. Like his fur was covered in a thick oil. Nutmeg was the love interest of Chief and convinced him to keep going and that was it with her story. Tracey was the only unnecessary character. Tracey didn’t seem to have much to contribute in this movie, just pointing out the obvious. She was the exchange student that figured out an obvious conspiracy against Professor Watanabe’s “Suicide”, and to have a crush on Atari. She even provided exposition to a movie that gave us exposition a few times already.
It might have been just me, but I couldn’t get any deeper meaning with the story. Just a boy looking for his dog. I read about the controversy that movie had, but I chose to steer away from it while watching the movie. Mayor Kobyashi was the antagonist, but kind of changed sides in a confusing way. There was a back story in the beginning of the movie that explains Kobyashi’s ancestors were cat lovers who were defeated by a young boy Atari, but no where did cats make an appearance. Maybe in the fore or background every so often. Kobyashi just had the “look” of the villain. Major Domo (Kobyashi’s right hand man) I felt was pulling the strings with the story. But it’s wasn’t made clear. Professor Watanabe was killed after he found a cure for dog flu and canine saturation and it was made to look like a suicide. He was killed by the food he ate, but they couldn’t blame food poisoning? It was also odd that Kobyashi took Atari, his ancestor’s nemesis in terms of family line, in instead of leaving him an orphan.
Watching this movie for me felt like I was looking at Japanese Diorama. The look of the dogs and people were great. Garbage Island was very drab and colorful at the same time. It was interesting to learn that the film’s music was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s movies The Seven Samurai and Drunken Angel. I loved the percussion score in the movie as well. Taiko Drumming is the track I keep replying in my head typing this. Just that opening with the three drummers playing it as the camera zooms in was really cool to watch. I did like when a fight took place, it would show the cliché cartoon fighting cloud around the characters and playing that fighting style percussion music. They need to keep the PG rating somehow, plus reminded me of Looney Tunes fighting. The animation was excellent and mostly likely get a best animated picture nomination.
The film does keep with the dead pan delivery I’ve seen in other Wes Anderson films. I’m not sure why but when I see Wes Anderson’s movies. I feel like I’m looking at a cross between a diorama meets a stage play. Just a rather strange style that I can’t stop watching. I lot of the stories and side stories felt like, “ok we are telling this story now” straight-laced and acknowledging the audience. Somehow there is no emotion in the delivery of the story from the actors, but I can get emotional watching it. While watching this movie, I noticed and felt that everything felt centered. Whenever a character was on the screen and close up, the camera was centered on them. Very rarely, did I notice that the camera and images that were shown were off-center. It created of nice looking long-range depth of views. I didn’t hate it, it’s just sticking to me when I go back and think about this movie. Even if you break the picture into thirds, I noticed characters were centered in those thirds of the frame. Below are images that I got from the trailer that show the images centered. I tried to put the lines as third as I can.
Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or thoughts that I have missed, let me know in the comments below.