Film Review: Isle of Dogs (2018)

‘Massively disappointed’

2018 in Cinema:

Isle of Dogs

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Kunichi Nomura, Ken Watanabe, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Fisher Stevens, Nijiro Murakami, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Yojiro Noda, Mari Natsuki, Yoko Ono, Frank Wood


There’s a cast list to rival Marvel’s upcoming Avengers Infinity War. Chief (Bryan Cranston, Argo), Rex (Edward Norton, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray) and Duke (Jeff Goldblum, Thor: Ragnarok) are a pack of dogs who have been sent to live on Trash Island in a futuristic Japan whereby the cat-loving leaders have banished all dogs due to their diseases. Meanwhile Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), son of dog-banishing leader Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), seeks to find his old dog Spots (Liev Schreiber), who was the first exiled dog when the dog-flu first struck.

This film has been widely praised, the cast list is full of stellar names, the trailer looked hilarious and the animation style is gorgeous, however, something with this film just didn’t click with me. All the parts I laughed at during the trailer were no longer funny by the time the film arrived and it offered nothing else outside of those jokes to help reignite the excitement I had for it. I love dry humour but I didn’t love Isle of Dogs. But, let’s start with some positives: as previously mentioned, the animation is gorgeous. I’ve never really cared much about animation styles but from the minute I saw its stop-motion animation I knew it was different, and the whole film looked beautiful. And Wes Anderson tells the story in quite a unique way in that the dogs speak English, but everyone else speaks in their native language without subtitles. So, more often than not, either Kobayashi boys or other people in Japan are speaking and we don’t necessarily understand their meaning. There are interpreters and news channels but it is still an intriguing technique to use; although it does then have a few main human characters being English speaking which does take it away somewhat.

And the plot itself isn’t too bad: cats or dogs has been a long contested argument so it seems plausible that cat-loving leaders would banish dogs away at the first sign of an illness and from there Trash Island has become a colony of sorts with the dogs all knowing their role there, and the chaos from Atari’s mission to find Spots drags the film on at quite a nice pace; unfortunately, though, I just didn’t care. The main dog, Chief, is never presented in one way; switching from a likeable character to a vicious character quite often. And I felt the other dogs, who get lost for a large chunk of this film, were the more comedic dogs to have and the film would have been better paced, with more investment, had they stayed on the screen longer.

And, as briefly touched upon, I didn’t like the English-speaking girl having such an important role in the proceedings. If the film is about Japan and their leaders and their dogs, why must an English-speaker be thrusted into saving the day? Surely if the film is being centred on Japan they can save their own dogs? And as touched upon I just didn’t laugh. The humorous moments in the trailer were the only humorous parts of this whole film, and when trailers ruin that (one day I’ll go on a long rant about film trailers) it means that unless the film has other tricks up its sleeve it’s likely to fail in the comedic sector.

Overall I was massively disappointed in Isle of Dogs, as I’d built up my anticipation based on its great trailer and stellar cast of voice actors, but it delivered, in my opinion, a lacklustre film, which, while having a fine storyline and beautiful animations and fine voice acting, just didn’t give me enough characters or reasons to fully invest in the outcome.


Overall Rating: * *


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