Isle of Dogs (2018)

I’m not really at all familiar with Wes Anderson’s work- I haven’t seen a single one of his films prior to this. I gather he’s an auteur who makes quirky self-aware films that appeal to the arthouse crowd- not that there’s anything wrong with that, but none of his previous films have really appealed to me. A film about dogs, though?  That’s just impossible to resist.

Isle of Dogs is a stop-motion animated film, and a surprisingly dark one. In that sense, it’s quite subversive, as its form would suggest a childrens simple light-hearted adventure, akin perhaps to such vehicles as the CG-animated The Secret Life of Pets or Bolt, but in reality it has this dark sense of humor, a toughness to it. Its also as much an ecological story as it is a canine adventure, functioning on several levels really. There are murders, political conspiracy and lies, an unlikely partnership and fight for survival on a rotting dump of an island in which medical experiments were made on dogs in hidden labs, and behind it all, all sorts of Japanese culture references that likely flew right past me.

Its one of those rare cases where you watch a film not quite believing it even exists- it’s too strange, too perfect, too confounding. Some films are oddities, and it’s very true that such films seem rarer all the time. Love them or hate them, we should just be thankful they simply are. I really quite liked this film- to suggest I actually loved it might be a stretch really, as somehow I felt more intellectually stimulated by it than emotionally. I suspect this might be a trend in Wes Anderson’s work, glancing at his filmography. Isle of Dogs is beautifully animated and really quite imaginative, and I’m certain it rewards future viewings, so I’m glad I jumped on the Blu-ray price-drop Amazon just gave it. But Bolt, for all its safe and familiar comforting charms, just might be a better movie, whatever the intellectual arthouse crowd might say as they sneer on the more typically family-orientated animated films.