Following The Fantastic Mr Fox, Wes Anderson’s second stop frame animation offering has solidified a niche he has created all for himself. Quirky and crafted, odd and offbeat as always, Anderson fans will be delighted and newcomers will be bewildered – in a good way. The plot finds a young boy in search of his dog. The city of Megasaki has outlawed all dogs and banished them to Trash Island. However I found the plot to be secondary – not because it isn’t there or that it doesn’t work but because the visuals are so incredible and inspiring that I found myself drinking up all the imagery instead. The plot works as a vehicle to move you along from one stunning composition to another. It’s the sort of film where you could freeze each frame and pour over all the aesthetic details for hours and hours. The storyboard and creation of each scene and it’s backdrops must have been a joy to put together and it shows. The depth, richness and complexity are astounding and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so overflowing with ideas – each minute is absolutely crammed with an explosion of sights and sounds.
The film does put forward some Japanese cultural shorthand; there are cliches such as sushi, sumo wrestlers and cherry blossoms and the film has even been accused by some of cultural appropriation. Taken together, though, the whole piece is so unique, so meticulously assembled and so beautifully executed that I believe this argument doesn’t really hold. Certainly the film is made with so much skill and love that I believe negativity holds no place in describing the experience of watching Isle of Dogs.
There is a rich history of high quality animation from Classic Disney to Studio Ghibli to Pixar; we’ve seen incredibly high realism and we’ve seen many amazing ideas rendered but I don’t think anyone has found such a distinctive style and carried it off with such confidence and conviction. Isle of Dogs is a strange and beautiful delight – more please Wes!