Movie Review: Isle of Dogs (2018)

Movie Review: Isle of Dogs (2018)

Does Wes Anderson's new animated feature offer more than passing fun for dog lovers?

"Isle of Dogs" is the newest film from acclaimed director Wes Anderson, and his second stop-motion animation feature after 2009's "The Fantastic Mr. Fox". This new outing is rife with the typical Anderson visual peculiarities. Fans of his flat, meticulously detailed shot compositions will not be disappointed. With the control over fine details afforded by the medium of stop-motion animation, Anderson is able to furnish and frame his film with precision-cut orderly arrangements. However, missing this time is Anderson's penchant for memorably quirky characters. There are quirks abound, but it does not add up to anything memorable.

In the near future, the Japanese city of Megasaki is faced with a flu epidemic affecting the local canine population. The cat-loving mayor, Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), riles up anti-dog sentiment and decrees that all dogs in the city be banished to an abandoned offshore waste disposal site. Thus we have the titular Isle of Dogs (which is sadly never referred to as such by any of the characters, instead only being referred to as "Trash Island"). A roving gang of dogs, voiced by an all-star cast (Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, and more), happen upon a young boy who has crash-landed an airplane onto Trash Island. The boy, Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), is the mayor's orphaned nephew and ward, who has come to the island in search of his dog, Spots. The dog pack agrees to aid Atari in his search, although whether or not the dogs can communicate with humans is never clearly established and remains a confusion throughout the film.

Despite constant objections from Chief (Cranston), the only stray dog of the group, the dog gang leads Atari to the residence of two wise-dogs, who they believe may know the whereabouts of Spots. Chief's objections are worth noting, because he constantly refers to how the dogs are better off living without masters on Trash Island. Will he eventually come to find the joys of domestication and the comfort of Atari's company? The script telegraphs this so obviously you would be hard pressed to answer anything but "yes". At the behest of the wise-dogs, Atari and his canine companions head towards the farthest tip of Trash Island to find Spots, all the while being pursued by Mayor Kobayashi's paramilitary rescue teams. On the mainland, foreign exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) begins investigating into Mayor Kobayashi's sinister plans for Trash Island, which could result in the elimination of the island's canine inhabitants. The two parallel plots convene in one of those movie climaxes where someone gives a speech that brings the in-universe listeners to tears but leaves the actual audience in the theater with dry eyes.

The strangest aspect of "Isle of Dogs" is the decision to have all the Japanese characters in the film speak their native tongue. This is not an inherently bad idea, but Anderson continually backpedals on this choice. Most of the plot-relevant Japanese dialogue is translated into English through the clunky injection of an on-site translator, who tells us everything that is being said under the pretense of international broadcasting. The foreign exchange student character only further serves to awkwardly cram in English translations and English dialogue. There are even some portions of the film in which Atari speaks to the dogs without any subtitles. In a live-action film the actor's facial expressions and body language would likely be enough to get the message across regardless of the language barrier, but with a stop-motion puppet the ability to communicate minutiae of expression is far more difficult. The effect is that many of Atari's bonding scenes with the dogs feel alienating and distant when they should be heartwarming. I would have preferred the movie to either use English subtitles for the Japanese dialogue or just have the Japanese characters speak English. Trying to meet somewhere in the middle comes across as waffling, as if the filmmakers (or more likely the higher-ups handling the financial side of things) did not think American audiences would watch a film with extensive subtitles.

Although there are some questionable choices regarding the film's use of multiple languages, "Isle of Dogs" still offers many of the pleasures of Anderson's other work. The design of Trash Island is particularly striking, with endless monochromatic expanses of trash, making something beautiful out of literal garbage. The animation is impressive as well, particularly a brief sequence in which one of Mayor Kobayashi's henchmen prepares sushi. Anderson's trademark flat shot compositions are at peak flatness here, with many of the wide shots in the film bearing a charming picture-book quality, like some sort of post-apocalyptic Richard Scarry illustration. Especially as a follow-up to the excellent "Grand Budapest Hotel", "Isle of Dogs" feels like Anderson resting on his laurels. The expected stylistic panache is there, but the story is predictable and the characters are not as memorable as those of previous Anderson films. "Isle of Dogs" is cute enough if you love dogs, but for a Wes Anderson movie it leaves something to be desired.

Rating: 6/10

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

Popular Right Now

The Best Fast Food Resturants Near You That Are Better Than Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A nuggets aren't THAT good.


There aren't any.

Stop trying other places just because and go get the Chick-fil-A you deserve.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

The 2020 Election: The Democratic Party Part 1

We all have the duty of becoming politically conscious in order to wisely act on the crucial decision that lies ahead of us in the very near future. In this unbiased, multi-part series you'll be able to get a brief look into both the 2020 Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.


The race for the 2020 presidential election is on the rise as 24 Democrats and 2 Republicans have been officially confirmed as potential candidates. Ranging from California to New York, we may recognize "big names" such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, however, it's important to get to know all the candidates in order to have a clear idea as to who you want to be leading the country for the next four years.

*Due to the high number of Democratic candidates, they will all be highlighted over the course of three articles throughout the coming weeks.

1. Joe Biden

Campaign Site

Serving as the Vice President alongside Barack Obama and former senator of Delaware, Joe Biden has already ran for president twice, making the 2020 election his third and what he considers, final time. Biden hopes to strengthen the middle class by raising the minimum wage to a more livable standard. He also hopes to restrict the purchase of guns through background checks as well as being in support of a ban on assault weapons.

2. Bernie Sanders

Campaign Site

Having served on both the House of Representatives and The Senate, Bernie Sanders has caught the attention of many Americans due to his push for universal healthcare with the idea that "All Americans are entitled to go to the doctor when they're sick and not go bankrupt after staying in the hospital." As well as making public secondary-education schools tuition-free in a mission to help lower student debt. Sanders believes in the threat of climate change as his campaign includes the future of passing a Green New Deal to move from fossil fuels to sustainable energy as well as ban fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure. Bernie Sanders additionally believes in abolishing the death penalty, reforming the police system, and ending the discrimination of applicants based on criminal history

3. Beto O'Rourke

Campaign Site

Beto O'Rourke has represented Texas in the House of Representatives from 2013 - 2019. He has a noteworthy platform towards business which includes increasing federal funding towards the Manufacturing Extension Partnership that would aid in creating competitiveness with America's small- and medium-sized manufacturers against global markets. O'Rourke also believes in the idea of increasing voter numbers no matter what the political party may be as well as help ex-convicts regain their right to vote after serving their sentences. In doing so, he plans to create more outreach to the younger generations by ensuring pre-voter registration for all 16 and 17 year olds. Moreover, Beto pushes for a change in creating new term limits for the US House, Senate, and Supreme Court.

4. Kamala Harris

Campaign Site

Kamila is a lawyer and has served as the junior US senator and Attorney General of California. While she is new to the presidential election process, Harris aims to increase teacher pay with the "largest federal investment in teacher pay in U.S. history with a $13,500 raise." Moreover, using her specialization in legal matters regarding sexual assault, Kamila hopes to protect Planned Parenthood as well as women's reproductive rights. Harris states that as President, she will eliminate the wage gap between men and women as well as racial disparities involving maternal health care. Harris additionally hopes in protecting LGBTQ+ rights by not only passing an Equality Act to fight against discrimination in schools, work, and public, but appoint an Attorney General with the purpose of investigating and prosecuting hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals.

5. Elizabeth Warren

Campaign Site

Growing up in rural Oklahoma in a low-income home and eventually serving as a US senator for Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren is described as a progressive candidate who's campaign is working towards "universal childcare, student loan debt relief, and down payments on a Green New Deal and Medicare for All." Warren hopes to build the middle class up and defend unionized jobs by allowing 40% of board members to be elected through employees. Moreover, Warren is in favor of strengthening the military as well has bringing troops home from overseas, as well as banning private prisons and decriminalizing marijuana. She additionally has stated to end Washington corruption by banning lobbying along with preventing Senators and Congressman from trading stocks whilst in office.

6. Cory Booker

Campaign Site

Attending Stanford and later graduating from Yale Law School, Cory Booker became the first African-American U.S. Senator from New Jersey. Booker's main concern is to end gun violence, ban assault weapons, and bring his battle to the attention of the NRA to create "liberty for all." His 14-part plan includes creating a more extensive process to obtain a gun, one of which would including an FBI-issued background check as well as requiring "micro-stamping" on all guns to ensure the ability to trace back the source of ammunition used in crimes. Moreover, Americans seeking a gun license would have to apply for a 5-year license after which would require renewal. Booker has also proposed the idea of providing newborns with savings accounts that would accumulate until they reached 18. He states that this plan would help settle the gap between the classes by offering lower-income households a nest-egg averaging at about $46,000. He also aims to make contraceptives employer-covered and repeal the punishment for an abortion outside of incest, rape, or for the woman's health.

7. Kirsten Gillibrand

Campaign Site

From New York, Kristin Gillibrand became a US Senator in 2009, becoming the youngest person in the Senate at the time. Her 2020 platform includes creating universal healthcare for all that would cover both mental and reproductive health in addition to it's regular standards. Her stance on Medicare For All also stands for reducing the price of prescription drugs as well as aiding in the process of overcoming addiction. Gillibrand also aims to introduce postal banking which would allow those without checking accounts have the opportunity to take out small loans through their local post office. Moreover, she believes in not only the legalization of both medical and recreation marijuana, but in erasing all past convictions from it. Kristin Gillibrand stands with strengthening the middle class by raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, creating paid medical and parental leave for all Americans, and fighting for the right to form unions and protect worker's rights.

8. Amy Klobuchar

Campaign Site

Amy Klobuchar is a lawyer and politician who currently serves as a US Senator from Minnesota. Klobuchar's campaign fights for providing every household in America with high-speed internet by the year 2020 along with aiding farmers by increasing their access to loan programs as well as raising farm bankruptcy debt levels. Moreover, she hopes to better the education system by increasing teacher pay and putting more money towards public schools. As well as increasing the federal Pell Grant and tuition-free one to two year community and technical colleges. Amy Klobucher believes in re-instated the DREAM Act to grant citizenship for foreigners who immigrated to America as minors. She supports immigration reform as well as ending the cruel separation and treatment of families on the lines of the border and creating a refined pathway to gain citizenship.

Related Content

Facebook Comments