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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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“Isle of Dogs” is a quirky, flawed adventure

Isle+of+Dogs
Photo by Creative Commons
Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs” is director Wes Anderson’s latest film. Similar to his other works, it is an exercise in style above all else, and
while the film can be hilariously funny and delightful to watch, it is not without its problems.
“Isle of Dogs” is filmed in gloriously well done stop motion. Every shot was painstakingly planned and modeled with actual props and sets. The amount of work which went into making the film is absolutely staggering, but the magnificent visuals the crew achieved were certainly worth the effort. Visually, the film is an absolute marvel, a wonder. Each scene is beautiful in new ways, and the stop motion style lends itself very well to Anderson’s story about talking dogs.
Anderson’s distinctive deadpan, matter-of-fact style of dialogue is ever present throughout the film, and it does an excellent job of setting the tone. The film is a comedy which derives much of its humor from its insistence you take it seriously. The characters are on a mission, and no matter how silly it may seem to viewers, they are all shown to be very determined. It’s a fun ride, you just have to accept it and go with the flow.
The film has been accused of cultural appropriation and racism against the Japanese. I’m not going to get overly political, but I will say I could see why some people would have problems with the film and its setting. Anderson’s decision to have the film take place in a fictional Japanese city was apparently an arbitrary one. The director admitted in a press conference at the Berlin Film Festival the story could have taken place any- where, and the setting was ultimately decided by his own love for Japanese culture and desire to set a film in one of his favorite locations. However, this choice did create some problems.
There is a translation problem in the film. The dogs, who are the primary characters, all speak English, but the human characters speak Japanese. Anderson tries to overcome this problem by introducing a translator to essentially voice over all the important Japanese lines. However, the result is less than ideal, as it disembodies the voices from the Japanese characters, and at times gives the impression they are all the same. This isn’t helped by the stereotypical portrayal of the Japanese characters, or the fact one of the only human activists within the film isn’t Japanese at all, rather a blonde foreign exchange student from America who insists on speaking English to everyone.
Cultural appropriation aside, the plot and pacing of the movie could have used a little work. Certain aspects seemed rushed and underdeveloped, and while there weren’t any gaping holes in the plot, I got the impression it isn’t the kind of story you want to think too hard about.
If you’re a Wes Anderson fan, I would absolutely recommend seeing this hilarious, if slightly flawed, film. If you’re not a Wes Anderson fan, you should be. Unfortunately, “Isle of Dogs” is not Anderson’s best work. It’s quirky and fun as ever, and the stop motion filmography is absolutely breathtaking, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of “Moonrise Kingdom.” Anderson can do better.
Keagan Miller is a general studies sophomore and Life & Arts reporter for The Battalion.

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