I Love Dogs: A Review of Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs is a new Wes Anderson stop motion movie. The film was created with the belief that dogs are meant to be man’s best friend, but it follows the conflict of cats vs. dogs. Fellow dog lovers will enjoy this story of a young boy trying to find his exiled dog, Spots, with the help of other exiled dogs: Rex, Chief, Boss, Duke, and King.

In the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki, Mayor Kobayashi, is a descendent of the Kobayashi clan, which is against dogs. The clan attacks the feral canine community, but was stopped by the young samurai who beheaded the Kobayashi leader. This plot continues into the present when young Atari is orphaned and adopted by his distant uncle and corrupt politician, Mayor Kobayashi.

Mayor Kobayashi then banishes all dogs to Trash Island to prevent the dog flu and snout fever from transferring to humans. Spots, Atari’s security dog and best friend, is the first dog to be exiled. Atari goes to Trash Island a couple months later to find Spots, where he crash lands and meets the dogs.

The corruption of the government is displayed through the affiliation with cats. This can be seen where even the Shinto shrine is accompanied with statues of cats instead of the traditional Komainu, often called lion-dogs in English. When a cure is found for the canine diseases, the government silences scientist Professor Watanabe for attempting to  present the good news to Mayor Kobayashi.

The stop-motion production started in October 2015 with a total of 1,000 puppets: 500 dogs and 500 humans. The movie has a unique method to deliver the remarkable plot.  All the the human characters, other than a couple translators and an exchange student, speak Japanese, but the dog’s barks are “translated” into English. Admittedly, there are times where the humans use a mechanical translating device, but a majority of the language spoken was Japanese. The movie was still as easily understandable as movies in full English.

Despite dogs being able to communicate, the dogs still behave as a dog should. They fetch, eat treats, and desire a master to care for them. In the film, Rex is always providing a new rumor for the gang which can be symbolic of the way dogs communicate in reality, through constant barks. Oracle is another example of dog’s behavior. She represents dogs love for being with their human because she can understand television.

I was surprised when I learned that despite the fact that many popular actors, including Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Yoko Ono, Bill Murray, and Edward Norton, the closest showing of the movie was 50 miles away when the movie was released on March 23.

Isle of Dogs is rated 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. I drove an hour and a half to Chamblee, GA to see this beautiful movie, and I’m sure the raters on Rotten Tomatoes would agree that it is worth every minute of traffic.

I understand that I went to a movie at a 2:30 on a Monday at a theater off of I-85, but I still expected more than eight people in the theater. Maybe the turnout was low because of the time and day or maybe because half the dialogue is in Japanese.

Isle of Dogs displays all of the possible roles of a dog. Spots as the protective dog, Boss as the mascot, Nutmeg as the show dog, Oracle as the lazy dog, and Chief as the stray. Dog’s most prominent role is man’s best friend, and Isle of Dogs portrays that beautifully.