Run with the pack to see Isle of Dogs

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Run with the pack to see Isle of Dogs

They say a dog is a man’s best friend, but not to all. Wes Anderson’s latest film Isle of Dogs follows the fictional transformation of a dog-hating, cat-obsessed, Japanese dynasty. The film’s cultural changes are brought forth by both human and dog. The film’s main human protagonist and mayor’s nephew, Atari, is in search of his dog, Spot, after the Mayor of the Kobayashi Dynasty expelled all dogs to a land called Trash Island. Dogs are sent here due to the excess of dog flu, an incurable disease in Japan inciting imminent fear among humans for its ability to enter the human gene pool. However, not all agree with the actions of the Mayor of the Kobayashi Dynasty. Atari’s disappearance and devotion to finding his dog shed light upon a group of activists advocating for the fair treatment of dogs, primarily the film’s high school newspaper.

Isle of Dogs differs from the average American moviegoer’s experience. While most of U.S. cinema revolves around tales centered and involving Americans themselves, Anderson’s newest movie relocates its subjects to the cat-loving fictional Kobayashi Dynasty of Japan. It is custom in most Western entertainment to dilute another culture’s relevancy, traits, and defining aspects as a way to make viewers more familiar with the interests of the country and increase comfortability when viewing. Isle of Dogs, however, avoids this. As an interesting tactic, Anderson chooses to employ the culture shock in hopes to not only enthrall viewers but respect the Japanese culture and its wondrous aspects. The film is, unless translated or spoken by the dogs, entirely in Japanese. Subtitles are only utilized when they would be realistically provided in real life, such as American newscasters monitoring the movie’s fictional conflicts. While this could make any American movie incompetent to its viewer, the tactic is only taskfully introduced to display the lack of knowledge any dog has concerning language. The story is only comprehensible through the “bark to English” translation of the dogs. As the central focus of the film, the pack of abandoned dogs single-handedly carries the story, with small interjections from humans to either attempt to help or dismantle their quest.

However, one of the most stunning aspects about the film is it’s presentation. Wes Anderson’s notable style of shots, dialogue, and direction is littered throughout the movie. His clean symmetrical shots, blanketed with vivid coloring, pair well with his concise, to-the-point humor. ”

For Isle of Dogs, Anderson chooses to utilize claymation and stop motion animation. As a fan of symbols, Anderson allows his use of animation to extend past depicting real life, but “cartoonizing” real life; fights are depicted with clouds of smoke and tears create puddles below their owner. This fun aspect to the movie makes it playful and easy to visually digest.

Isle of Dogs confronts many important topics as well. While it may appear to be a cute and innocent movie about dogs, Anderson addresses many social issues such as genocide, politics, animal rights, and more. While the film tried to project many progressive, humanistic ideals, it did receive some small amounts of backlash for possible cultural appropriation from the public. Taking place in Japan, Anderson maintains cultural accuracy by utilizing Japanese actors to speak their own language throughout the film. However, some felt the use of majority white voice actors for the dogs and the cartoon-like depiction of Japanese persons mocked the culture along with appropriating it. Those familiar with Wes Anderson’s artistic style understand how Anderson clearly enjoys reusing a certain arsenal of actors, such as Edward Norton, Brian Cranston, and Bill Murray. While it would be pleasant to see native Japanese voice actors for the dogs, the film still is intended for American audiences. Audiences enjoy seeing familiar actors in their feature films, especially in their own recognizable language. It is extremely evident that Wes Anderson needs to add more faces of color to his list of actors he employs; however, it isn’t intended to discriminate against the Japanese culture. It must be taken into account that the film is a claymation animation, and depicting the Japanese demographic with their cartoon-like depiction in the film is expected. They are cartoons. This “cartoonish” appeal of characters is not to mock individuals, but instead an artistic style that extends to the Americans, dogs, and other characters in the film–not only the Japanese.

Isle of Dogs is a beautifully developed film that hopes to educate audiences on the horror of abuse, discrimination, and neglect that is still seen in our global society today. In his own unique ways, Wes Anderson establishes this journey in the most cute, heartfelt, and comedic way possible. The film is more than worth the watch.

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