By Katelynn Browne
Features and Lists Editor
From the stunning stop-animation to his dynamic characters, Wes Anderson has truly outdone himself yet again, in his latest film, Isle of Dogs. As a huge fan of Wes Anderson’s work, as well as a huge lover of dogs, I was super excited when I saw the preview for this filmwhen I went to see Black Panther (which, of course, was also brilliant.) And, I’m happy to say, my expectations were certainly met and perhaps were even exceeded.
Isle of Dogs takes place in the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki, where Mayor Kobayashi orders a decree in which all the dogs be deported from the city to be quarantined on Trash Island, due to an unprecedented outbreak of dog flu. Atari, the mayor’s nephew, hijacks a small plane, and flies to Trash Island in order to rescue his pet dog, Spots. While there, he meets a group of other dogs who help him find his dog. One of the dogs in the group called Chief,slowly and begrudgingly begins to assist Atari in his quest, despite his being a stray dog who threats that he bites, and eventually the two become close. In an epicly wholesome moment, Chief allows Atari to bathe him, and feed him half of the treat that he saved for his lost dog, Spots. It was a really adorable scene.
The film makes a clear commentary on the importance of language, especially in political settings. It is clear in the film that Mayor Kobayashi has managed to cause mass-hysteria regarding the spread of dog flu. He has the citizens, without seeming to think too much about it, quickly turn vehemently against their once beloved household pets. The only people who really oppose the anti-dog movement are students, and the scientist party, who created a serum that would cure dog flu. However, Mayor Kobayashi rejects the cure, and fixes the election against the science party, by staging the science party candidate’s suicide. He plays strongly on the anti-dog stance when running for re-election, and ultimately wins. Anderson critiques the use of strong, hysteria-causing political language in this side plot of the film, which is especially fitting during the Trump era. The film illustrates what can happen when we allow a politician to create mass-hysteria over non-issues. In this case, Mayor Kobayashi creates an anti-dog hysteria which causes the citizens to lose something that they ultimately love and cherish dearly. If we allow ourselves to become entrapped in the pitfalls of political-induced hysteria, we may fail to realize we are losing something that we value.
Another interesting commentary Wes Anderson makes is one that regards the double-edged sword of advanced science. On the one hand, scientists and the science party created a serum to cure dogs of the dog flu epidemic, and allow dogs to reenter Megasaki. On the other hand, Mayor Kobayashi endorses the creation of military-grade robot dogs to replace his citizens’ now gone pets. Here, Anderson carefully displays the dichotomy between science used to help and advance society in a positive manner, and science used to replace real pets with the cold metal shells of robots. In the end, medical science used to cure the dogs is what wins out in the end.
Of course, despite all these perhaps darker themes, Wes Anderson maintains his iconic whimsical and upbeat tone throughout the entire film. There is light humor sprinkled throughout the film, the voice actors are phenomenal – their comedic timing is always on point. The color palette is, as usual, gorgeous. The dogs were great. 10/10. I loved them so much.
All in all, Isle of Dogs was a fantastic little film. If you love dogs, Wes Anderson, stop animation, and trash island, you will love this movie. Please go see it.