Isle of Dogs is director Wes Anderson’s second feature-length animated film, following the 2009 film Fantastic Mr. Fox. It is a charming, stylish stop-motion film about the dogs of Megasaki City, a fictional Japanese city governed by corrupt officials who are biased against dogs. Following an outbreak of “canine saturation,” “Dog Flu,” and “Snout Fever,” all of the dogs of Megasaki City were exiled to Trash Island, including the mayor’s own dog, Spots. The story follows Atari Kobayashi, the ward and adopted nephew of the mayor, as he crash lands on Trash Island to find Spots. He is aided by a motley crew of dogs from an assorted range of backgrounds: Rex (Edward Norton), the natural democratic leader; Boss (Bill Murray), a former team mascot; Duke (Jeff Goldblum), a non-stop gossip; King (Bob Balaban), an ex-spokesdog for a dog food brand; and Chief (Bryan Cranston), a mangled stray with an apt for fighting. Along with the previously mentioned, Isle of Dogs also features great performances from Scarlett Johansson, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Liev Schreiber, and Greta Gerwig. But if the cast list brings you through the door, the visuals convince you to stay.
The incredible world of Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs is characterized by meticulously detailed landscapes of individually placed glass bottles, trash bags, and discarded televisions. True to his style, Wes Anderson has again created a new world from scratch. Taking 4 years to film, 250 hand-crafted miniature sets, and 2,200 puppets, the film effortlessly shows off the gargantuan artistic effort that went into the production. The two stunning worlds showcased in Isle of Dogs are equally impressive in both beauty and the effort that went into making them. Megasaki City is filled with fantastic imagined Japanese architecture which, along with the analog communication technology, creates a very retro-futuristic tone which accents the stressed scenes within the city. Trash Island is split into many different parts, each incredibly detailed with individually placed garbage. The scenes on Trash Island take place on a sea of white paper, mountains of broken TVs, and jagged steppes of rusted cars. Abandoned golf courses, amusement parks, and secret research facilities dot the island, providing makeshift homes for the lost dogs.
The dogs themselves are also an incredible feat of design. Over 500 dog models were made for the movie, each molded around a metal frame and outfitted with alpaca and merino wool, the same type of fur used to make teddy bears. Nutmeg, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, reportedly took over 30 weeks to perfect. For her design, Anderson had sent photos of a Gucci store to his design team, asking them to create the same tonal mood.
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Despite its appearance, Isle of Dogs is definitely not a children’s film. It earned itself a PG-13 rating due to the heavy themes and concepts the story is built upon. But whether you consider yourself a dog lover, film buff, or somewhere in-between, you’re going to love this movie.
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