REVIEW: Isle of Dogs

People describe each new endeavor by Wes Anderson as more Wes Anderson than the last–and well, they’re right. Although all his films are different (at least, superficially), they each have this distinct glaze, and with every new film he makes, this glaze gets thicker. This isn’t entirely a criticism, but it might constitute a warning–if you didn’t like the last couple of Wes Anderson films, you won’t enjoy Isle of Dogs either. The reverse is also true, if you like Wes Anderson, you’ll like his latest film. Though, in this instance, the glaze might be getting too thick, or perhaps I am merely getting tired of it. I enjoyed the film, as much as one can enjoy something they watch without attachment, but the movie did not move me. It did not make me feel any particular emotions. It lacks the imperfection, the slide into the raw, that is required for a movie to get its moviegoers. Every shot is perfect, is beautiful, is placed correctly–there is beauty but not life. And this is the track Anderson has been on, and while I do not know for sure, I feel as if it is almost what he is going for, that his end goal of his films is to cultivate this kind of pretty perfection shot by shot, to make a movie without flaws. He has a vision, and with every movie he gets closer to accomplishing it, but I am not certain it is a worthy vision.

But, let’s move on from Anderson to Isle of Dogs.

Here, Wes Anderson returns to familiar themes in an unfamiliar setting. Children in love, dogs, an exhaustive chase–these are all things Anderson has covered before.  But the Japanese setting of this film adds something new and forces familiar tracts of land into unfamiliar territory. Furthermore, Anderson does not use this setting on the surface only–this setting has an affect on the plot and how the audience understands the film, quite literally. Although the dogs are in English, almost every other character is Japanese and speaks Japanese. This Japanese is not subtitle, though in some situations it is translated by another character. The audience must understand the untranslated portions by other means and often there is no definite translation given (unless of course, one understands Japanese). There are portions of the film that go entirely untranslated, and though there is never any confusion about what is happening, this creates a certain disorientation, if not quite boredom. The audience finds themselves waiting and watching, paying closer attention to the available visuals of the film (of which there are plenty). It’s an interesting decision to make, and one Anderson uses sparingly.

Overall, it is a good movie, though more beautiful than emotionally impacting. It continues to play at the State Theatre. Student tickets are $8.


KJ is a junior studying Mathematics and Creative Writing. She is entangled in the library system and desperate to break free. Her free time is spent staring at a wall. She felt obliged to write this bio.

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