Friday, April 20, 2018

Isle of Dogs Review: A One of Kind Animated Feature

There are many filmmakers out there but if there is one that could be consider truly one of a kind it would have to be Wes Anderson.  The director has a distinct style in his movies and tend to deal with outlandish stories with distinct imagery; and for this reason Anderson is among my favorite filmmakers working today. So when seeing a new Wes Anderson movie hitting theaters, I cannot help but be excited; and in this case it is the film known as Isle of Dogs. The new movies sees Anderson return to a style he used in The Fantastic Mr.Fox as Isle of Dogs is a stop motion animated feature. I finally had a chance to watch the new animated movie and I must say that Anderson was in rare form with Isle of Dogs.

Isle of Dogs centers on the canine Chief (Bryan Cranston) where he and his fellow pack must help the boy Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) find his lost dog Spots (Liev Schreiber) who has been missing since dogs were sentenced to trash island by Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura). When it came to storytelling Isle of Dogs was as simple as it was captivating. The story was no doubt an adventure and a straightforward one at that. However it was all about how this movie presented its zany story and in this case the execution was sound. The story was always engaging and used its concepts to their fullest abilities. This was notable the movie’s subplots which were  presented well by adding more to the overall story. The movie also featured individual chapters and while this element did not have major implications on the movie itself, it did however give the plot a sense of style. With a few surprises the plot of Isle of Dogs relied on its presentation and I think that direction aided the movie by making this tale a noteworthy one.

If you have a seen a Wes Anderson movie then you would not be surprised to know that Isle of Dogs featured a massive ensemble. The movie featured an enormous cast that was rich with character. From the principal characters to minor additions everyone in this ensemble were able to stand out in their own way. Chief made for an believable protagonist as his development was decent and Bryan Cranston’s performance made the stray all the more convincing. Other characters such as Rex (Edward Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), Duke (Jeff Goldblum) and Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) were effective in their respective roles. Even minor characters like Jupiter (F.Murray Abraham), Oracle (Tilda Swinton) and Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson) were able to stand out despite their limited scenes. Yet one element in the cast that I found fascinating was the Japanese characters. For the most part these characters spoke Japanese and had little to no subtitles, but the way the actors performed their roles I could understand the characters regardless of what language they spoke. In both characterization and performance there was much to this cast to the point where it not only lived up to the standards of a Wes Anderson ensemble, but it may have very well exceeded its predecessors.

If there is one animation style that I adore it is stop-motion animation, so whenever an animated feature come around and implements the style I usually gets my attention. In the case of Isle of Dogs the animation was practically flawless.Along with it being fluent the animation would implement other styles and technique which gave the movie a distinct look. Complimenting the animation was the film’s cinematography. While its camerawork used a style typical of a Wes Anderson film, the movie had it share of unique shots that allowed the movie to stand out from the director’s past work. Another effective element in the cinematography was the lighting.which was utilized admirably by enhancing a handful of scenes.  The score by Alexandre Desplat was equally impressive. I heard cues from the scores many times from watching the film’s trailer, but I never imagined just how effective it ended up being. The score was thematic and featured a dynamic execution; plus the music was catchy and that is never a bad thing. Last and certainly not least was the direction in tone. The movie featured a comedic tone, and it definitely had a good sense humor, but there were times where the movie needed to be serious and this did not detract from the overall atmosphere as it was suitable for both humor and drama.

Isle of Dogs lives up to the filmography of Wes Anderson. From story to animation there was a definitive presentation in this film that was not only effective, but showed the range of Anderson as a director. The film was dynamic, engaging and entertaining; in other words Isle of Dogs was everything that makes a cinematic experience worthwhile, and in my opinion this shaggy animated feature is among the best movies to come out this year.

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