Wes Anderson’s new film is out and it is a lovely movie with a lot to say about ethics and racism and dogs. It’s also likely the best stop-motion film ever made. I’m not sure anybody should need to know more, but I’m still going to review the film properly.
Let me start with the visuals; this film is spectacular in its aesthetic. Everything from the crazy action scenes to the simple facial expressions immersed and amused me consistently. This aspect far exceeded my expectations; what I have seen previously from stop-motion film techniques did not prepare me for the incredible nuances of this film. I believe this is, at the very least, a masterpiece in its medium of creation. I’m not sure how to categorize stop-motion as opposed to normal live-action or traditionally animated films, but it is truly mesmerizing to witness the masterful direction and cinematography. The mouths of the dogs move perfectly for the words, showing the extreme attention to detail of Wes Anderson’s work.
The actors, although they only contribute their voices, are all fantastic. I was able to easily believe the attitudes and ideals represented by the dog and human characters alike, including those who spoke exclusively Japanese. On that note, several characters speak Japanese without subtitles; all of the translations of this dialogue are diegetic in nature, coming from within the film through physically present translators or other characters paraphrasing the ideas. I think this relates amazingly well to the idea that the film’s story is told from the perspective of dogs whose vocalizations are translated to English. That is, in a more normal story of human characters, the dogs would be incomprehensible as the Japanese are in this film. It’s an interesting take on the idea, at least. The movie is wildly inventive, to say the least.
The music is often wonderfully relaxing and sometimes somber in tone. It never detracts from the film or overpowers the importance of the on-screen occurrences. The sound, as with the rest of the film, is amazing throughout. Isle of Dogs has many tracks that simply fit the scenes incredibly well, and there’s nothing generic or lame about any of it. There’s a particular song with words that was played several times which evoked a sense of calm and wonder in me. I’ll have to find that song so I can listen to it otherwise, in fact.
I realize that this is, by definition of its manner of creation, a bizarre film. I cannot expect it to appeal to everyone, and yet, I am compelled to recommend it to all. It’s great, but more than that, it’s strikingly unique. Each character is distinct and has their own quirky traits, and the film is consistently hilarious while also occasionally taking a moment to be dreary and depressing. The shifts in tone never seem imperfect or unplanned.
This one is Salient. I believe there is a good reason Wes Anderson took 4 full years to release another film, which, incidentally, is his longest period between films in his entire career since 1996’s Bottle Rocket. It’s wholesome and uplifting and breathtaking simultaneously. This is certainly a film for adults, but I believe it is well beyond worth seeing in the theater.