Director Wes Anderson Wows

Second animated film “Isle of Dogs” is a departure from his usual product, but no less compelling


Paul Hudson/ Creative Commons

Wes Anderson’s new film follows a 12-year-old, Atari, in the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki.

Director Wes Anderson’s ninth feature and second animated film “Isle of Dogs” is a departure from his usual product, though it follows most all of his noted and engaging tropes.

The stop-motion creation’s strongest suit is no doubt its resplendent technical production and design, but the film garnered some negative attention because of its cultural representation and offbeat aesthetic.

Set in the near-future fictional Japanese city of Megasaki, “Isle” follows 12-year-old Atari (voiced by Koyu Rankin) on a rogue rescue mission to Trash Island, the designated exile location for all Megasaki dogs following a wide dog flu outbreak. The objective is to find Atari’s guard dog Spots and bring him home.

Punitive efforts to end his search, complete with weaponized robot dogs and helicopters, are implemented by his legal guardian and dog-hating Megasaki Mayor Kobayashi.

Atari therefore enlists the help of five delightfully bantering alpha dogs for his trek across the bleakly landscaped wasteland, while small groups of student activists and scientists work to disprove and overturn the Trash Island decree back home.

The plot is simple enough, though Anderson argued during a USA Today interview, “It’s not a little type story. It has a whole government that’s a part of what’s happening. It’s got a full community of animals and it’s affecting this large population.”

But the larger plotline, the government conspiracy and trouble back home, isn’t the film’s most engrossing. It’s Atari on the island looking for his dog.

The bond between dog and owner is what transcends most easily and makes the writing (done by Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola and Kunichi Nomura) most affable.

While other Anderson films such as “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Royal Tenenbaums” rely heavily on wordy, quirky dialogue, “Isle” shines brightest when it doesn’t say much.

Perhaps the most touching moment in the film, for example, is a brief flashback depicting Atari and Spots’ first introduction. “Moshi moshi,” whispers the boy through special translating headsets, and Spots responds, with tears welling at comprehending his master’s words for the first time, “I can hear you, Master Atari.”

The writing is best when it’s minimal, but the film altogether is most impressive in its technical complexity.

“Isle” was shot in the same east London studio where Anderson’s previous 2009 animated work “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was filmed.


Adriana Garcia can be reached at [email protected]