Isle of Dogs (2018): ‘A Quirky Stop within Motion’ – A Film Review



Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe and still more. It can be so surprising how Wes Anderson manages to get together such casts. Isle of Dogs is Wes Anderson’s latest film and feels like a call-back, in part, to Fantastic Mr. Fox as we see stop motion returning. Wes Anderson is known for patterns, all-star casts and his quirky[1] almost self-referential comedy. A conversation pans from character to character so you feel that the camera moves and the pattern on screen feels busy, ridiculous but beautiful – out of place but perfectly matching. These are just some of the things to expect in the offbeat nature of Wes Anderson’s films. Isle of Dogs gives warning that not all characters will be subtitled (keeping it to Japanese) but can be explained by students and interpreters; although all barks are rendered into English. Comedy will certainly play its part in this films form.


Film Style

Isle of Dogs really boasts its cast of voice actors and although this can be distracting it fits in with everything else that happens in the film. Wes Anderson, after all, isn’t afraid to draw your attention, ever so slightly, to film form – pans, tilts and zooms. Stop motion, in its jittered and almost unpredictable movements feels like exactly the home for this kind of film. The use of dialogue keeps a thematic Japanese theme whilst we see issues within families still return to a Wes Anderson film. But it all perfectly flows giving that sense of the entertaining illusion of reality that is film.


The Heart is the Story

The animation style sometimes has the smoothness of Wallace and Gromit and sometimes the roughness of Jan Švankmajer. This allows a greater distinction to be made between people and dogs. Each dog has a visual style that keeps them separate and memorable but also in a way that they’re able to change without any discontinuity. The heart of the film is certainly within some of the dog characters; although the initial set up seems to suggest another route with other characters and, actually, this makes the film a little at odds with itself, until it gets itself properly on track.



All in all, Isle of Dogs feels to be in a greater understanding of its potential than some of Wes Anderson’s earlier works; like Fantastic Mr. Fox. Despite the lack of reality, there is a sense of heart to the characters and their choices. Making for a strong film despite some of the more odd or quirky choices being made. It certainly is a film that is pushing to try something new, technically, and this gives the film more depth and staying power than most other films could. It’s amazing how films like this (which seems to be almost the goal of Wes Anderson’s work) try to distract you from the film, whilst drawing you in at the same time.




In Japan there is an epidemic of dog flew and a concern that they may start infecting humans as well. So all dogs are banished to an island where they must survive alone; whilst one dog owner insists that he can’t be without his dog.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Fantastic Mr. Fox (d. Wes Anderson USA 2009)

Isle of Dogs (d. Wes Anderson USA/Germany 2018)


Further Reading

[1] McDowell, James. ‘Wes Anderson, Tone and the Quirky Sensibility’.New Review of Film and Television Studies Vol 10, Issue 1: Wes Anderson and Co., 2012. Page Unknown.

Official Site

Interview with Wes Anderson

Interview with Cast Stop Motion

Interview with Wes Anderson 2

Behind the Scenes Virtual Reality

Behind the Scenes

Making of

An Ode to the Dogs on Set

Wes Anderson and Style

Wes Anderson’s Style and his Influences


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Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – A Film Review

Lady Bird (2017): ‘One in Many’ – A Film Review

Coco (2017): ‘Pixar’s Dying Grace’ – A Film Review


This was an analytical review of….


Isle of Dogs (d. Wes Anderson USA/Germany 2018)


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