Review: Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Charms But Falls Flat

Going to see a Wes Anderson film has become somewhat of an experience itself. Part of the allure around his films is the immersive world he draws you into, the endless list of celebrities that line up to play 2-minute cameos and the incredible visual style he employs.

The last feature directed by Wes Anderson was in 2014 which was Grand Budapest Hotel a visually striking cinematic experience. Cementing his name as an expert in style more so than a storyteller. To put it in other words, he could probably make a film about someone losing their wallet and it would be hailed critically.

In this instance I’ll be the first to say that I think Wes Anderson has somehow fallen into a creative dip, his films are without a doubt unique and have a singular vocabulary but what matters are the stories, and I don’t think this particular narrative leads him forward.

In his latest nod to Japanese culture, The Isle of Dogs the film is based in the city of Nagasaki where the town has descended into a panic because man’s best friend has been infected with a type of deadly flu.

Cats take their place and the dogs are consequentially sent off to a miserable isolated location called Trash Island where they have to steal, beg and borrow to survive. Dogs in the leading alpha pack are played by a host of great voices, such as Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray & Bryan Cranston. Eventually, a conspiracy theory involving the cities mayor is hatched by young expat student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) and the whole story slowly unravels underneath a heavy load of love, survival, flashbacks and a yearning to go home.

There are many relevant themes here, which mostly play on the sensitive subjects such as migrants, hate politics and embracing the unknown. But Wes does little to take us any further than that. I think charming is the operative word here, but just has a little of that ‘hmph’ kind of feeling. There are only so many times you can make a movie about a motley crew of ragtag eccentrics trying to get home with some folk music from the 60s before it starts to get a bit tedious.

If you were to swap reels and replace it with Fantastic Mr. Fox one of his finest, you honestly wouldn’t know the difference. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stop motion aspect, there is a whole world that opens up. But sometimes I just feel like I’m watching an episode of The Wombles,  perhaps he has taken the stop-motion thing as far as it can go.

What I adore about Wes Anderson’s films is the detail and dedication he puts into his films; it’s incredible to see how square and symmetrical everything is. It’s like he’s employed architects to make the film, not filmmakers – colours are aligned, characters perfectly in place. Music painstakingly chosen. It’s the retro visual style, the long stares, deadpan humour, and most of all, it’s his devotion to time periods and locations that wow audiences.

But if you are looking for that next big stride in his career then this ain’t it however if you’re looking for that quintessential Wes Anderson experience then this is definitely for you.