Film discussion

2018 Movie Preview: Isle of Dogs

Following the critical and commercial success of The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), writer-director and definition of cinematic Marmite Wes Anderson returns to our screens next spring with Isle of Dogs; an animated feature about dogs. Talking dogs. On an island. Off the coast of dystopian Japan at a time when all dogs have been exiled, only for a little boy to fall from the sky and give their lives purpose through adventure as they seek his lost pet, Spot. Oh, and it stars Bill Murray.

Yes, it is difficult to imagine a more Wes Anderson-sounding production. Love him or loathe him, the directorial output of the prince of whimsical pictures is all but impossible to ignore, mainly because it is so damn unique. Even when taking on Roald Dahl’s classic Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) – his first stab at animation and adaptation alike – Anderson left his mark to the extent that the themes of Dahl’s tale almost appear to have been developed with the director himself in mind.

With the animation backed by an original story this time around, it is safe to say that distinctive Anderson feel will be all the more overwhelming. The debut trailer appears to corroborate such a theory. Indeed, the framing, tone, and deadpan delivery led by a host of Anderson regulars (Murray, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, and Harvey Keitel to name but a few), plus Bryan Cranston, are all present and correct.

And that is to be expected. Anyone who has seen Anderson’s weird and wonderful back catalogue will know that his style and technique remain consistent. What keeps his fans coming back for more is what he does with those caper gags, those symmetrical shots, those limited yet limitlessly vibrant colours. His favoured plot devices and technical aspects may be well-established, but they are as welcome as they are continuously intriguing.

What stands out each time Anderson dreams up a new production is his penchant for utterly bizarre storytelling, a baton he has been running with since minute one of Bottle Rocket (1996) without even a hint of slowing down. Isle of Dogs, of course, shows no signs of straying from the pack. When the basic concept was initially announced – an island of talking dogs – few could have predicted its rapid evolution into a dark (yet no doubt humorous), sprawling battle for canine social justice against a Japan-themed backdrop steeped in sinister modern-imperial overtones.

One thing is for sure; Isle of Dogs will be interesting, with at least the potential – like all the rest of his ideas – for substantial critical acclaim. Whether or not it will be a commercial success is another question entirely. While Anderson’s prior use of animation certainly instilled in me the idea of greater accessibility to a wider audience, such an inkling proved to completely unfounded upon the eventual release of Fantastic Mr. Fox; a financial flop.

That was before The Grand Budapest Hotel put Anderson in front of many new and eager viewers only a few years later, however; providing a platform for the no doubt well-executed and hopefully compelling Isle of Dogs to take an extra big bite out of the competition.

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