Those who know the work of Wes Anderson know that no films are identical to his. His humour, dialogue and storylines are so refreshing in contrast to other typical Hollywood movies; the word unique seems too insufficient to describe his artistry. For those unfamiliar with Anderson, he is a director, producer and writer most known for creating films like Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. His newest stop-motion animated movie Isle of Dogs premiered in select theatres on March 23rd, and plans to be released nationally on April 13th. Once audience members purchase their tickets, butter their popcorn and find their seat in a theatre, they will face an important question posed by Anderson’s characters: “Whatever happened to man’s best friend?”
It all begins twenty years in the future, where Megasaki City begins to fear their population of dogs and the sickness they have contracted. In hopes of protecting citizens from the infected creatures, Mayor Kobayashi immediately bans all canines to “Trash Island,” where all the garbage of the city is dumped. In turn, he ignores the promises of scientists who guarantee they will soon find a cure for the illness. By his order, Kobayashi also deports Spots, the guard dog of his nephew Atari. The twelve-year-old boy has recently lost his parents to an accident, and Spots is the closest thing he has to family. In response to the political moves of his power-hungry uncle, Atari attempts a rescue mission to the Isle of Dogs in order to save his best friend.
However, it is Atari that ends up being rescued after crash landing on the island. Four former house pets and one stray find “the young pilot” and decide to help him on his search for Spots. Rex, King, Boss and Duke are pleased to have a human master once again. But Chief prefers to play by his own rules, and claims he will not help Atari with his mission. Although, as they go throughout their journey, Chief wonders if he should exchange his wild nature for a life of loyalty; loneliness for an unbreakable bond with a human.
The friendship that begins to bloom between Atari and Chief seems to give reason behind asking the question “Whatever happened to man’s best friend?” Kobayashi’s order to ban all dogs to Trash Island is unjust, first to the animals but also to the citizens of Megasaki. Considering it, humans need dogs as much as they need us. Certainly, pets rely on us to feed, bathe, and exercise them. However, we depend on the emotional connection made with dogs and their ability to show unconditional love and loyalty–something rare to find even within human relationships.
Although Isle of Dogs is a comedy and fictional story, the film also highlights relatable topics dealt with in society today. A large number of “pro-dog” activists happen to be youth, including one American exchange student named Tracy Walker. Their search for truth about Kobayashi and the isle of dogs seems to parallel the countless groups of young people currently speaking out for justice in our world. Wes Anderson provides viewers with hope in our next generation of leaders: they do not ignore the problems within their community, but rather dedicate their time and energy to implement change.
Movie-goers everywhere–cat and dog lovers alike–will agree that Wes Anderson’s new film gets “two paws up.” Grab all the people in your pack and go see the amazing Isle of Dogs.