Isle of Dogs Blu-ray Review
I have always considered Wes Anderson one of the most unique filmmakers of our time. From his early films, including BOTTLE ROCKET and RUSHMORE, through his more recent projects like THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX and THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, he has always created, through his screenplays and direction, a world that only his characters seem to live in. They survive because they are all part of the Anderson DNA, and his latest film, ISLE OF DOGS, is no different.
Through the magic of stop-motion animation (similar to THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX), we meet a young Japanese boy named Atari Kobayashi (voiced by Koyu Rankin) who is in search of his beloved dog, Spots. In this futuristic look at Japan, dogs are believed to be the carrier of a flu-like disease and, by order of the Mayor (Konichi Nomura), who also happens to be Atari’s uncle, are banished to a place known as Trash Island. Spots is the first dog sent away and Atari sets out on a journey to visit the island and rescue his beloved pup. The adventures he finds, and the dogs he meet, set the pace for a sweet story.
As in his live action films, Anderson excels in casting the right actors for the job. Whether it’s long-time associates like Bill Murray, Edward Norton or Anjelica Huston or newcomers like Bryan Cranston, Liev Schreiber or Yoko Ono (who voices a scientist named Yoko Ono), they allow the characters to meld and create a fast flowing story. Each dog has the personality of the actor voicing it, be it Cranston as Atari’s guide, Chief or Schreiber as Atari’s beloved Spots. Anderson also gives the film much needed humor by way of on-screen “pop ups.” Be it silk screened images or actual bits of humor that show up verbally on screen, they contribute to an enjoyable and entertaining film that has a lot more heart than one would expect from its premise.
Visually, the film is beautifully rendered. The animation is amazing. In this day and age of computers, very few filmmakers want to take the time and effort to attack a process as difficult as stop-motion but, like with THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX, Anderson has created a world sure to be nominated in the Animated Feature category next year for the Academy Awards. The story, written by Anderson and his usual co-writers, Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola, along with vocal co-star Kunichi Nomura, is one of multiple messages, none of which is made to be greater than the other.
If I had one squabble with the film, it was the tiny writing used during the “pop ups” as well as during the various chapter changes. I have a pretty good sized television and I found myself having to get up and stand next to the set to be able to read. I’m not sure if this was a problem in the transfer or if this is how it was in the theatre, but it did take me out of the film each time I had to rewind, pause and jump up.
Video: The film is presented in its 2.39:1 aspect ratio and the transfer is sharp and clear, with the muted colors of the dogs standing out against the background of Trash Island. Again, my main problem was with the size of the on-screen lettering.
Audio: The audio is in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is also very clean. Most of the dogs are soft spoken but their voices come through clearly.
Promotional Featurettes: Six different short features dealing with different aspects of the film.
The Animators (3:42)
Isle of Dogs Cast Interviews (5:09)
An Ode to Dogs (2:00)
Megasaki City and Trash Island (3:04)
Weather and Elements (3:04)
Gallery (1:20): A look at various images. This features both a Manual and Auto mode. The time given is for the Auto mode.
Theatrical trailer (2:39)