Isle of Dogs (film)
|Isle of Dogs|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Wes Anderson|
|Screenplay by||Wes Anderson|
|Narrated by||Courtney B. Vance|
|Music by||Alexandre Desplat|
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Box office||$64.2 million|
Isle of Dogs (Japanese: 犬ヶ島 Hepburn: Inugashima) is a 2018 stop-motion-animated science-fiction adventure film written, produced and directed by Wes Anderson. Set in a dystopian near-future Japan, the story follows a young boy (Koyu Rankin) searching for his dog after the species is banished to an island following the outbreak of a canine flu. The film's ensemble voice cast includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Fisher Stevens, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Frank Wood, Kunichi Nomura, and Yoko Ono.
A US–German co-production, Isle of Dogs was produced by Indian Paintbrush and Anderson's own production company, American Empirical Pictures, in association with Studio Babelsberg. The film opened the 68th Berlin International Film Festival, where Anderson was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Director. It was given a limited release in the United States on March 23, 2018, by Fox Searchlight Pictures, and went on wide release on April 13. It has grossed over $64 million worldwide, and received praise for its animation, story, and deadpan humor. A manga adaptation of the film by Minetarō Mochizuki was published in 2018, beginning with the May 24 issue of Weekly Morning. The film received nominations at the 76th Golden Globe Awards, 72nd British Academy Film Awards, and 91st Academy Awards, all for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score.
Prologue: The Boy Samurai and the Headless Ancestor
A wise dog, named Jupiter, tells the story of an ancient event linked to the events of later in the film. In ancient Japan, 1,000 years ago, dogs roamed the land, free and in peace. That was until the dog-hating Kobayashi dynasty launched an attack on the dogs, in an attempt to extend their dominion. On the verge of canine annihilation, a young samurai, who was sympathetic to the plight of the besieged dogs, betrayed the Kobayashi clan, and slayed the clan's leader. Upon the end of the conflict, the lives of the remaining conquered dogs were spared, and lived as tamed house pets, and soon repopulated. The Kobayashis, however, never let go of their desire to destroy their canine enemies.
In the Japanese archipelago, 20 years into the future, an outbreak of canine influenza spreads throughout the fictitious city of Megasaki, with a risk of crossing into the human disease pool. The city's 6-term authoritarian mayor, Kenji Kobayashi, authorizes a decree banishing all dogs to Trash Island, which is officially approved after his political party rejects the insistence of professional scientist and political opponent Professor Watanabe that he is close to developing a serum for the dog flu. The first dog officially deported from the city is a white and black-marked pink-nosed dog named Spots Kobayashi, who served as the bodyguard of 12-year-old Atari Kobayashi, the orphaned distant-nephew and ward of the mayor. But this is gradually revealed to be part of a conspiracy by Mayor Kobayashi and his political party, who are seeking to finish what their ancestors attempted long ago in removing dogs from Japan.
Part 1: The Little Pilot
Six months later, Atari hijacks a plane and flies it to Trash Island to search for Spots. After crash-landing, Atari is rescued by a pack of dogs led by an all-black dog named Chief, who is a former stray. When Atari explains to the dogs that he is looking for Spots, the pack shows Atari a stuck cage, containing the skeleton of a dog, whom they believe is Atari's dog, who starved to death. They perform a burial for him, and soon as Atari is about to head home, the pack discovers there was a mix-up, and that they buried a different dog. Together, they fend off a rescue team accompanied by a band of robot dogs that Kobayashi sent to retrieve Atari. Kobayashi claims Atari was kidnapped by the dogs and vows to kill them as punishment. Realizing that Spots might still be alive, and somewhere on the island, Atari decides to continue his search. The pack decides to help Atari locate Spots, although Chief refuses to join because of his inability to fraternize with humans. At the insistence of a female purebred ex-show dog named Nutmeg, Chief reluctantly decides to accompany the group on their search.
Part 2: The Search For Spots
During their journey, while the dogs reminisce on the foods their owners once fed them, Chief admits that he was once owned by a family, until he bit the youngest child out of fear. They seek advice from two sage dogs, Jupiter and Oracle, who warn them of the existence of an isolated tribe of dogs rumored to be cannibals. Meanwhile, Professor Watanabe develops a serum and shows the results to Kobayashi, who still refuses to lift the dog ban. The professor is put on house arrest for criticizing Kobayashi and is then killed by poisoned wasabi in sushi. An American exchange student, Tracy Walker, suspects a conspiracy and begins to investigate.
During the journey, Chief and Atari are separated from the others. Atari gives Chief a bath, which reveals that his coat is actually white with black markings. Noticing the similarity between Chief and Spots (the distinction being that Chief has a black nose), Atari realizes they both must be of the same extremely breed: short-haired Oceanic specked-ear/sport hound mix. Chief remembers being part of a nine-dog litter of which all but one died. He bonds with Atari as they continue their journey.
Part 3: The Rendezvous
They rejoin the group, but are ambushed by Kobayashi's men. Spots then arrives at the last second and leads the strays in fending off the assailants before they and Atari's group escape together, causing Kobayashi to publicly announce Atari to be dead. Spots confirms that he is Chief's older brother by five minutes, and reveals that he was rescued by the tribe, who were not actually cannibals, became their leader and mated with a female tribe member named Peppermint, whom is currently pregnant with their first litter. Because of these circumstances, Spots asks permission to transfer his protection duties for Atari to Chief, which Chief grants.
An owl brings word that Kobayashi plans to order the extermination of all dogs on Trash Island and replace them with the robot dogs. Atari and the dogs prepare their journey to the mainland.
Part 4: Atari's Lantern
Tracy confronts Watanabe's former colleague Yoko Ono, who confirms Tracy's suspicions and gives her the last remaining vial of the serum. At his re-election ceremony, Kobayashi prepares to give the order when Tracy presents her evidence of his corruption. However, Kobayashi dismisses Tracy's evidence as foreign propaganda and orders her immediate deportation back to her U.S. hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio. Chief, Atari and the dogs soon arrive, and confirm the cure works. Atari then presents a haiku, titled Atari's Lantern and dedicated to Kobayashi, that signifies the sympathy that previously existed between dogs and humans. Kobayashi has a change of heart and revokes the Trash Island decree, but right-hand Major Domo is enraged at Kobayashi for reneging on his campaign promise and is left with no choice but to trigger the extermination. A fight ensues with Kobayashi and Domo in which the "execute" button is pressed, but the poison backfires on the captors thanks to the help of a hacker from Tracy's high school, which in turn causes the extermination electronics to malfunction and abruptly shut down.
During the fight, Atari and Spots are gravely injured by one of the robot dogs. Spots loses an eye and a leg, and is knocked unconscious. Due to the stress of Atari's brain surgery, his remaining kidney fails, but a regretful Kobayashi donates one of his own to save his nephew. Atari becomes mayor of Megasaki due to a ruling and he decrees the dogs' reintegration into society while Kobayashi and his co-conspirators (including Major Domo) are jailed for political corruption. Tracy and Atari become a couple, and Chief reunites with Nutmeg and takes up the role of Atari's bodyguard. Meanwhile, Spots, assumed to be dead and now having had most of his injuries treated, secretly resumes raising his litter with Peppermint in the basement of the Kobayashi manor.
- Bryan Cranston as Chief
- Koyu Rankin as Atari Kobayashi
- Edward Norton as Rex
- Bob Balaban as King
- Bill Murray as Boss
- Jeff Goldblum as Duke
- Kunichi Nomura as Mayor Kenji Kobayashi
- Akira Takayama as Major Domo
- Greta Gerwig as Tracy Walker
- Frances McDormand as Interpreter Nelson
- Akira Ito as Professor Watanabe
- Scarlett Johansson as Nutmeg
- Harvey Keitel as Gondo
- F. Murray Abraham as Jupiter
- Yoko Ono as Assistant Scientist Yoko Ono
- Tilda Swinton as Oracle
- Ken Watanabe as Head Surgeon
- Mari Natsuki as Auntie
- Fisher Stevens as Scrap
- Nijiro Murakami as Editor Hiroshi
- Liev Schreiber as Spots
- Courtney B. Vance as The Narrator
- Yojiro Noda as News Anchor
- Frank Wood as Simul-Translate Machine
- Roman Coppola as Igor
- Anjelica Huston as Mute Poodle
- Kara Hayward as Peppermint
In October 2015, Anderson, who had previously directed the animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox, announced he would be returning to the art form with "a film about dogs" starring Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston and Bob Balaban. Anderson has said that he was inspired by seeing a road sign for the Isle of Dogs in England while Fantastic Mr. Fox was in development. Anderson said that the film was strongly influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa, as well as the stop-motion animated holiday specials made by Rankin/Bass Productions.
The animation department included a number of people who had worked on Fantastic Mr. Fox.
20,000 faces and 1,105 animatable puppets were crafted by "12 sculptors working six days a week" for the film. 2,000 more puppets were made for background characters. The detailed puppets of the main characters took an average of two to three months to create.
Concurrently with the film, Félix and Paul Studios and FoxNext VR Studio collaborated on Isle of Dogs: Behind the Scenes (in Virtual Reality), an immersive video film which places the viewer directly inside the animated world. The virtual reality film was released on the Google Pixel platform.
The film premiered as the opening film of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival on February 15, 2018, and had its North American premiere as the closing film of the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 17, 2018. Isle of Dogs began a limited release in the U.S. on March 23, 2018. It was released nationwide in the United States on April 13, 2018.
In its first weekend of limited release, the film made $1.57 million from 27 theaters (an average of $58,148 per venue). It was the best per-theater average of 2018 until it was overtaken by Eighth Grade in July. Sixty percent of its audience was under the age of 30. In its second weekend the film made $2.8 million from 165 theaters (an increase of 74 percent), finishing 11th. The film entered the top 10 in its third weekend, making $4.6 million from 554 theaters. The film expanded to 1,939 theaters the following week and made $5.4 million, finishing 7th at the box office.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 323 reviews, and an average rating of 8.04/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The beautifully stop-motion animated Isle of Dogs finds Wes Anderson at his detail-oriented best while telling one of the director's most winsomely charming stories." On Metacritic, which assigns normalized ratings to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 55 critics, indicating "universal acclaim." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an overall positive score of 88 percent.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, praising it for taking risks, and saying: "It's smart and different and sometimes deliberately odd and really funny—rarely in a laugh-out-loud way, more in a smile-and-nod-I-get-the-joke kind of way."
Portrayal of Japanese culture
Some Western critics have argued that the film is an example of racial stereotyping and cultural appropriation, and that one of its characters aligns with the trope of the "white savior". The Japanese characters speak unsubtitled Japanese, with their dialogue instead being translated by an interpreter or a machine. Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times wrote "It's in the director's handling of the story's human factor that his sensitivity falters, and the weakness for racial stereotyping that has sometimes marred his work comes to the fore ... Much of the Japanese dialogue has been pared down to simple statements that non-speakers can figure out based on context and facial expressions". Angie Han, writing in Mashable, calls the American exchange student character Tracy a "classic example of the 'white savior' archetype—the well-meaning white hero who arrives in a foreign land and saves its people from themselves".
While this critique has created some furore on the film's release, Chang has said that his review had been taken out of context and turned into a "battle cry" on Twitter, adding, "I wasn't offended; nor was I looking to be offended". Another Japanese-American perspective was provided by Emily Yoshida, writing in New York magazine, that these concerns had been "seen before in debates about Asian culture as reflected by Western culture—perspectives can vary wildly between Asian-Americans and immigrated Asians, and what feels like tribute to some feels like opportunism to others".
Writing for BuzzFeed, Alison Willmore found "no overt malicious intent to Isle of Dogs' cultural tourism, but it's marked by a hodgepodge of references that an American like Anderson might cough up if pressed to free associate about Japan—taiko drummers, anime, Hokusai, sumo, kabuki, haiku, cherry blossoms, and a mushroom cloud (!). ... This all has more to do with the ... insides of Anderson's brain than it does any actual place. It's Japan purely as an aesthetic—and another piece of art that treats the East not as a living, breathing half of the planet but as a mirror for the Western imagination". She continued, "in the wake of Isle of Dogs' opening weekend, there were multiple headlines wondering whether the film was an act of appropriation or homage. But the question is rhetorical—the two aren't mutually exclusive, and the former is not automatically off the table just because the creator's intent was the latter".
Conversely, Moeko Fujii wrote a favorable review for The New Yorker, complimenting the film's depiction of the Japanese and their culture, as well as pointing out that language is the key theme of the movie. Fujii wrote,
Anderson's decision not to subtitle the Japanese speakers struck me as a carefully considered artistic choice. Isle of Dogs is profoundly interested in the humor and fallibility of translation ... This is the beating heart of the film: there is no such thing as "true" translation. Everything is interpreted. Translation is malleable and implicated, always, by systems of power ... [the film] shows the seams of translation, and demarcates a space that is accessible—and funny—only to Japanese viewers.
Fujii also deconstructed the criticisms of the character of Tracy Walker being a "white savior," and how this relates to the film's language theme, writing,
At a climactic moment, the movie rejects the notion of universal legibility, placing the onus of interpretation solely upon the American audience ... This is a sly subversion, in which the Japanese evince an agency independent of foreign validation. Indeed, to say that the scene dehumanizes the Japanese is to assume the primacy of an English-speaking audience. Such logic replicates the very tyranny of language that Isle of Dogs attempts to erode.
|Isle of Dogs: Original Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||March 23, 2018|
|Studio||Air Studios, London, UK|
|Wes Anderson film soundtrack chronology|
|Drowned in Sound||7/10|
The film's score was composed by Alexandre Desplat, who had previously worked with Anderson on Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The soundtrack also features various original and selected songs from a variety of musicians, mainly from Japan. Some songs had origins in classic Japanese cinema such as the Akira Kurosawa films Drunken Angel (1948) and Seven Samurai (1954). The soundtrack comprises 22 tracks in total, 15 of which were composed by Desplat.
All tracks written and performed by Alexandre Desplat, except where noted.
|2.||"Taiko Drumming" (written and performed by Kaoru Watanabe)||0:50|
|3.||"The Municipal Dome"||2:29|
|4.||"Six Months Later + Dog Fight"||2:05|
|5.||"The Hero Pack"||1:08|
|7.||"Kanbei & Katsushiro – Kikuchiyo's Mambo" (from Seven Samurai) (written by Fumio Hayasaka, performed by Toho Symphony Orchestra)||0:52|
|8.||"Second Crash-Landing + Bath House + Beach Attack"||4:07|
|10.||"Kosame No Oka" (from Drunken Angel) (written by Hachirō Satō and Ryōichi Hattori, performed by David Mansfield)||1:06|
|11.||"I Won't Hurt You" (written by Michael Lloyd, Shaun Harris and Bob Markley, performed by The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band)||2:23|
|13.||"Jupiter and Oracle + Aboriginal Dogs"||2:05|
|15.||"Midnight Sleighride" (from Lieutenant Kijé Suite) (written by Sergei Prokofiev, performed by Sauter-Finegan Orchestra)||3:01|
|17.||"First Bath of a Stray Dog"||0:26|
|18.||"TV Drumming" (written and performed by Watanabe)||0:31|
|19.||"Kobayashi Canine-Testing Laboratory"||1:57|
|20.||"Tokyo Shoe Shine Boy" (written by Seiichi Ida and Tasuku Sano, performed by Teruko Akatsuki)||3:02|
|21.||"Re-Election Night, Parts 1-3"||5:00|
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|Academy Awards||February 24, 2019||Best Animated Feature||Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson||Nominated|||
|Best Original Score||Alexandre Desplat||Nominated|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||January 10, 2019||Best Animated Feature Film||Wes Anderson||Nominated|||
|Best Animated Female||Greta Gerwig as Tracy Walker||Nominated|
|Annie Awards||February 2, 2019||Best Animated Feature||Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven M. Rales and Jeremy Dawson||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Achievement for Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production||Jason Stalman||Nominated|
|Outstanding Achievement for Production Design in an Animated Feature Production||Adam Stockhausen and Paul Harrod||Nominated|
|Outstanding Achievement for Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production||Bryan Cranston||Won|
|Art Directors Guild Awards||February 2, 2019||Excellence in Production Design for an Animated Film||Adam Stockhausen and Paul Harrod||Won|||
|Atlanta Film Critics Circle||December 6, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Isle of Dogs||Won|||
|Berlin International Film Festival||February 25, 2018||Silver Bear for Best Director||Wes Anderson||Won|||
|Golden Bear||Isle of Dogs||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||February 10, 2019||Best Animated Film||Wes Anderson||Nominated|||
|Best Original Score||Alexandre Desplat||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association Awards||December 7, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Wes Anderson||Nominated|||
|Cinema Audio Society Awards||February 16, 2019||Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Motion Picture – Animated||Darrin Moore, Christopher Scarabosio, Wayne Lemmer, Xavier Forcioli, Simon Rhodes and Peter Persaud||Won|||
|Critics' Choice Movie Awards||January 11, 2019||Best Animated Feature||Wes Anderson||Nominated|||
|Best Score||Alexandre Desplat||Nominated|
|Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association||December 17, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Isle of Dogs||Won|||
|Florida Film Critics Circle Awards||December 21, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Isle of Dogs||Nominated|||
|Golden Globe Awards||January 6, 2019||Best Animated Feature Film||Wes Anderson||Nominated|||
|Best Original Score||Alexandre Desplat||Nominated|
|Golden Trailer Awards||May 31, 2018||Best Animation/Family TV Spot||Isle of Dogs: ":30TV 'Sic Em"||Nominated|||
|Best Motion Poster||Isle of Dogs: "Sneezing"||Won|
|Isle of Dogs: "Wild Post"||Nominated|
|Best Animation/Family||Isle of Dogs: "Domestic Trailer #1"||Won|
|Hollywood Music in Media Awards||November 14, 2018||Original Score – Animated Film||Alexandre Desplat||Won|||
|Humanitas Prize||February 8, 2019||Family Feature Film||Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi Nomura||Nominated|||
|Music City Film Critics Association||January 10, 2019||Best Animated Film||Isle of Dogs||Nominated|||
|Nevada Film Critics Society||December 19, 2018||Best Animated Film||Won|||
|North Carolina Film Critics Association||January 2, 2019||Best Animated Film||Nominated|||
|Indiana Film Journalists Association Awards||December 17, 2018||Best Animated Film||Runner-Up|||
|Kansas City Film Critics||December 16, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Runner-up|||
|Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards||December 14, 2018||Best Animated Film||Isle of Dogs||Won|||
|Online Film Critics Society||January 2, 2019||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|||
|Best Score||Alexandre Desplat||Nominated|
|Phoenix Critics Circle||December 17, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Isle of Dogs||Nominated|||
|Best Score||Alexandre Desplat||Nominated|
|Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards||December 18, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Isle of Dogs||Won|||
|Producers Guild Awards||January 19, 2019||The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures||Isle of Dogs||Nominated|||
|Satellite Awards||February 17, 2019||Best Animated or Mixed Media Film||Wes Anderson||Won|||
|San Diego Film Critics Society||December 10, 2018||Best Original Screenplay||Nominated|||
|Best Animated Feature||Isle of Dogs||Won|
|Best Visual Effects||Nominated|
|San Francisco Film Critics Circle||December 9, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|||
|Seattle Film Critics Society||December 17, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Wes Anderson||Nominated|||
|South by Southwest Film Festival||March 17, 2018||Audience Award: Headliners||Isle of Dogs||Won|||
|St. Louis Film Critics Association||December 16, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Runner-up|||
|Toronto Film Critics Association||December 9, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Won|||
|Visual Effects Society Awards||February 5, 2019||Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature||Mark Waring, Jeremy Dawson, Tim Ledbury, Lev Kolobov||Nominated|||
|Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards||December 3, 2018||Best Animated Feature||Wes Anderson||Won|||
|Best Animated Voice Performance||Bryan Cranston||Won|
|World Soundtrack Awards||October 17, 2018||Soundtrack Composer of the Year||Alexandre Desplat[a]||Won|||
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