Our own dear Petr has already explored the beautiful, symmetrical elephant in the room of Wes Anderson’s career — namely, is he a purveyor of twee-whiteness (white-tweeness?) or a genuine film genius? And based on the trailer for Anderson’s upcoming stop-motion animated film, Isle of Dogs, well… whichever side of that debate you fall on, you’ll probably remain there.
Personally, I never had any skin in that game. I genuinely like several Anderson movies. And there are several that I’ve missed, or maybe I watched and I don’t remember. I feel like I know what I’m going to get from his movies — the aesthetic, the humor, and most of the casting is all pretty consistent. I appreciate his talent, but I also remain largely ambivalent toward watching any singular execution of said talent. Like, if his latest flick is on demand I’ll pay to rent it. If it’s on Netflix or HBO or something, I’ll watch. And I’ll enjoy it! But I’m not necessarily keeping my eyes peeled for another opportunity to watch Bill Murray/Ed Norton/Jason Schwartzman stomp around in knee-socks or whatever.
On the other hand, I love me some clever stop-motion animation. And Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox was gorgeous, even if I don’t remember the plot.
And on the other, OTHER hand… DOGS.
Which brings us back to his new movie. Here’s that trailer I mentioned:
And here’s the synopsis:
ISLE OF DOGS tells the story of ATARI KOBAYASHI, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When, by Executive Decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.
There is a part of me, a tickle in the back of my mind and a slight clenching of my teeth, that’s reacting to the use of Japan as a backdrop for what appears to be largely unnecessary reasons. But then again, this is a made-up story, and Anderson has admitted that it’s an homage to Akira Kurosawa, and looking at the voice cast, he’s hired several Japanese people (including Ken Watanabe and Yoko Ono!). And maybe I’m wrong! Maybe setting the story in Japan is essential, and is handled with respect. I can’t tell yet.
All I know is that a kid is going to fly a plane to hang out with a bunch of dogs, voiced by Bryan Cranston and Edward Norton and, yeah, Bill Murray’s in it too, so he’s probably one of the dogs because DUH. And they’ll all have a charming, trash-filled adventure together, and I don’t even care WHO directed it. That shit just does it for me, twee or not. I’ll take all the stop-motion mongrels I can get, thank you very much.
Jeff Goldblum, Kunichi Nomura, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Scarlett Johansson, and Tilda Swinton are some of the other folks lending their voices. Isle of Dogs opens in theaters March 23, 2018.