Isle of Dogs Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

The mayor of the Japanese city of Megasaki by the name of Kobayashi, a scoundrel and corrupt official, comes from an ancient family, all members of which were very fond of cats and hated dogs. And Kobayashi found a way to deal with man’s four-legged friends: the dogs of the city were specially infected with canine flu and, under the pretext of isolating people from sick animals, they sent all the dogs to Garbage Island. Moreover, the very first dog sent was Spots (Lev Schreiber) – a friend and guard of the ward of the mayor, the twelve-year-old boy Atari.

After some time, when all the dogs of Megasaki were sent to Garbage Island and began to live there in terrible conditions, the boy Atari flew to the island in a small single-seat plane. Atari’s plane crashed, but the boy survived and began to search for his friend Spots.

In this search, five friendly dogs help him: Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), Duke (Jeff Goldblum) and King (Bob Balaban).

However, the malicious Kobayashi does not sleep and makes terrible plans to destroy all the dogs on the island.


The wonderful director Wes Anderson has already worked in the animation genre. In 2009, he unexpectedly released an animated puppet film Fantastic Mr. Fox, and the picture turned out just fine (it received two Oscar nominations).

In 2018, Wes Anderson returned to this genre again – after a very successful ride, which is not always the case with his difficult and very original paintings, the film “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.

The script was written by Wes Anderson himself, along with his regular co-writers Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, and Kunichi Nomura also worked on the script with them.

The genre of this film is not easy to define. This is a fairy tale, and a parable, and social satire, and a drama, and a comedy. If “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a puppet animation shot like a normal feature film, which, by the way, broke all the canons and stereotypes, then the new tape, on the one hand, is more animated, and deliberately animated, and, on the other hand, Anderson is here achieved absolutely amazing humanity of dog characters.

The people in the picture are more like drawings – look at some kind of crooked and unfinished face of the boy Atari, the cardboard-stone faces of Kobayashi and his majordomo, the lubok face of the American student Tracy (Greta Gerwig), who headed La Resistance.

And in contrast to this – dogs with their bright personalities, different characters and very expressive physiognomies. (For some reason, film critic Valery Kichin didn’t see any individuality in dogs, and Bublik and I are trying to figure out where he was looking at all while watching.)

The film is made in a very unusual way. At the very beginning, a legend is told about how dogs became domesticated and how the Kobayashi clan fought with them; the dogs in the film speak English, and the people, as a rule, speak Japanese (except for Tracy), and sometimes their speech is broadcast in English by the translator Nelson (Frances McDormand), and sometimes they are not translated at all. And this also creates a certain effect: dogs communicate well with each other, but they don’t directly understand people’s speech, they understand only individual memorized commands.

Communication between dogs is a separate pleasure. The dialogue is absolutely wonderful, and they are also voiced by such excellent actors as Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray (Anderson’s regular actor who worked with the director on nine of his films), Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum and Bob Balaban. The best there, of course, is the Chief, who is voiced by Bryan Cranston, but he is also at the head of the story purely in terms of plot.

It’s all absolutely wonderfully drawn and, as usual with Wes Anderson, with great attention to the smallest details. I will definitely rewatch this film in order to properly consider everything in every detail – it’s all very impressive.

The picture is made like a fairy tale, but this is an adult fairy tale, because very adult issues are considered there. And they are considered through the eyes of the most disenfranchised and oppressed, that is, those very unfortunate dogs. In the end, everything ends well in the film – because it is a fairy tale. In real life, such stories, unfortunately, often do not have any happy ending.

And it’s very cool to read critics who only see in this picture, I quote:

The second after Fantastic Mr. Fox, the puppet cartoon of the master of the eccentric arthouse Wes Anderson, without any equivocation, contrasts the virtuous love of dogs and the sinister predilection for cats.

That’s it, Mikhalych. It turns out that this is not about genocide and fascism, but just a contrast between a virtuous love for dogs and a sinister addiction to cats. And we thought…

Wes Anderson is true to himself. Despite certain experiments with the format, this is the same Wes Anderson, this is the same completely bewitching picture with many details, these are the same wonderful characters speaking the language of this director. And how chic intonation the voice actors correlate with their characters. Chief Cranston is a masterpiece!

Anderson has such his own, completely original ways to convey his thoughts to the audience that there is absolutely no difference – this is a cartoon about a fox and his family, a children’s film, a pseudo-documentary about Yves Cousteau or an idiotic family. His main characters could be cats, hamsters or scorpions: there is no difference, this director could tell what he wants, in any format.

I really liked this movie. I am an old fan of this director, I like his original and unlike anything, but I would be the first to say that he shot something wrong. But in this case, Wes Anderson once again made something, if not outstanding, then certainly very worthy of attention for people who love non-standard and author’s cinema.

I watched with great pleasure and will revise. And as for the critics, who saw this as an angular children’s cartoon about the love of dogs and “the weakest opening film” – well, I have nothing to say here. And if I fully expected this from Kichin, then, with all due respect, in my opinion, misunderstood something very strongly in this film.


Isle of Dogs movie meaning

Director: Wes Anderson Cast: Harvey Keitel, Yoko Ono, Scarlett Johansson, Greta Gerwig, Akira Takayama, Kun’ichi Nomura, Bob Balaban, Koyu Rankin, Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Lev Schreiber

Worldwide gross: $64 million
Animation, USA-Germany, 2018, 101 min.

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