Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ finally comes to Fort Collins

Ashley Potts

Hipsters and movie buffs worry no more, the long awaited “Isle of Dogs” has finally made its way to Fort Collins movie screens.

The movie originally premiered on limited release on March 23, but Fort Collins kept fans waiting nearly a month to see it on the wide release date of April 13. The Lyric Cinema celebrated the end of the wait appropriately, hosting an event with Horse & Dragon Brewing on premiere day called “Isle of Beer.”

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And the film was worth the wait. It is director Wes Anderson’s second attempt at stop motion and is as visually appealing as the first go. The film is set in the fictional city of Megasaki, not too far in the future. An authoritarian ruler who could be found representative of a number of real world leaders, mayor Kobayashi, banishes all dogs to Trash Island on the ground that they are infected with dog flu. Even when handed various forms of scientific evidence that a cure has been found, mayor Kobayashi insists all dogs be exiled. This drives Kobayashi’s orphaned nephew, Atari, to fly to Trash Island to find his exiled best friend, Spots. He instead finds a rag tag crew of dogs voiced by some Anderson film alumni—Bill Murray as Boss, Edward Norton as Rex and Jeff Goldblum as Duke. Bryan Cranston makes his Anderson universe debut voicing stray dog and resident tough guy, Chief. 

The crew traverse Trash Island searching for Spots. They run into show dog, Nutmeg, and a pair of Japanese-elder-esque dogs, Jupiter and Oracle, who offer advice and can “see the future.” Meanwhile, back in Magasaki, the lead scientist and only political opponent to Kobayashi is poisoned, a group of kids at a high school newspaper investigate and a foreign exchange student, Tracy Walker, gets suspicious. Yoko Ono also makes a highly under-talked-about cameo as a lab assistant who tearfully offers some lame advice, simply to “be safe,” to Tracy on her search. This scene, coincidentally, is the scene that allows the film to pass the Bechdel Test, but is still a little disappointing.

“Isle of Dogs” is now showing at all theaters in Fort collins

The film is full of Anderson’s typical deadpan aesthetic, in both the cinematography and the humor. And, as in many Anderson films, the cinematography is really where the film shines. From textural scrappy dog fights to glowing bottle fortresses, the visual splendor of the film is reason enough to watch it. 

The story, while sweet, has come under some scrutiny. Anderson has been accused of orientalism, cultural appropriation and othering. Though it’s also been argued that he is actually including the Asian-American population, Japanese speakers in particular, in some jokes that English speakers miss out on.

He’s also been accused of his story being “too thin.” As an avid Anderson fan, I must admit I find this issue in many of his films. I consistently cannot ignore his use of female characters. They always come off strong, but it begins and ends with the quirkiness of their character.

In “Isle of Dogs” Anderson presents two characters I really wanted to be better. Assistant scientist Yoko-ono had so much potential. She voiced by the actual Yoko Ono for gods sake. Anderson all but set her up to save the day with her research and dog flu-curing serum. Instead we see her weeping at the bar because her male boss died, and she has simply given up on saving the dogs. Tracy was almost good too…almost. She is set up as a tenacious girl out for the truth; she does her research, gets involved in activism … I almost liked her. Until she, going through her research, she pauses to say of Atari: “Dammit, I have a crush on him.” She’s also been read as a White-savior, but she definitely doesn’t save the day—a male Japanese student hacker does. I can mostly ignore this. The fact that she belittled her own interest in finding the truth because it was right by making it about a crush on a boy I cannot ignore. The female dogs in the movie aren’t much better. They is flirty show dog Nutmeg, Peppermint, who doesn’t contribute much beyond having babies, Oracle who is endlessly absorbed in the TV. The best female character in this movie is a villian, the woman who gets credit for inventing the evil robot dogs and gets sent to jail.

Should you see it? Yes.

While the film has its issues, I left the theater in a good mood. The film had a happy ending and left me wanting to FaceTime my dog back home, and wondering what her voice would sound like if Anderson animated her. And just looking at it, admiring the details of the dogs’ fur and the glassy tears that glazed the characters’ eyes, was worth my $7.

Collegian reporter Ashley Potts can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @11smashley.