Isle of Dogs review

My opinion right after watching the movie

My opinion right after watching the movie is that it is very interesting, and kind of intriguing in a very weird way to me. It is not something I would rewatch many times (or at all), but I really enjoyed the….. antiquity of the film. There was such an essence with the plot, and it really is such a unique film that took so much time and detail in almost every aspect.


The directors of Fantastic Mr. Fox were inspired to do this film when they saw an Isle of Dogs sign in England, while the former film was in development. A lot of the Akira Kurosawa films, as well as the Rankin/Bass Productions films were also huge inspirations. Production officially started on the film during October of 2016, with mostly the same crew that worked on Fantastic Mr. Fox.


The film starts with narration about how the dogs were free at one point, and how a child warrior betrayed his species to, which all somehow leads to the domestication of dogs. We move to the present day, where an influenza is spreading through dogs, which caused the humans to banish all domesticated and stray dogs to another land. Someone intervened to hold off for 6 months in order for her to make a serum, but I guess nothing happens with that. A dog named Spots is the first to be exiled, and the owner Atari (Koyu Rankin) ends up searching for him 6 months later, as a bunch of dogs are already there by that point in time.

There was some sequence about how the boy got into the hospital, which was due to a car crash after making his way to his uncle Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura)’s. I think it’s the present day, where the boy is found, trapped, and tranquilized to be taken back to Earth, which the dogs stop from happening. It is being made through the news that the dogs “abducted” Atari, who will be kidnapped the remainder of his childhood.

Despite the professor Watanabe (Akira Ito) finding the cure of the dog influenza, the mayor still does not want to lift the dog ban, so he has the professor stuck in house arrest, before being killed by poison. Some foreign student named Tracy (Greta Gerwig) knows that all of this is a fear-based and fueled conspiracy to get humans to turn on dogs, and begins to investigate on it.

Apparently some of the dogs were native to the island before the dogs were exiled to the island, though thee was some that were punished by their initial owners, though no one knows if any of them actually exist. The point of all this information is that Akira’s dog must be living over there as a captive, so all of the dogs travel there next.

So Atari and Chief (Bryan Cranston) were separated by the others, and after being bathed by Atari, they both realize that his coating is white. Atari starts to see more and more similarities between Spots and Chief, which will ultimately be important.

They are reunited with all of the other dogs, and soon find the cannibal tribe. Of course something is going to go wrong, when they are ambushed by men of Kobayashi. We are finally introduced to Spots, as he learns more and more about this cannibal tribe (which is not as cannibal-like as believed and speculated). Kobayashi plans for the re-election, and decides to exterminate a wipe-out of all the dogs on Trash Island with poison, and from what I interpret, he is using the “death” of his nephew as a tool to get it done.

Tracy ends up getting the serum, confronts the mayor at the re-election, with Akira and all of the dogs returning at the perfect time. They show that the serum works, and the mayor withdraws from the election, only to click the “exterminate” button, and a fight to break out. Akira and Spots are injured, the major donates organs to his nephew (who then becomes mayor), the dogs are integrated once again to society, and despite being presumed dead, Spots is raising his family in the underground.

I honestly was not expecting much when I started watching this movie, so it was a pleasant surprise. I was so captivated watching the animation, and it really is a unique film. A part of me wishes that they did a bit better with the character development, but the film is still really solid. Ultimately, it is a bit too heavy at times, and I know other reviews explained it a lot better. I do see some cases for cultural appreciation, but I didn’t think about it too much, since I have seen a lot worse in more popular films.


What I will say is that our main two characters (in Atari and Chief) are relatively strong and likable forces in the film, and the villain Kobayashi is strong as a more symbolic representation of corrupt leaders in our actual world. At the same time, there are a bunch of other dogs or whatever who are not memorable to me whatsoever, so they kind of suffer.


The animation in the movie is some of the most stunning I have ever seen in a movie. I mean, it is so bewildering with the amount of detail put into all of the elements regarding the animation, and even the motion is so great. I like the designs of the humans and the dogs too. It is so easy for me to just go on and on about how exhilarating the animation in this film is.


I don’t really recall much about the music of the film, but it seemed fine enough. There was obviously a very serious tone to fit with the movie, and it did seem like a lot more subdued, so while effective, it’s not very memorable or noteworthy.

Reception at Release

When the film was released on February 15th, 2018, it has (as of July 13th) grossed $31.9 million domestically, and $31.8 million elsewhere, adding up to a total of $63.7 million worldwide.

From what I researched, it has generally received critical acclaim, with people praising the detail regarding the story and stop-motion animation, as well as finding the low-key humour effective. There has been some criticism, with some people claiming that the film is one of the most blatant examples of cultural appropriation, and the offensive “white saviour” as a plotline.


Story: 8/10

Characters: 7/10

Animation: 10/10

Music: 7/10

32/40 = 80%


2 thoughts on “Isle of Dogs review

  1. The story sounds nice, but the dogs’ animation is creepy and upsetting to me. Maybe I’ll warm up to them some day.

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