Indiana Daily Student

Reel Talk: 'Isle of Dogs' is set in fantasy Japan. But it's made for white audiences.

"Isle of Dogs" came out a couple of weeks ago at select theaters, but it just came to Bloomington theaters last week. "Isle of Dogs" is a stop-motion film by director Wes Anderson, who has once again brought us into a world that is perfectly symmetrical visually, but that is unbalanced in the problems it is facing.

Megasaki City is a fantasy city in Japan where all of the dogs have been exiled because of disease. All of the dogs now live on a trash island, including the dog of young Atari, the protagonist, who flies his plane to Trash Island so he can find his dog, Spots.

Wes Anderson delivers another visually beautiful film. But does he appropriate Japanese culture to do it? Video by Kathryn Jankowski | Read the full story at

Anderson is one of the most original and talented directors in Hollywood today. He has created a movie genre with all of the specific tropes he integrates into his films. From the colorization to the symmetry of the shots, each frame is crafted with the utmost care, creating an end product that is both visually astounding and remarkably continuous. There are also a lot of split-screen edits and balanced close-up shots.

The pacing of the film had some issues because of its lengthy flashbacks. I felt like the film's narrative slowed and was confusing and uneven in some sequences of the film. 

It’s impossible to talk about "Isle of Dogs" without talking about cultural appropriation. I felt that Anderson would’ve been more thoughtful when appropriating another culture, but it felt like he was using Japanese culture to make white audiences feel more cultured. He uses the Japanese language, but it is usually covered up by an on-screen English translator. Since the audience is always experiencing the Japanese speakers' point of view through someone else, it makes their character and what they are actually saying feel a lot less important. 

Another way you can assume this movie was made for a white audience was the use of whitewashing. His choice to use popular English speaking actors for most of the main roles felt like a cop-out so the movie could be more familiar to white audiences and make more money. 

Overall, despite the film's flaws, I really enjoyed the premise, dialogue and cinematography of this film. Although he annoys me, Anderson is one of my favorite directors, and this film is a true display of his creative genius. I rate "Isle of Dogs" a 4 out of 5. "Isle of Dogs" is definitely one to see in theaters.

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