It’s worth seeing for the dogs. And it’s probably worth seeing if you’re aware of the racist elements of the movie beforehand. One of the major problems with setting the film in Japan is that there is no real reason to set it there. Nothing is gained story-wise by the setting. Wes certainly doesn’t offer a nuanced exploration of Japanese life the way Lost In Translation does. Rather, he presents a cliched version of the Japanese as seen through Western cinematic eyes. Even though a number of Japanese people worked on the film, Wes was still in complete control, right down to fussing with the costumes on the action figures (see: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/02/the-alpha-mutts-of-wes-andersons-isle-of-dogs). What I found most offensive, though, was that all the English-speaking characters are presented as the heroes. That’s pretty darn problematic considering we’ve occupied Japan in one fashion or another since World War Two.

Eric Coyote earned his Master of Arts degree in critical theory from the University of Southern California. He writes about movies, Hollywood, and culture.

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