Rango has been talked a lot about for its film homages but what many people fail to realize is that this film is great on its own merits. This film is beuatiful to look at (it's a must see in theaters), has loads of quirkiness, and (most importantly) everyone in the cast and crew bring their A game.
Rango follows a chameleon (Johnny Depp), who eventually goes by the name of Rango, as he becomes stranded in the desert. Rango walks in on a town called Dirt where the citizens appear to be in poor condition. What follows could easily be described as a kids version of Chinatown set in a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. Yes, it is a very weird combination of genres and story lines, but it works completely.
The film is directed by Gore Verbinski who directed a very underrated trilogy in Pirates of the Caribbean. Sure the third film was absolutely ridiculous, but the second film was a lot better than most make it out to be. Verbinski continues his rise to the upper echelon of Hollywood directors with this film. He makes this animated film seem like a live-action one (most of that probably has to do with the decision of his to have the actors actually act out all of the scenes instead of just adding their voices). Verbinski also perfectly handles the homages (which could have easily caused the film to fall into cheesiness) and his visual style is front and center, perfectly befitting the film. The film is written by Gladiator scribe John Logan and James Byrkit. Gore Verbisnki even goes beyond the director's chair and helps a bit with the script as well. The script is very good, but not quite perfect, as it effectively balances the quirkiness, action, romance, comedy and film homages into a coherent story line. My only complaint is that the film is well aware of its quirkiness and takes it too far on a few occasions.
The film features a dynamite cast of voice actors led by the always wonderful Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp, who has on numerous occasions been described as a chameleon actor, is perfectly cast as the voice of Rango a chameleon and the film's hero. Depp makes Rango seem like a character out of place with numerous layers to him. Some of the other highlights are Ned Beatty as a tortoise that pays homage to Chinatown, Alfred Molina as a sage like armadillo and Isla Fisher in a surprisingly subdued role as an iguana. Most impressive, however, is Timothy Olyphant in a very surprising cameo. Let's just say he nails a very complicated performance.
The behind the camera aspects of the film are astounding. The sound components in the film are phenomenal. The sound designers and mixers would be very deserving of any awards they may receive in the following year. The film is crisply edited as it fits a lot of storyline into a short running time (and it definitely feels short). Hans Zimmer score is a great combination of his own bombastic style and Morricone-like elements. However, most impressive is the cinematography. Some reports are saying that Roger Deakins offered his talents to the film (which must be true because only a master of his craft could pull off what he did here). Rango features a range of breath taking images, innovative shots (especially one of a fish tank breaking), and recreations of iconic scenes and pulls them all off with perfection.
Rango is a film for all ages. Children, teenagers, adults and seniors will all love the colorful imagery, great characters, well placed homages and quirky storytelling that is on display with this film.
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