The Films of 2011 – #4 Rango
Let’s be honest, 2011 hasn’t been the best year for animated cinema. Normally it’s Pixar that will save the day, but their money-spinning decision to make a sequel to Cars resulted in a good looking but ultimately garish and confusing mess. Kung Fu Panda 2 was pretty entertaining & looked great, but again suffered somewhat from sequelitis. Mars Needs Moms was declared one of the biggest flops of all time, and trust me, you don’t want to get me started on Tekken: Blood Vengeance 3D.
At the beginning of the year, it seemed like there was a lot about Rango that just shouldn’t work: Jonny Depp for one had burnt up the bulk of goodwill towards him between slurring pirates and maddened hatters; Gore Verbinski had never directed an animation before, and similarly, CGI studio Industrial Light and Magic were breaking new ground with Rango being their first fully animated movie. No, Revenge of the Sith doesn’t count, you wags.
So, with expectations suitably lowered, it was indeed an extremely pleasant surprise to discover what an absolute delight Rango really is. Depp’s nameless chameleon finds himself ripped from his comfort zone and stumbles upon a water-starved animal community in the Mojave desert. Assuming the nom de plume of Rango, the Hunter S. Thompson-styled boho realises that he really can use his abilities to blend in and reinvents himself as a murderous, dangerous gunslinger… One it just so happens the town are deeply in need of.
Let’s get it out of the way – Jonny Depp’s voice work here is absolutely brilliant, easily the best “acting” he’s delivered in quite some time: Rango’s character demands a quick-talking, smart mouthed vagabond who also has moments of quiet introspection and self doubt, and Depp delivers in spades. A stellar supporting cast all avail themselves well, most notably Isla Fisher as potential love interest Beans.
Also, the animation is deliciously detailed. Perhaps it’s because ILM does have a history of live action cgi, characters and environments have an uncanny realism to them, (albeit within the magical context of a town of talking animals of course).. Every lizard’s scale, bird’s feather, and bat’s wing is lovingly rendered with pixel-sharp lifelike resolution and convincing use of light & shadow. Perhaps the fact that this film was produced in 2D and not 3D would explain why this is (ie: unlike other films, one didn’t watch this wearing sunglasses indoors). The action sequences are bursting with inventive flair, an Apocalypse Now-inspired dogfight being a particular high point.
One can’t help but feel that Depp & Verbinski were desperately in need of a change after three Pirates movies together, and this was just the tonic for them. Exciting, witty & silly, Rango is to me unquestionably the finest family animation of the year…and I haven’t even mentioned the Greek chorus of mariachi narrators! It could well be the one to knock Pixar off the throne, come Oscar Season.
watch the trailer here:
Please come back at the same time tomorrow to see my pick for Film #3 of 2011. Treat yourself to a drink in the meantime.
The Clockwork Shorts 2011 retrospective can be browsed for your pleasure right HERE