Movie Review - Rango

Rango is the first animated feature to be produced by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), the effects house responsible for some of the most innovative special effects of the past twenty years. Industrial light and Magic have pioneered much of the effects technology which is now standard in modern cinema. Directed by Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) the film features the voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Ray Winstone, Alfred Molina, Harry Dean Stanton and many more.

The film follows a young chameleon named Rango (Johnny Depp) who, through a series of events, is forced to find out who he really is and what role he is to play in the larger world around him. We first meet Rango as he is performing his one man show within a fish tank whilst traveling with his owners. After a near fatal accident Rango is left by the side of a highway where his existential adventure begins. What follows is an enthralling action adventure film set in a wild west motif complete with gun slingers, dingy saloons, chase sequences and one of the best mariachi bands every assembled.
Over the past decade Pixar studios (which funnily enough grew out of ILM) have had a successful formula revolving around beautiful visuals, character development and a genuine sense of fun. This is exactly what Rango has. The visual effects are potentially the best of any animated feature ever produced by an American company. The attention to detail was breathtaking, most noticeably the scene in which Rango enters a saloon in the town of Dirt. The character design is reminiscent to that of the Disney classic Robin Hood in which the characters are all different animals albeit with far more detail and grit. The film makers also played on the chameleons ability to adapt to his surroundings, however instead of just changing his colour (which is shown briefly) Rango is able to morph his personality to adapt to the situation.

The film is wonderfully directed by Gore Verbinski as it had perfect pacing and a sense of self awareness. The cinematography and lighting enriched the film as it paid homage to many great westerns, this may be largely thanks to the contribution from legendary director of photography Roger Deakins who has been a long time collaborator with such film makers as the Coen Brothers, Sam Mendes and many more. The voice actors were cast to perfection, Johnny Depp was at his manic best as Rango, bringing the characters bulging confidence to the fore as well as his shattering insecurities. Depp was supported very well by a cast of traditional character performers who flourished with the witty dialogue. This was a huge relief in the sense that actors were cast for what they could bring to their character, not what name they would bring to the promotion of the film. The film is blessed with a rousing score by the master craftsman Hans Zimmer.

Rango has achieved something that is lacking in many modern films, it has the ability to make us care about the characters on screen. It provides us with a fully realised world and it let's us explore it. It seems strange that animated films are able to generate such an emotional response from audiences considering they have the greatest hurdle, in that we know what we are watching is not real. However because the film adheres to basic story telling and film making principles we are able to engage with it and experience the adventure.

Rango is a brilliant film and yet another example of why the gap between traditional film making and animation is closing. Pixar's long reign at the top of animation is starting to look a little shaky. A truly amazing cinematic experience which I feel will feature prominently on many 'must see' lists in 2011.

Rango is in cinemas nationally from March 10.


  1. Great stuff Stu!

    I really loved Rango. Everything including the acting, animation, direction and sound was pitch perfect.

    Pixar and Dreamworks should be quivering in their boots... there's a new kid in town and he's a dream boat.

  2. great review! agree that animation was stunning and soundtrack as u would expect from hans really sets the atmosphere..i do however feel coraline was better for animation and mr fantastic fox was a more accomplished film..really enjoyed it though!


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