Friday, 30 September 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Rango

Directed by: Gore Verbinski

Produced by: Gore Verbinski
Graham King
John B. Carls

Screenplay by: John Logan

Story by: Gore Verbinski
John Logan
James Ward Byrkit

Starring: Johnny Depp
Isla Fisher
Abigail Breslin
Alfred Molina
Bill Nighy
Harry Dean Stanton
Ray Winstone
Timothy Olyphant
Ned Beatty

Music by: Hans Zimmer

Editing by: Craig Wood

Studio(s): Nickelodeon Movies
Blind Wink
GK Films

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date(s): February 14, 2011 (United States Premiere)
March 4, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 107 minutes
111 minutes (extended version)

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $135 million

Box office revenue: $242, 605, 737

Well, as you can see, once again I have been fucking around with the various Blogger templates in my undoubtedly pointless attempts to master web design. I did a GCSE in I.C.T., but for some reason over the past few years my friends have described me as a bit of a luddite for my lack of patience for all things technology. Case in point, one of my good friends (and one of my few subscribers!) gave me free downloads for Grand Theft Auto 4 and Fallout 3. Four months later, they are still sitting there until he installs them himself because I get cross at long installation periods. This is perhaps a luddite's way of looking at things, but I think that one of the great 'contributions' of computers and video games is a severe decrease in the average human being's temperament.

Well, after blogging about this for about a month, I have finally got down to watching Rango. I did miss this one because, even though I didn't see the Pirates Of The Caribbean films, years of being spoon-fed criticism by Mark Kermode gave me a rather cynical perspective on any film involving Gore Verbinski, even if it did feature Johnny Depp. However, my good friend and fellow film critic Daniel Kelly got me this for my birthday, recommending as one of the best of the year, so I figured I would get a good review out of it. Also, from the wise words of this man, it sounded like the kind of movie I would salivate over. Pet chameleon Rango (Johnny Depp), who were are introduced to as essentially a delusional loon from years of living inside his terrarium, ends up stranded in the Mojave Desert after falling out the back of his owner's car, and ends up the proverbial fish out of water when he arrives in Dirt, an Old West town populated by an assortment of animals.

Rango is an interesting case of a mainstream animation that exists outside of those studios that dominate the animated film market, such as DreamWorks, Disney/Pixar and Studio Ghibli. As such, this film, produced by Nickelodeon Films, despite being a computer-animated film, has a very distinct visual style and art direction. While having a lower budget than films such as Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2, films which also look the part, I would say that stylistically I would rather look at stills from Rango than these films. It is a stunning looking film, with wonderfully imagined characters, each of whom are designed with the utmost of detail. Furthermore, unlike a lot of animated films, Rango has the cinematic look of a non-animated film. Roger Deakins was a visual consultant for the film, and this, along with Tonino Delli Colli's work on Sergio Leone's film are some obvious influences. The film is full of really iconic shots. Craig Wood's editing is part of the reason for this, making some wonderful adjustments in focus, filling in the gaps of animation's limitations. Also highly praiseworthy is the film's vocal cast. Johnny Depp is really amazing as Rango. The way in which he constructs this character, who is in his own way a man with no name, with all his neuroses and insecurities, is a marvel. The animation lends itself well to the character, but without Depp this character would have been less endearing and come across as annoying. In many ways, this is one of Depp's best performances of his career. All round, the cast is terrific, but I would specifically like to flag up Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty (in another great turn after Toy Story 3), Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy and Timothy Olyphant. Another praiseworthy part of this film is the score by Hans Zimmer. One of my favourite composers, I was pleasantly surprised to discover as the credits rolled that he had a major part in what made this such an enjoyable film. Ennio Morricone is put through the blender by Zimmer and in turn we are given a wholly unique sound palette. With the creation of a four-bird mariachi troop as minor characters, similar to the mice in Babe, Zimmer is given the opportunity to put his own unique stamp on the spaghetti western, a genre which the film clearly pays tribute to, but also fits in nicely to the genre itself. Rango has made me think differently of Gore Verbinski, a man who I previously thought of as a minor director on the map of the film world. To deliver a work that touches as many different bases as it does is no easy feat, and I feel that for the most part Rango achieves this.

Now, while I think that Rango is a great movie, there are the odd problems that emerge from the script. I feel that this is a pretty good script which John Logan should be proud of, it is anarchic and wildly funny, so it is a shame whenever I ended up encountering the problems that it did. Despite it's inventiveness, the movie is incredibly predictable. Structurally, the film goes all the places that you expect it to go and by about half-way through the film, nothing surprised me anymore. It was simply a case of "well, I knew that was going to happen." For a movie of such originality, this predictability flays layers off of it's skin, and disappoints me whenever I know fine rightly that this could have been a masterpiece, as I was really into the film's sense of humour and genuinely felt for the really three-dimensional character of Rango.

The predictability of the film's script does really detract from it, but not enough to say that I didn't enjoy it. Rango was easily one of the most enjoyable film's I had the pleasure of watching this year. While I liked the animation in Cars 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2, stylistically and aesthetically (maybe it's because I'm a spaghetti western freak, I'm trying to be unbiased!) Rango looks far better, due in part to Craig Wood's editing. I may have criticised John Logan for his script's predictability, but I would like to thank him for all the laughs that this film gave me and for the character of Rango. Speaking of Rango, this is one of Johnny Depp's best performances ever, animated or not. Also, Hans Zimmer's score adds a nice layer that ensures the film exists as both a tribute and part of the spaghetti western genre. Finally, I tip my hat to Gore Verbinski, for going out there and making the most bizarre, far-out and bonkers mainstream film possible. Trust me, it's up there in Black Swan territory. This is the spaghetti western on acid and is a really great movie I couldn't recommend more.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Rather pleased (by Rango)

P.S. Although it is the end of September and will be October by the time I post them, my upcoming reviews for Blitz, Killer Elite and Friends With Benefits will be posted as movies from September and will be followed by my movie of the month for September

P.P.S. This film contains what I would say is the best action sequence in a film this year. Also, although I'm not sure if they will, I really hope that kids dig this film, as it has a very different sense of humour than the standard that you expect from an animated comedy

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