Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: John Logan
Runtime: 107 min
Release Date: 7/15/2011 (Blu-Ray)
HTS Overall Score:94
Rango is a rare example of an animated film that plays out almost exactly like a live action film - the lighting, story-telling, and tone are very much true to the live action rather than animated formula. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, Rango is an extremely entertaining watch and certainly has its share of funny moments as we all expect in animated films, but this is all tempered by a very real story that is told with a much more stark, honest tone than typical family entertainment. Depp's performance as Rango is excellent, as usual, and the ensemble supporting cast does a great job of breathing life into the film.
While Rango isn't one of my favorite films, I found the story completely engaging and didn't think for a moment that it wasn't worth watching. Those who expect anything animated or CGI driven to be funny, cute, and full of hidden humor may not be as impressed with Rango. While there's plenty of humor, much of the comedy in Rango is framed by a somber tone and difficult situations. Small children may not do well with this film, in particular because characters do die and no punches are pulled with respect to the story telling. Rango isn't especially ground breaking in terms of plot, character development or content (save the visual representation) - it's your stereotypical Italo-Western meets slapstick comedy, the actors are just ground dwelling creatures.
In sum, while Rango may not cater to all tastes and preferences it is a unique film and deviates from the warm and fuzzy storytelling mechanisms used so often in animated films today. The voice acting, visual presentation and unique style combine to create a film that at the very least merits a rental.
Rango is a sheltered chameleon living as an ordinary family pet facing a major identity crisis. After all, how high can you aim when your whole purpose in life is to blend in? When Rango accidentally winds up in the gritty, gun-slinging town of Dirt — a lawless outpost populated by the desert’s most wily and whimsical creatures — the less-than-courageous lizard suddenly finds he stands out. Welcomed as the last hope the town has been waiting for, new Sheriff Rango is forced to play his new role to the hilt… until he starts to become the hero he once only pretended to be. (Credit: Yahoo!)
Rango comes to Blu-Ray with a stunning 22Mbps AVC encode that is utterly magnificent to behold. Color, fine detail, contrast, black levels, shadow detail, lighting - you name it and this transfer has it. Whether it's Rango's pebbled skin, a rock in the desert, or a drop of water - every frame of this film has magnificent detail that is perfectly resolved and razor sharp. Colors are warm, rich and perfectly saturated, and really help the feel of the film to be authentically organic. High level detail is superb and in motion it literally looks like the amount of detail exceeds normal visual acuity - Rango's skin and the fur of some of his rodent friends in particular look shockingly realistic. Granted much of this is due to the incredible effects work and animation by ILM, but the transfer itself is without flaw. Black levels are almost infinite and shadow delineation is among the best I've seen, notably in subterranean and night scenes later in the film. No DNR, Edge Enhancement, banding, haloing, or aliasing is present at any point in the film resulting in a truly reference quality release that is well worth a watch.
The DTS-HD Master Audio mix that accompanies Rango is excellent, if not technically flawless like its video counterpart. Environmental sound effects and use of the surrounds is excellent - with a massive range of sounds incorporated into the mix almost constantly. The surrounds are used to great effect in creating a sense of spaciousness (or claustrophobia) and realism as the varying environs of the film are captured. Throughout the film dialogue is crystal clear and very easy to resolve - at no point is dialogue threatened by activity in any other channels. This isn't a textbook case of LFE showboating, but it does have plenty of deep, clean, well balanced bass content that anchors the rest of the track. Hans Zimmer's score is beautifully orchestrated and is incorporated seamlessly into the mix, creating an extremely memorable listening experience to accompany some of the finest visuals this reviewer has ever seen.
The list of Extra features accompanying Rango is solidly put together and refreshingly, in HD. While there isn't quite as much content as we've seen in other films, this is a solid list of extras that will please fans of the film.
- Theatrical and Extended versions of Rango
- Audio commentary by filmmakers Gore Verbinski, James Ward Byrkit, Mark McCreery, Hal Hickel and Tim Alexander
- Breaking the rules: Making animation history(2 segments) [HD]
The stage is Set – 28 minutes
Now we ride – 20 minutes
- The real creatures of Dirt – [HD] 22 min
- Storyboard Reel Picture-in-picture (theatrical version only) [HD]
- A field trip to Dirt [HD]
- 10 deleted scenes [HD]
- Theatrical trailer [HD]
- Bonus DVD of Rango
- Digital Copy of Rango
Rango is certain to not be every viewer's "cup of tea". Some of you will love it, some of you will hate it, and others will simply buy it for the pretty pictures. Rango is, thankfully, a refreshing and unique take on the fast growing animated film genre and features rich characters that are fully realized and well acted. Rango suffers from some minor pacing issues, particularly in the first act, but this is counterbalanced by superb visuals and some great storytelling that really comes alive in the second half of the movie. Rango is one of the best looking Blu-Ray releases in the history of the format and is a must-watch for videophiles. While I have no problem recommending the film on the basis of PQ and AQ alone, this is a movie that may not be for all tastes. Give Rango a watch and let me know what you think, I'd be happy to hear why you liked (or disliked) it.
Recommendation: Rent It!