“Who am I? I’m nobody.”
An unmistakably singular and worthy divergence from the bloated animation market, Rango is an unmatched film in the realm of Western animation, particularly by virtue of its out-and-out idiosyncrasy.
Reusing and revitalising the overt stylings of the spaghetti western in sharp and self-reflexive lampooning yet earnest interest, Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy director Gore Verbinski’s first (and so far only) foray into animation sees his surrealistic vision vividly and loving rendered to its greatest detail thus far. Virtually hyper-photorealistic in every frame, the film is impressive and gorgeous to behold whether in the lighting or gamut of colour, showing little signs of ageing even many years on in part owed to cinematographer Roger Deakins’ in his third visual consultation for an animated film. Rather than the flawlessness sought in films of its ilk, Rango’s peculiar approach to aesthetics and character design favours that of the askewed, the strange and the ugly in a way that oozes personality, helping produce its eccentricity and unusual identity in a seamlessly balanced hybridity of comedy, adventure, and action. Within this, however, Verbinski does not lose sight of the darker and deeper questions of capitalism, identity and heroism or the clever metaphors that frame the narrative, as backed by Hans Zimmer and Geoff Zanelli’s stand-out soundtrack which wonderfully compliments the sound design and Western-style. This is barely even to mention its stacked cast, with Johnny Depp’s central performance as the eponymous lizard easily ranking among some of his best work alongside the superb voices of Isla Fisher, Alfred Molina, Ned Beatty, Bill Nighy, and even a surprise role from Timothy Olyphant; organically brought to life by the unconventional practice of having its actors read and act out their lines in the same room, similar to the naturalistic performance employed in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox.
In skirting the contemporary tendency of basing the impact of its characterisations and humour on pop culture, Rango takes the formula of a prototypical animated film to create something truly exhilarating and refreshing. Many years on, then, and for many more years to come, Rango is an absolute must-see masterpiece and especially exemplary of the animation art form.
Check out the trailer for Rango below: