Rango’s narrative, an offensively simple story of a town seeking any meager droplets of water, doesn’t really matter. In fact, the plot is just a device to allow the continuing barrage of unpredictable, clever, and beautiful visuals. Coming from the talented hands of ILM, Rango is comprised of a lively mixture of creatures, their homes crafted from mailboxes, bottles, and whatever else is lying around.
More importantly, it doesn’t hold itself to any ideals, freeing itself from the those constraints for trippy alternate realities, talking roadkill, and a wind-up fish that has something to do with, well, something. It’s a bold, refreshing piece of animation, even mistakenly aimed at children who will never once grasp the plethora of references to the great westerns. This is a film that loves the genre, the tension and the gunfights. It adores stagecoaches, unwelcome bars, and corrupt land owners.
Many may even find Rango too meticulous, sluggish with a somber edge as Rango’s (Johnny Depp) true identity is forced out onto the town of Dirt’s populace. He’s an inadvertent acting sheriff, freed from his aquarium home, seeking his own enlightenment. It’s how he chooses to find it that lands him in a hot spot.
Depp’s rapid fire, aggressive, and clever dialogue is written with plenty of wit, carried by wide vocabulary to cause the awe of local denizens. He’s sure of himself yet the script never loses the sense he’s sort of an oddball, lost in his own head, even more so than many of the kooky side characters.
Rango just ups and lets itself breathe, giving space to develop ideas and take in the virtually created scenery. The camera works the fictional sunsets for all their worth, and the mountainous deserts a glorious backdrop. Rango loves to free roam and the audience should love to watch it do so. It’s too stunning not to. Flirtations with a narrative almost feel abrupt, character interactions and quirkiness absorbing even without a purpose, a sure sign this expensive, textured spin on the west is doing everything right.
Flawless victory. Rango wins. This AVC encode is nothing if not extraordinary, the movie itself offering more than enough material to get by on. The Blu-ray simply takes the chance and runs with it. Texture is striking, the plethora of creatures and life marvelously offering scales, fur, clothes, whiskers, skin, and leaves. Nothing is left unnoticed, the town of Dirt lavishly decorated with everyday objects, although ones that are rusting and breaking down. Nothing looks clean or pure, adding near infinite possibilities to induce shock & awe.
There is one scene where the encode seems to intrude on the crystalline imagery, a nighttime desert chat with Rango and Beans (Isla Fisher) about halfway through. Compression and some noise become visible in the backdrop, a brief twinkle in the scheme of things that is as minor as it sounds.
Besides, the black levels are ferocious, digging deep to produce the richest, firmest depth for your viewing pleasure. Contrast spikes can and will run hot when they want to, either representing the blistering heat of the desert or another plane of existence Rango has somehow found himself entangled with. Whatever the case, the whites are astonishingly pure, brilliant and bold.
Rango never reaches for an overly colorful, heavily saturated brilliance. It doesn’t need it for the tone, and it doesn’t need it to make this Blu-ray a resounding visual success. If anything, the subdued primaries and earthy browns make for a pleasant change of pace in modern animation. Our lead’s scaly skin remains a pleasing green, and the sunsets add a warmth to the imagery that is totally convincing.
Following up on Pirates of the Caribbean, director Gore Verbinski once again lends his name to a sonically forceful bit of audio design. Rango offers everything and then some those pirate flicks did, including chase sequences as lively as anything else on the format. Hijacking a carriage, Rango and crew are chased down by the villains taking aerial positions on bats. Mini-guns go to work and the constant zipping across the field of vision is replicated with absolute precision. The sub joins in from warthog hooves pounding the pavement, a complete experience and potentially reference equipment showcase.
The DTS-HD track never has time to let up, even more so when Rattlesnake Jake pops into the piece. His rattling tail slithers through the soundfield, his presence easy to pick up on. The sound is unmistakable and naturally balanced. Water becomes a dominating force near the end of the third act, bursting from the underground with heavy, weighty explosions, then splashing down in the widely split stereos and equally positioned rears. Precise, clean, and meticulous in its detail.
Director/writer/actor/producer Gore Verbinski joins a crowded commentary with story writer James Ward Byrkit, production designer Mark McCreery, animation director Hal Hickel, and visual effects supervisor Tim Ales. This is only available on the extended cut which offers roughly four more minutes of fun. Oddly, a picture-in-picture storyboard run down is only contained on the theatrical edition. Were there not enough storyboards or something to fill a couple of minutes?
Breaking the Rules is a two-part, nearly 50-minute making-of, a fantastic look at the film, it’s ideas, and conceptual phase. Ten deleted scenes run eight and half minutes, those followed by a fun journey into the desert to look at the real animals the ones in the film were based on. A Field Trip to Dirt is an interactive map of sorts detailing citizens and locations. The usual round-up of trailers are left if you’re so inclined.