Rango (2011 film)

Rango is a 2011 American computer-animated Western comedy film directed by Gore Verbinski from a screenplay by John Logan. Co-produced by Verbinski with Graham King and John B. Carls, the film stars the voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Bill Nighy, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Timothy Olyphant, Stephen Root, and Ned Beatty. The film's plot centers on Rango, a chameleon who accidentally ends up in the town of Dirt, an outpost that is in desperate need of a new sheriff. Rango was produced by Nickelodeon Movies, Verbinski's Blind Wink Productions, King's GK Films and Industrial Light & Magic.[3]

Rango premiered at Westwood on February 14, 2011, and was released in the United States on March 4, 2011 by Paramount Pictures. The film was both a major critical and commercial success, grossing $245.7 million against a budget of $135 million. At the 84th Academy Awards, the film won Best Animated Feature, making it the first non-Disney or Pixar film to win since 2006's Happy Feet, and the last one to win until 2018's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.[4]

An anthropomorphic pet chameleon becomes stranded in the Mojave Desert in California after his terrarium falls from his owners' car due to an accident. On the road, he meets the cause of the accident, a nine-banded armadillo named Roadkill who is seeking the mystical "Spirit of the West" by trying to get to "the other side" (metaphor for the afterlife). After almost being killed by passing cars while trying to help Roadkill, he survives and ends up near Roadkill again. After telling him that he is looking for water, Roadkill tells him of a western town called "Dirt", an Old West town that possibly has water, but unfortunately, it is far out into the desert. Seeing no other options, he walks out into the desert. While wandering the desert, he narrowly avoids being eaten by a vicious red-tailed hawk before meeting Beans, a desert iguana, who takes him to Dirt, which is populated by other anthropomorphic animals, where it is said that water comes in through a mysterious rite on Wednesdays.

Asked about his identity, the chameleon presents himself to the townsfolk as a tough drifter named Rango, lying about killing a feared gang, the Jenkins Brothers, using only one bullet. He quickly runs afoul of Gila monster outlaw Bad Bill but avoids a shootout when Bill is scared off by the hawk's return. Rango is chased by the hawk and is almost killed while trying to use some evasive maneuvers, which the townspeople believe that he is chasing the hawk while they hide out in the saloon. He runs until he reaches an empty water tower, but the hawk grabs the piece of licorice that Rango had attached to him. He accidentally knocks down the water tower while trying to shoot off the piece of licorice, but the bullet goes through it and ricochets towards the tower, which crushes the hawk to death. For defeating it, the town's mayor, an elderly desert tortoise, appoints Rango as the town's new sheriff. Meanwhile, the townsfolk worry that with the hawk dead, the gunslinger Rattlesnake Jake, who fears the hawk, will return.

After discovering that Dirt is in the midst of a drought and its only water supply, which is stored in the town bank inside a water cooler bottle, to be near empty, a skeptical Beans demands that Rango investigates where the water has gone. That night, Rango inadvertently assists a trio of bank robbers, led by a mole named Balthazar, mistaking them for prospectors. The townsfolk find the bank's bottle stolen the next morning, so Rango organizes a posse. During the search, they find the banker, Mr. Merrimack, to be dead in the middle of the desert, but oddly enough, the cause of his death was from drowning. The posse tracks the robbers to their hideout in a canyon, where they fight Balthazar's bat-riding clan over the stolen water bottle before discovering it to be empty. The robbers profess that they found it empty, but the posse still takes them into custody.

Rango questions the mayor about his buying of the land around Dirt, but the mayor denies any wrongdoing and shows Rango that he is building a modern city with the purchased land. The mayor then summons Rattlesnake Jake, who runs Rango out of town after forcing him to admit that he lied to the townsfolk. Rango returns to the road where he fell from out of the car, crosses to the other side amidst the heavy traffic, and passes out, taken away by a multitude of pill bugs. Waking up the next morning, Rango meets the Spirit of the West, appearing as an elderly Man with No Name. After telling him what he did to the citizens of Dirt, the spirit tells Rango that he must go back and set things right, telling him that "No man can walk out on his own story".

With the aid of Roadkill and mystical moving yuccas, Rango discovers an emergency shut-off valve in a water pipeline to Las Vegas, which the mayor has been manipulating to cause the water shortage so he could buy the land for himself. Rango returns to Dirt to challenge Jake to a duel, a diversion so the yuccas can turn the pipeline's valve to bring the water back to town. Rango then holds Jake at gunpoint and makes his resolve clear. The mayor, however, forces Rango to surrender by threatening Beans' life and locks them inside the bank's vault to be drowned. He then tries to shoot Jake with Rango's gun, intending to kill him along with the rest of the Old West, but Rango has taken the gun's only bullet, which he uses to shatter the vault's glass door, freeing himself and Beans. Impressed, Jake salutes Rango for his heroic deed and drags the mayor with him out of town and kills the mayor for double-crossing him. The citizens of Dirt soon celebrate the return of the water and recognize Rango as their true hero.

Jonny Logan, cowriter, described Rango as a madcap endeavor, one they wanted to keep independent, initially.[12] During production, the actors and actresses received costumes and sets in order to "give them the feel of the Wild West"; star Johnny Depp had 20 days in which to voice Rango; and the filmmakers scheduled the supporting actors to interact with him.[13] Verbinski said his attempt with Rango was to do a "small" film after the first three large-scale Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but that he underestimated how painstaking and time-consuming animated filmmaking is.[3][13] Also expensive. Paramount stepped in at the last possible minute as Verbinski's slim financing was about to run out.[12]

Unlike many studio animation projects produced since Avatar, Rango was shot in 2D, not 3D, as the budget wouldn't allow for it and Verbinski didn't want to do a "half-assed 3D."[12]

The film contains a number of references to movie Westerns and other films, including The Shakiest Gun in the West, A Fistful of Dollars, Chinatown, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, Cat Ballou, Raising Arizona and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas;[14] as well as references to earlier ILM work including the dogfight in the Death Star trench in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.[15] Verbinski has also cited El Topo as an influence on the film.[16]

In a discussion about the nature of contemporary animated features, Verbinski said in December 2011,

There are shackles with the budgets and the profit margins. You want to compete with what they're doing at Pixar and DreamWorks. There's a price tag with that just in terms of achieving that quality level. What happened to the Ralph Bakshis of the world? We're all sitting here talking about family entertainment. Does animation have to be family entertainment? I think at that cost, yes. There's the bull's-eye you have to hit, but when you miss it by a little bit and you do something interesting, the bull's-eye is going to move. Audiences want something new; they just can't articulate what.[17]

Rango's teaser trailer was released on June 9, 2010,[18] alongside the film's official site RangoMovie.com.[19] It depicted an open desert highway and Mr. Timms, Rango’s orange, wind-up plastic fish floating slowly across the road.[20] On June 28, 2010, the first poster was released showing the main character Rango.[5] A two-minute film trailer was released June 29, 2010.[21][22] Another trailer was released December 14, 2010.[23] A 30-second spot was made specifically to run during Super Bowl XLV on February 6, 2011.[24]

The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 15, 2011.[25][26] The release had been produced as a two-disc Blu-ray, DVD, and "Digital Copy" combo pack with both the theatrical and an extended version of the film, cast and crew commentary, deleted scenes, and featurettes.[27][28][29]

The extended version adds a final scene in which the flooded town is now a beach resort renamed Mud and Rango rides out to deal with news that Bad Bill is causing trouble elsewhere.

Rango earned $123,477,607 in North America and $122,246,996 in other countries for a total $245,724,603.[1] It is the 23rd-highest-grossing film of 2011 worldwide.[30]

In North America, Rango debuted in 3,917 theaters, grossing $9,608,091 on its first day and $38,079,323 during its opening weekend, ranking number one at the box office.[1] On March 26, 2011, it became the first film of 2011 to cross the $100 million mark in North America.[31]

In markets outside North America, during its first weekend, it earned $16,770,243 in 33 countries.[32] It topped the international box office two times in March 2011.[33][34] Although the film did not double its budget, it was declared a success by Paramount which subsequently announced the formation of its own animation department.[35]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an 88% approval rating based on 222 reviews, with an average rating of 7.60/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Rango is a smart, giddily creative burst of beautifully animated entertainment, and Johnny Depp gives a colorful vocal performance as a household pet in an unfamiliar world."[36] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100 based on reviews from 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[37] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.[38][39]

Richard Corliss of Time applauded the "savvy humor" and called the voice actors "flat-out flawless."[40] He later named it one of the 10 best movies of 2011, saying, "In a strong year for animation ... Rango was the coolest, funniest and dagnab-orneriest of the bunch."[41] Bob Mondello of National Public Radio observed that "Rango's not just a kiddie-flick (though it has enough silly slapstick to qualify as a pretty good one). It's a real movie lover's movie, conceived as a Blazing Saddles-like comic commentary on genre that's as back-lot savvy as it is light in the saddle."[6] Frank Lovece of Film Journal International, noting the nervous but improvising hero's resemblance to the Don Knotts character in The Shakiest Gun in the West, echoed this, saying that "with healthy doses of Carlos Castaneda, Sergio Leone, Chuck Jones and Chinatown ... this [is] the kid-movie equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino picture. There's no gory violence or swearing, of course, but there sure is a film buff's parade of great movie moments."[42] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars calling the film "some kind of a miracle: An animated comedy for smart moviegoers, wonderfully made, great to look at, wickedly satirical ... The movie respects the tradition of painstakingly drawn animated classics, and does interesting things with space and perspective with its wild action sequences."[43]

After praising "the brilliance of its visuals," Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal wrote, "The narrative isn't really dramatic, ... [but] more like a succession of picturesque notions that might have flowed from DreamWorks or Pixar while their story departments were out to lunch."[44]

In one of the more negative reviews, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune acknowledged its "considerable care and craft" but called it "completely soulless" and that watching it "with a big suburban preview audience was instructive. Not much laughter. Moans and sobs of pre-teen fright whenever Rattlesnake Jake slithered into view, threatening murder."[45]

The Sacramento, California-based anti-smoking organization Breathe California regards the film a "public health hazard"; it said there were at least 60 instances of smoking in the film.[46] Because of this, some anti-smoking organizations, including Breathe California, petitioned for the film to receive an R rating instead of the original PG rating received by the Motion Picture Association of America. However, no change was made to the smoking scenes and the film maintained its PG rating.[47]

Electronic Arts released a video game of the same name based on the film. It is rated E10+ and was released for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and Wii.[51]

Funtactix launched Rango: The World, a browser-based virtual world set in the Rango universe, on March 4, 2011, the day of the film's release.[52][53]

The score was composed by Hans Zimmer and features contributions from songwriter and actor Rick Garcia, Latin rock band Los Lobos, and hardcore punk/industrial band Lard.

Non-original music includes “Finale”, composed by Danny Elfman for the 2007 film The Kingdom, as well as excerpts of Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” and Johann Strauss II’s The Blue Danube.

During a Reddit AMA with Verbinski in February 2017, he said that he did not plan on making a sequel to Rango, but he would like to be involved in animation again and to try and come up with an original idea.[56]