For well over a decade, Pixar Studios, the makers of the Toy Story trilogy and Up, have not only been the industry leader in terms of how brilliant artwork in computer-animated films could be, but they've had little competition. That is until Rango came along earlier in the year. Led by director Gore Verbinski, Industrial Light & Magic's exquisite first foray into animated feature films is a stunning debut that may concern rivals but will certainly please moviegoers.
Johnny Depp voices a domesticated chameleon that finds himself in the rough and tumble town of Dirt, somewhere in the Mojave Desert, populated by desert animals. Dirt is experiencing a severe water shortage that has the townsfolk on edge. Wanting to establish himself, the chameleon creates a tough persona known as Durango. After an unintentional act of bravery, he becomes the sheriff. One of his responsibilities is to protect the remaining water everyone has secured in the bank. Naturally, that doesn't go well, but the bank robbery leads to even greater mysteries and dangers that might be too much for Durango to handle.
While animated, Rango might not be as accessible for kids as one might expect. It has more in common with older Westerns then modern-day cartoons and the story bogs down a bit in the middle. However, there is one intense, and slightly unbelievable in comparison to what happens before it, action sequence that brings to mind ILM's first film, Star Wars. That's just one of many references to past films. While Western fans will recognize a few and Depp's Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas makes a brief cameo, Dirt's water issue is the most notable as bring to mind Chinatown, especially since the Mayor (voiced by Ned Beatty) is outfitted like John Huston's Noah Cross.
The video is presented in a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at 2.35:1 and shows off ILM's marvelous work that requires a thesaurus to do it justice. The detail seen in the textures of the fur, feathers, and scales of the animals is outstanding. The same quality is seen in other objects like the weathered buildings and the sand grains blowing across the desert floor. The colors are wonderfully vibrant and the blacks are rich and inky.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 provides is very good compliment. The dynamic track delivers powerful loudness that doesn’t overwhelm the system in a wild chase sequence. Bullets whiz by and the subwoofer provides great bass oomph as animals chase after a wagon. Yet soft, minor sounds like the jingle of spurs are delivered with great clarity as well. Cars pan back and forth across channels in an opening sequence. Amidst all the effects and Hans Zimmer's soundtrack, dialogue remains a priority and is normally clear and understandable.