Here's a movie that embraces its ability to be animated and fictional. My opinion on 'Rango' still stands from when I first watched it: It's ridiculous, sometimes even stupid, unnecessarily gritty, unavoidably strange - and for some movies, that would equal disaster. But here, that combination gave it its creative spirit. 'Rango' sacrifices comedic appeal and a bit of charm for an explosion of pure genius.
The first element that caught my attention about 'Rango' was this lean towards surrealism. Unsettling and dreamlike imagery is used early in the film to set up the weirdness to follow. Then there's the quirky personality ensemble of characters whose dialogue suits them perfectly. Then we get the unapologetic amount of cartoon action over pulse-pounding music. And finally, as the dark undertone of the film progresses, we get the clever return of certain story elements, which sealed the movie with an accomplished fate.
I think it was a brilliant idea to have the well-versed visual effects studio, Industrial Light & Magic, animate this movie. The landscape scenes are breathtaking, and even the characters who are written to be grotesque and unsightly look as beautiful as they possibly can.
My biggest problem with the film is really the pointless extended DVD ending, which is different from the original and perfectly okay theatrical ending. Based on how maturely this movie took itself, the theatrical ending is better.
I know a lot of people hate this movie. There's also been comparisons to classic western films, which I'm not a fan of. Maybe if I knew more about the old films before I watched this, I wouldn't find it as good. Or maybe, I would love it even more.
In any case, I would argue: When people compare this to old films (one criticism was, "here comes Chinatown, the animated version"), are they saying that every western is just a derivate of another, as long as they have similar elements? I don't think that's the case. A film is good or bad for what it is.
'Rango' is definitely one of my favorite movies of all time. Its mixture of eccentricity, grit, depth and absurdity isn't for everyone, but it's certainly for me.