Impressions of Rango (nonspoilery)
I just saw Rango on Saturday with my two kids. It’s a long film, almost a full two hours. It stars Johnny Depp’s voice as Rango, the titular chameleon of the film, and several other well known talents, including Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Ned Beatty, and others. Check out the wikipage. (beware spoilers on the wikipage)
Rango is an old-fashioned Western, down to the spurs on Rango’s boots, the tortoise mayor’s soothing voice, and the dust in the air of the town of Dirt. Along with just about every Western movie cliche you can think of from High Noon on, Rango is…well, the voice acting was terrific. The animation was often just this side of unpleasant, with the realism too precise here and there, even though the creatures are obviously not human. And I found the design of the characters not particularly appealing, although excellently animated.
Getting past my unenthusiasm for the character design, let’s examine Rango for the roles. Well, it’s partly a send-up of Westerns, all the while embracing them lovingly and making references within the scenes to a variety of classics. That means gender roles are right where they’ve almost always been in the Western. You have a plucky desert iguana named Beans for Rango to become affectionate toward. You have Priscilla, a schoolgirl who warms up to the stranger in town, and there’s Angelique (voiced by Claudia Black), a foxy fox who hangs around as the Mayor of Dirt’s secretary, and several other named female townspeople, such as Bonnie, Delilah, Maybelle, Fresca, & Miss Daisy. Writing their names out like this makes me realize how many female characters there actually were. It’s not like it was a mysteriously all-male town or world (unlike more & more films these days).
But, all the power positions in the town were carried by male characters-the banker, the mayor, the doctor, as well the posse and most of the hill billies. The only one who broke out of the male characters’ trying to treat her as a girl was Beans, and of course, that was mostly because she fills the tomboy/romantic role in the film. After all, how can Rango develop feelings for her if we never see her with him? It’s unfortunate, because with all the other female characters, they’re not allowed to break out of their stereotyped roles in this Western play. Even Outland, a 1980’s SF movie based on High Noon, switched the character of the doctor to a woman.
I wouldn’t say I liked or disliked this fim, if you get right down to it. The humor was cute, the characterization was well drawn for the multitudes that inhabit this universe, and of course, there is the voice acting. It’s great for those who miss the classic Western (or who have never seen one!) and some eerily & excellently done CGI animation.
What do you think of Rango?