Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Rango (2011) - One of the most piognant comments on this recesion to come out of Hollywood to date

Viewing Context:

Me and Corey went down to the cinema on a Saturday morning.

Directed by Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski. I always forget how much I loved the first Pirates films because of how pointless and bland the second two were. It was written by John Logan, a heavyweight screenwriter with credits such as Aviator, Gladiator and Scorsese’s upcoming Hugo Cabret. Obviously a man who knows his cinema, as the film was packed full of various film references.

What happened:
Johnny Depp's lizard is a little stir crazy, casting himself as the star of his own theatrical productions, performing with various inanimate objects one would find in a lonely pet lizard's tank. During this process, the film opens by acknowledging/mocking the notion of a story and of the archetypal hero, self reflexively declaring that 'the hero requires conflict'. Well, cue the conflict, as his tank is suddenly flung out of the car it is revealed to be travelling in; flung onto a freeway in the middle of the desert. After an encounter with a philosophical armadillo, Rango finds himself on a journey of self discovery, via the draught (recession - see below) problems of a town called Dirt. This isolated town is home to a great variety of animals from toads and rattle snakes to hawks, owls and turtles, all fitting neatly into archetypal roles from a Hollywood Western.

What I liked:
Beautiful: The film is visually breathtaking; it manages to be beautiful and colourful, while perfectly capturing the dry and baron state that the draught brings about. The detail put into the dust and the blaring sun makes you dehydrated just watching it. It helps that Roger Deakins, Many time Oscar nominated cinematographer and prolific Coen Brothers collaborator is employed here as a visual consultant.
Imaginative characters: The characters are lovingly stolen from filmic archetypes, infused with interesting animal choices and great dialogue.
Filmic nods: It knew how to sprinkle these over the narrative in an entertaining manner, without ever simply being a patchwork of references without its own character. From the Chinatown plot, to the sheriff badge discarded on the ground, to the appearance of Depp’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas character, as well as another tremendous cameo that I shall not spoil.

Set pieces: The action set pieces were exhilarating and inventive, again giving enough nods to cinema history, while still being original enough to enjoy.
2D: Didn't even attempt 3D, which is important considering how great the film looks, as the 3D gimmick would have taken a lot away from the use of colour.

Not so keen on:
Not for kids as much as adults: It was understandably marketed as a kids’ film being that this is where it is likely to find the most paying customers. Some may disagree, but it doesn't seem a great film for kids. I only say this because I have the evidence of Corey's slight lack of enthusiasm. He didn't actively dislike it at all, but having seen so many films with him in the cinema, I could tell that those things that grip kids may have appeared to be there but just weren't. When I asked him if he liked it he said yeah and when I asked him what he liked, he hesitated a second then said the beginning bit. This makes sense to me, as it is the most child friendly part; it also conveniently happens to be pretty much everything in the trailer. Maybe older kids would be more into it, and it wasn’t definitely not for kids, but it isn’t the film it is advertised as. It's just sad when a film that is great has to be advertised as something that it isn't for market purposes.

Myth: There was a lot made of the mythical setting of the old west, which is so frequently used as parable for contemporary America.
Recession: Rather than water being synonymous simply with natural resources, the film makes water more obviously about capital; hence, the bank holds the water and in the background of a few shots, you see reward posters measuring rewards in gallons. Therefore considering what I said above about myth using this setting to comment on contemporary America, the film is blatantly a comment on the current recession, caused by greed, corruption and the obsession with so called 'economic progression' at all costs - including that of people's well being.
Society: The hero comes to society as a fraud, an actor, but none the less a complete outsider. An outsider because he is living a contemporary individualistic life out of society, the type of hedonistic individual created by neo-liberalism, the same thing indisputably responsible for the downfall of the western world via the deregulation of financial markets. He (along with the contemporary western world) needs to rediscover (or discover for the first time) society, and therefore society must be less bothered about individual greed.

Performance of the film:
Well this film actually made me remember that I quite liked Jonny Depp. Before the Pirates fiasco and his consecutive soulless performances in recent Tim Burton films.

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