I’ve just been to see Rango, the animated feature film directed by Gore Verbinski and produced at ILM.

I really enjoyed this movie, although it seems to have enjoyed a relatively minor release; at least here in the UK.  However, several things about it seemed a little strange [and please note this includes some very minor spoilers]…

Firstly, and I’ll mention this first because this is a 3D blog after all, it wasn’t in 3D.  This seems a little odd for an animated feature film these days, least of all when it’s cost $135m to make!  I can’t find any reference to this online or any good reason why this should have been so.

I also found the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the movie strangely unengaging.  The way it was marketed gave me the impression this was a kind of off-the-wall movie, with Depp playing a Hunter S. Thompson-esque character – the Hawaiian shirt, the kooky eyes etc.  However as soon as Rango arrives in the town of Dirt the movie seems to suddenly decide it’s really a Western and from thereon in it worked much better. But check out the poster – it doesn’t really scream Western to you, does it?

The main thing however was the quality and nature of the animation and the incredible visual style brought to it by ILM.  There were many images in this film that seemed totally plausible and believable, as if it had been filmed for real in the desert somewhere.

However, that created some weird problems with scale.  The opening establishes that Rango is a real lizard in a real world populated with cars, roads and presumably people; and therefore he’s about 8 or 10 inches tall.  However once he reaches Dirt the scale seems a little odd – the textures and detail of the town look like it’s normal-size; not at all like it’s a miniature town full of lizards and rats etc.  This wouldn’t be so noticeable if the visual style of the film wasn’t SO incredibly real – water that innundates the town at the end looks so insanely plausibly real but then overwhelmingly not the right scale for the characters.

This that’s what felt strange to me.  It wouldn’t have mattered if this was an animals-take-the-roles-of-humans movie like Disney’s Robin Hood or An American Tail; but this was a world where people could pop up any moment; which then became quite important toward the end of the movie.

This subject of realism in CG animation and why it is a good thing, but also a bad thing will form the subject of a later post.


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