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December 24, 2011
Rango Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
10/3/20116/7/2011ParamountGore Verbinski
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1PGJohnny Depp (voice)

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Rango is a visually stunning film...

Back in 2009 I was blown away when I saw the first images from Rango. It just looked so unique, so lifelike, so different. After years of similar looking CG movies from Pixar, Dreamworks and a multitude of other studios, this looked different. Then a few other things struck me. The director was Gore Verbinski who created the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and the main voiceover would be non other then Johnny Depp. Impressive stuff, but what's it all about...

When a common pet chameleon who's suffering from an identity crisis crashes headfirst into the stereotypically classic Western town of Dirt, he has the unique opportunity to completely reinvent himself. Dubbing himself Rango, the chameleon boasts of his own heroism and creates a spiral of deception that lands him an appointment as sheriff of a town in crisis. The question is, can one unprepared and completely unqualified chameleon possibly change this little town's future for the better? And how do road kill, enlightenment, and the Spirit of the West figure in to the equation?

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.. while Rango's Blu-Ray transfer is nigh on perfect.
One of the most exciting aspects of this release is that the visuals have been created by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) which is widely regarded as the best visual effects studio in the world and indeed your jaw will drop with some of the stunningly beautiful, often photo-realistic, scenes on offer in Rango. The story too is entertaining, with some great, comedic moments but also some heart. It becomes a little "standard" towards the end but is ultimately one of the best non-Pixar CG films ever released and this is likley due, in part, to the fact that this film was co-written, produced and directed by Gore Verbinski.

This disc also includes two versions of the film - the 107 minute Theatrical version and the 112 minute Extended version. There isn't a great deal of difference between the two versions with the re-inserted scenes also available in the Deleted Scenes extras.

For one reason or another I never put this review online when the disc hit retail in July 2011. It was only when I was doing up the Annual Awards did I realise it was missing, but here it is, and it certainly wasn't missed due to a disliking or disinterest in the film. Indeed now that 2011 is over I would go so far as to say this is my favourite animated film of the year (although I haven't seen Spielberg's Tintin yet). An essential purchase for animated movie fans.

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Created by ILM Rango has superb CG.
Wow! We now have a new reference quality disc for our collection. Without a shadow of a doubt Rango is one of the most prisine, gorgeous, presentations we've ever seen on a Blu-Ray disc (of course you don't expect any dirt when taken directly from a digital source). The film has been encoded at the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio using the AVC MPEG-4 codec with the video bitrate generally hovering around the 25Mps mark for the most part but ramps up in the more frantic scenes when required.

Assisting this transfer is the glorious visual style which ILM have created for the film. While the town and locations have a brown, dirty look the characters are superbly designed, textured and animated. Indeed it could be said that some of the characters, all of which are based on real-life animals, are almost photo-realistic.

Rango is presented on Blu-Ray with a gorgeous DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (24-bit/48Khz) and as this is a CG movie every single aspect of the sound design is reliant on the filmmakers, rather then audio from a live location. As with the visuals the audio on this film is second to none with plenty of clarity, some wonderful rousing music from Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Batman Begins/The Dark Knight), plenty of audio effects using the surround sound channels and wonderful delivery of dialogue from a triple-A cast including Johnny Depp as Rango, but also Isla Fisher, Bill Nighy, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Ned Beatty, and Timothy Olyphant.

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Flame on, oh, wait, wrong movie!
There is one moment in the film when Johann Strauss' "An Der Schonen Blauen Donau, OP 314" is playing and it is simply astounding. This is what Blu-Ray uncompressed audio is all about and if you have a decent audio setup then this is a film worth adding to your collection

Other audio tracks on the Rango Blu-Ray include English Audio Description, Danish, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks each encoded at 640kbps while the subtitles are also available in each of those languages (with both English and English for the Hearing Impaired). We sampled the English Descriptive track as well as the English subtitles and while the audio lacks the fidelity of the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio it should still impress while the subtitles are accurate to dialogue.

Paramount often load their major Blu-Ray releases with extensive extras, and this is no exception with plenty of content - and plenty of quality too.

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Even fur in Rango looks stunning.
Filmmakers Commentary: Available in the Extended version of the film this commentary includes Director/Producer/co-Writer Gore Verbinski, Head of Story James Ward Byrkit, Production Designer Mark "crash" McCreery, Animation Director Hal Hickel and Special Effects Supervisor Tim Alexander. It's not the most entertaining audio commentary we've ever heard but there's plenty of discussion here about the creation of this film and is worth a listen if you're keen on animation.

Breaking the Rules: Making Animation History (48:52/HD): Viewable together or as two seperate parts ("The Stage Is Set" and "Now We Ride") this is a lengthy look at the creation of this film from the pre-vizualisation sequences and design through to the development that took place at Industrial Light & Magic and recording the music with Hans Zimmer. This is a brilliant documentary well worth your time.

Deleted Scenes (8:27/HD): Ten deleted, or extended, scenes are presented here in finished form including an alternate/exctended ending. Each is presented in HD with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Real Creatures of Dirt (22:16/HD): More for youngsters, but still entertaining for adults, this featurette looks at the real creatures in the desert that inspired the characters in the film. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the crazy host Donald Schultz who plays with a few deadly animals!

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Just look at the detail in the textures.
Storyboard Reel Picture-in-Picture (HD): This Picture-in-Picture track is viewable during the Theatrical version of the film and displays the storyboards throughout the entire film in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Field Trip To Dirt (HD): This is an interactive look at the city of Dirt as well as the inhabitants and includes biographies for these characters. Those interested could spend a bit of time in this feature.

Theatrical Trailer(2:27/HD): It gives away too many of the funnier moments in the film, but this trailer is a fantastic look at this film.

Rango is a visual and sonic benchmark on Blu-Ray and fortunately the film is quite entertaining too. With a smattering of dcent extras this is a Blu-Ray well worth adding to your collection.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Paramount. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.