austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Sarsaparilla ought to do

I got to the movies last weekend, to see (at the same time, although obviously not the same theater as bunny_hugger, and actually we weren't able to get the time just right, so we were about ten minutes out of synch, which I made up for by being a little late to the show and missing one or two trailers) Rango. I admit freely not going in with high expectations, mostly since I don't think I heard anyone discussing the film with anticipation or dread, but the reviews pretty near all came back saying, hey, it's a bit of a surprise but they made a good movie. I'm up for that sort of surprise.

And it was just that sort of surprise. The gimmick is that a pet lizard with a rich fantasy life accidentally gets stranded in the middle of the desert, stumbles into a dying town, and reinvents himself as heroic gunslinger. There's a struggle for the water keeping the town alive yet disappearing and carries on in the pattern of a proper western with the jokes not being based on the pop-cultural deconstruction of the premise. (In fact, there are a handful of pop-culture references and they ring so weirdly wrong for the rest of the setting that most of them are just best ignored as noise.)

bunny_hugger found the character of Rattlesnake Jake, a legendary hired gun who looms over the other animals, particularly frightening. I didn't get that, I think because his presence, which fully embraced the idea that he was a mythical ideal of the Western Hired Gun, just put him outside the conceptual universe of most of the characters, who are various kinds of ordinary. The lizard, who dubs himself Rango (and we never learn his ``real'' name), strives toward acceptance on that mythical level and becomes the other character who can interact with Jake on his own plane, but at that point, they're not enemies any longer and instead respectful partners.

It's a little hard getting the time of the movie right; the glimpses of the human world imply today, while the animals' western-town references are more of a century-plus ago. And the buildings themselves are made largely of old cans with ancient or obsolete (in the United States) company names and logos on them. As long as they avoid things that too closely reference today it works, although there's one dream sequence which has to be in the present, so maybe this whole question doesn't bear close scrutiny.

The movie makes several efforts at stylized and impressionist sequences and it's very nice to see that computer animation is finally getting able to do these bits plausibly. So many of animation's best moments have been giving up on re-creating life and instead go to capturing impressions of life; this speaks well for computer animation's artistic potential for something besides simulating every hair on a squirrel's tail.

There are several very scraggly raccoons; although the setting would seem to allow their existence, I didn't see any coatis. The desert animals seemed without studying it to be ones that would credibly be in the vicinity.

Trivia: An Air France Concorde flew around the world, from and to Lisbon, with six stops, in 32 hours 49 minutes, flying against the wind, in 32 hours, 49 minutes, on 12-13 October 1992. Another flew with the wind to the east from New York in 31 hours, 27.8 minutes, on 15-16 August, 1995. Source: Mastering The Sky: A History Of Aviation From Ancient Times To The Present, James P Harrison.

Currently Reading: Cadillac Desert: The American West And Its Disappearing Water, Marc Reisner.

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