Rango’s Storytelling Problem

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Rango tells a story of a pet chameleon with a very vivid imagination. He was used to leading a very comfortable life and would spend most of his time acting out dramatic scenes and being the star of his own little world he shared with a plastic yellow fish and a headless Barbie torso. Then, one day his terrarium fell out of his owner’s car and thus his epic adventure has begun.

Now Rangomight be an animated feature with talking animals but it’s really a classic Western at heart. Therefore where else could the poor lizard be stranded but in a desert? With some help from a fellow lizard named Beans he arrives to the dusty town of Dirt, where his taste for the theatrical leads him to invent a new persona for himself: he pretends to be a fearless drifter who goes by the name ‘Rango’ and soon finds himself in the role of the sheriff investigating the disappearance of the town’s water reserves.

There is a very goofy air about Rango, the character as well as the film. There is nothing particularly scary about it that would potentially upset or scare the younger viewers (except, maybe, for the mariachi band that keeps predicting the protagonist’s untimely death), it being a family film and all. And yet many critics noted that the film might be even more appealing to the adult viewers than to its target audience. Yes, Rango seems to be a more mature film than its animated rivals of 2011 such as Rio or Gnomeo and Juliet, or at least a film the adult audiences are more likely to enjoy to the same degree or even more than the children the film is marketed at. “Seems” is the key word here because while there undoubtedly are many adults who’ve found Rango to be very enjoyable, I would argue that most of them were film lovers who took pleasure in recognizing the many movie references scattered all over the screen. Indeed, it takes Rango mere seconds to go from spoofing Star Wars to paying homage to Apocalypse Now, while the plot itself is a mixture of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Chinatown. But self-referentiality is nothing special in this day and age, since even the Twilight-movies have discovered it by now.

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“Harry Potter”: The Novels and the Films

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Yes, I know, the debate whether film adaptations can live up to the books they are based on has pretty much exhausted itself by now. I’m even not sure why it was started in the first place. Film, obviously, is a very different medium, it has its own language and plays by its own rules. Unless the book itself is very famous, successful or influential I see no reason why one should busy oneself with the senseless comparison of the two. I don’t think one should care whether the film is “faithful” to the book or if it captures the book’s “spirit”. What does it matter if a book’s storyline has been changed or a character has been left out? It doesn’t.

However, when it comes to immensely popular property such as “Harry Potter” the issue of fidelity becomes much more important. This is due to the fact that the “Harry Potter” films couldn’t possibly stand on their own; they are but companions to the books. They were conceived as the extension of the novels and have thus, at least partially, lost the right to be seen independent works of art. This is why I feel I have a right to say that, for the most part, the “Harry Potter” films can’t hold a candle to the books.

Now, I realize that when it comes to comparing the “Harry Potter” books and films I’m extremely biased inasmuch as I’ve discovered and fallen in love with the books first. I came across the “Harry Potter” novels (back then ‘only’ the first four volumes had been published) relatively late, in 2001. The first film was already on its way to the cinemas but I had no idea as to whom or what the books were about. I just thought the golden font of the title, with the letter ‘P’ shaped like a lightning bolt, looked intriguing and when you’re 14, sometimes that’s all it takes. Having never heard of the books before, I didn’t know which volume to start with. Ultimately I grabbed “The Chamber of Secrets” which, of course, was a mistake. I couldn’t even get through the first chapter as I had no idea what was going on. By the time I came across the sentence “What have I told you about saying the ‘m’ word in our house?” I was seriously confused and by the time I read “Harry Potter was a wizard” I’d already given up on the book.

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