Rango’s Hero’s Journey


Emily Kelly, Editor

A hero’s journey can be defined as a quest in which a protagonist is faced with many conflicts and difficult decisions in order to achieve their end goal. This is a very common template for literature and cinema which has been used by writers and filmmakers for centuries. In the film Rango, directed by Gore Verblinski, the protagonist foregoes a hero’s journey to save the town of Dirt. 

The protagonist Rango experiences one of the many of the necessary characteristics that qualify him as experiencing a hero’s journey. One can argue this is one of the most crucial steps in a hero’s journey because it sets the stage for the journey to begin. Destiny is the belief that something happens for a reason, no matter how coincidental it may seem. This is demonstrated in Rango when he is given guidance to go and find a town in the desert. This event was peculiar, and Rango was skeptical to follow this advice, but soon enough it led him to meet Beans, who would bring him to the town of Dirt. This guidance is crucial to his journey because it is how Rango is introduced to the town that he would later come to save.  His characteristics and great acting skills lead him to make a name for himself in the town after he accidentally kills a hawk who preyed on the town’s inhabitants. This event made Rango seem like a hero that he was not and is another example of destiny in Rango since ordinarily, he would not have been able to kill a hawk ten times his size. Destiny plays a crucial role in Rango’s journey and the journeys of heroes throughout time because it allows for the plot of the story to develop and for the character to get exposed to their journey. 

In many films and books that exhibit a hero’s journey, there is often a romance between the protagonist and someone else in the film. In the case of Rango, he falls in love with a woman named Beans. Beans are first introduced while Rango is trying to find the town of Dirt. Rango makes a connection with Beans as soon as they meet, which foreshadows the ending of the film. The instant connection the two have is a continuity throughout the entirety of the film. His adoration for her is part of the reason he wins the respect of the town, as he spends his time trying to impress her, resulting in him also earning the respect and admiration of the town. This is a very important element to the storyline because, without his love for Beans, Rango would have never developed the characteristics that he first uses to impress her and later utilizes to save the town from its corrupt leadership. During the climax of the film, Rango saves Beans from being drowned by the Mayor of the town. This event is what exposes Rango to the fact that Beans is in fact in love with him. This too is a very important step in the hero’s journey because it ties up the loose ends of the romance aspect of the film. The development of the relationship between Rango and Beans exhibited throughout the movie is one of the many vital aspects that lead Rango to complete his hero’s journey. 

For a hero to truly complete their journey, it is essential that they hit a low point in which they lose motivation and give up. In the case of Rango, this occurs when Rattlesnake Jake comes to the town to humiliate Rango and expose his lies. Once Jake exposes Rango, the people of the town feel betrayed and don’t trust him. This event is important to the story because it leads Rango to lose all hope of saving the town and leaves him to wander the desert. This is a very common event in literature and movies that surround a hero’s journey, and it is pivotal to the storyline of the movie.  While Rango is in the desert, he stumbles upon the Spirit of the West, a supernatural figure who provides Rango with guidance and motivates him to not give up on his destiny. This is another aspect of a hero’s journey, in which they are guided or helped by a supernatural presence. This is demonstrated in Rango when the Spirit of the West leads Rango to find the water source that can save the town. This series of events motivate Rango to go back and complete his quest to save the town and expose the corrupt leadership that depriving them of water. Without hitting a low point, or without being guided by the Spirit of the West, Rango may never have voyaged on to complete his hero’s journey.

Furthermore, for a hero’s journey to be complete, they must defeat their enemy in a final battle with the help of some friends and allies made along the way. This is the step that the entire movie is building up, which will decide whether or not the hero is able to complete their journey. This step is demonstrated in Rango when he returns to the town of Dirt to battle Rattlesnake Jake. Rango knows he is unable to defeat Jake alone, so he calls on the help of his former enemies, the Moles. This is a very important part of the film because it shows how Rango was able to find a common ground with his former enemies to defeat a shared enemy and is also a display of Rango’s ability to cooperate and coordinate with others. Rango goes to duel with Jake and shoots him up into the sky by a geyser of water. This step shows not only Rango’s intelligence, but it is also the completion of his goal to bring water back to the town. The biggest turning point of the story is when Rango exposes the true enemy and allies with a former enemy, Jake. Rango is held put into a sealed container by the Mayor and Jake with Beans as it fills with water. The Mayor turns on Jake, and Rango and beans escape the container. Jake then commends Rango for becoming the legend he never thought he was and then proceeds to take away the Mayor, presumably to kill him. This part of the story demonstrates two things. First, it nearly completes the hero’s journey by Rango winning the final battle and winning back the respect of the town. Secondly, it shows how Rango’s former enemies helped him save the town. Both of these aspects that are demonstrated in the film were crucial to Rango’s completion of his hero’s journey. 

Lastly, to complete a hero’s journey, the hero usually returns home to their family and loved ones. This would conclude the storyline and tie up all of the loose ends. In this respect, Rango strays from an average hero’s journey. Rather than leave his home to go on this quest, Rango stays with the town and wins back his position as Sheriff of the town of Dirt, as his home was destroyed and he was forced into completing this journey. Instead of returning to the loved ones he never had to begin with, Rango found himself a new home with the people he had come to love in the town of Dirt. This ending of the movie completes his hero’s journey, as he had completed his goal of saving the town, and finding a home.


Colin Buscarino – Author