Ratchet & Clank
Kevin Munroe and Jerrica Cleland’s Ratchet & Clank is the latest attempt to put a video game on the big screen by telling the origin story of how the titular characters came to be inseparable partners.
Being a gamer sometimes I have played the Ratchet & Clank video games now and again and have generally got on with them pretty well. They look good, they’re fun to play, the voice acting is well above average and they don’t tend to be too difficult. Pretty much what you’d expect from a game aimed primarily at kids.
I’m not here to review the game though so how does the movie stack up? The short answer is that it really doesn’t. Adapting video games is always a really dodgy process that rarely works because the mediums are far too different in the way that storytelling works. Video games have the ability to involve the player in shaping that story or at least having a part to play in having it progress but the experience of watching a movie is completely passive in that things move forward without your intervention.
This might have a lot to do with my inability to invest in any of the characters in this film. Since I wasn’t controlling them the fact that they were thinly written caricatures really stood out and made much of the experience a frustrating chore to watch.
The basic story is nothing new; Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor) belongs to a race known as the Lombax and has no idea where he comes from or what his overall history is. He has dreams of joining an organisation called the Galactic Rangers so that he can make a difference and be a hero. There are lots of barriers between him and his dream such as his responsibilities as a mechanic and the fact that the Galactic Rangers don’t actually want him.
Clank (David Kaye) is a defective robot that was built for evil purposes but cast out because he wasn’t built to specification. He meets up with Ratchet and the two of them are propelled on an adventure that gives them an opportunity to save the galaxy.
It’s basically another riff on Star Wars with obscene coincidences making things possible but that wasn’t really a problem for me. Star Wars is aped so often because it did it so well and developed the characters in ways that made them relatable to the audience. If you’re aiming a sci fi film at a younger audience who might be unaware of Star Wars then it’s not a bad place to start.
The major issue is that the film doesn’t bring this across very well. Ratchet’s humble beginnings are established fairly well but a clear sense of who he is and his reasons for wanting to succeed never really come across. He wants to be a Galactic Ranger because the plot requires him to and not much else.
Similarly the core relationship for the film should have been Ratchet and Clank as the title suggests. The dialogue reminds us that they are growing closer at different points but it never quite comes across. I’m not sure if the script was cut to the bone or if there just wasn’t enough effort put into establishing this in the first place. Either way it doesn’t work all that well and the central relationship falls almost completely flat.
The other characters don’t fare that well either. Captain Kwark (Jim Ward) is clearly supposed to be a hilarious incompetent along the lines of Zap Brannigan from Futurama but few of the jokes land so he just comes across as annoying. His fellow Galactic Rangers; Elaris (Rosario Dawson), Cora (Bella Thorne) and Brax (Dean Redman) are really thinly drawn as well but at least don’t come across as irritating most of the time. They fill their roles within the team and stick to the traits you might associate with them.
I found the villains to be a little more engaging. Drek (Paul Giamatti) and Dr. Nefarious (Armin Shimerman) do well enough as a threat in this story. Their plan is fairly dumb and so are they but the writing fleshes them out a little more and the vocal performances add more weight to this. Drek’s robot henchman Victor Von Ion (Sylvester Stallone) is reasonably memorable as well with some entertaining musclebound moments. Most of the entertainment comes from Stallone’s performance as it is completely on point but still he’s a welcome addition to the rogues gallery.
The animation is impressive enough but more work went into the character models than the environments. most of them look really dull and the cities are noticeably underpopulated. The action sequences move along at a decent pace thanks to the detail on the characters but it’s not that interesting a film to look at overall.
When all is said in done this is a fairly standard, unspectacular animated film that doesn’t really do anything that isn’t bettered elsewhere. The voice acting is good and the character animation is nicely detailed but if given the choice then I would suggest playing the game instead.
- the impressive voice acting
- good character animation
- the underdeveloped story
- bland environments
- uninteresting characters