Ratchet & Clank has built a very passionate fanbase since its original offering hit the PlayStation 2 in 2002. Now recognized as one of the most beloved and well-known PlayStation game franchises in the entire gaming industry, it was small wonder that the announcement of a Ratchet & Clank feature film, spearheading the first of several planned ‘PlayStation Original’ movies, was met with plenty of excitement and anticipation by fans of the video games.
To everyone else however, it seems that this is yet another unwelcome video game-to-movie adaptation that is doomed to be written off on arrival, and dismissed with extreme prejudice. That’s really a shame, since Ratchet & Clank is definitely one of the better video-game inspired movies to hit theatres, and, as the first animated 3D adaptation of a video game, it presents a lot of promise for similar cartoon-style games to also be adapted into theatrical movies.
The Ratchet & Clank movie isn’t anything outstanding, mind you, and the decision seemingly made by Universal to skew the movie more towards children, despite the games primarily being aimed at teens and up, is disappointing, and does seem to hamstring the movie’s final product at times. Even then though, Ratchet & Clank is a movie that makes for a colourful, entertaining and funny adventure, not just for kids, but for open-minded adults who simply want a vibrant, engaging diversion, especially if they already love the Ratchet & Clank video games.
It’s true that fans of the games will probably get the most out of this movie, but even if you’re among the viewers who don’t know a Lombax from a Blargian, Ratchet & Clank is plenty entertaining. It’s not the big breakout success we deserve for video game-to-movie adaptations, which 2016 is aiming to deliver more than ever, but it’s still a satisfying step in the right direction.
As the title suggests, the Ratchet & Clank movie stars its title characters, Ratchet, a mysterious anthropomorphic cat-like alien (a Lombax) with no one else in his species seemingly present in the galaxy, and Clank, a tiny war robot defect who inadvertently ends up in Ratchet’s company after a daring escape from the forces that accidentally created him. Ratchet is obsessed with achieving greatness, and wants to realize this dream by joining the Galactic Rangers, a galaxy-spanning police force that saves common citizenry from the worst villains in the star system. Clank, meanwhile, is a young, but brainy harbinger of doom to come for the galaxy, and struggles with the other heroes not taking him seriously.
Said galactic-scale doom comes in the form of Chairman Drek, the corporate boss of an evil alien race that is leading his forces, the Blargians, to destroy planets across the solar system, using a super-weapon called, “The De-Planetizer.” Joining the operation and bankrolling Drek is another recognizable villain from the source games, Doctor Nefarious, who no doubt has an agenda of his own with the Blargians.
While the villains in the movie are plenty entertaining, especially Paul Giamatti’s bottom line-driven, exaggerated and schedule-obsessed Drek, the movie does have a bit of trouble creating a conflict that’s worth investing in. Drek’s agenda in the movie is a little bit different than it was in the original PlayStation 2 game, instead falling in line more with the recent PlayStation 4 remake of said original game, which was meant to tie in with this movie. Unfortunately, it’s also a lesser agenda, especially with Doctor Nefarious now having to be crowbarred into the story when he wasn’t originally introduced until the series’ third game, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. This has the movie’s two major villains fighting for attention, in turn deflating the true struggle that Ratchet, Clank and the Galactic Rangers are supposed to be facing.
With that said though, fans of the games will definitely appreciate the fact that the game series’ lead voice actors return to voice their respective characters in the movie, and they’re all entertaining as ever! James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye still have a lot of fun chemistry as Ratchet and Clank. respectively, and Jim Ward is still a comedic standout as the Galactic Heroes’ poster boy, the conceited, yet idiotic Captain Qwark. Armin Shimerman also reprises his voiceover role of Doctor Nefarious from the games, with Nefarious’ presence mostly existing to sequel-bait as far as the story is concerned, but Shimerman nonetheless makes the character as enjoyable as he ever was to listen to.
Beyond the leads, the movie also packs in a decent bit of star power among its supporting cast, even if many of them, sans Giamatti, voice all-new characters that didn’t exist in the original PlayStation 2 game, and were crafted specifically for this movie, and its tie-in PlayStation 4 remake. John Goodman has frustratingly little screentime as Ratchet’s mechanic mentor and apparent caretaker, Grimroth Razz, but the handful of scenes that he does get are pretty amusing, if in a slightly childish way. Likewise, Rosario Dawson and Bella Thorne nicely diversify the Galactic Rangers’ ranks, voicing pensive and intelligent nerd, Elaris, and trigger-happy enforcer, Cora, respectively.
A real standout in the cast however is Sylvester Stallone, who voices Drek’s main henchman, a gargantuan battle robot named Victor Von Ion. This character actually did appear in the original Ratchet & Clank game trilogy for PlayStation 2, though he was unnamed in those games. The movie gives Victor an identity of his own however, and Victor provides another highly entertaining villainous presence, and one that nicely plays off of Giamatti’s manic and comically heavy-handed Drek.
Again, the decision to try so hard to appeal to kids in certain scenes can sometimes make the jokes simple and the situations shallow, but when Ratchet & Clank boldly embraces the more irreverent and explosive stylings from its PlayStation inspiration, its personalities becomes highly entertaining, and pretty damn funny, even for more discerning adults. It’s unfortunate that the movie’s zippy 94-minute runtime sometimes results in a feeling of the personalities being ‘dumbed down’ in contrast to the original games that inspired this movie, but the charm and heart is definitely there, even if the jokes don’t always land for older viewers especially.
The storyline in Ratchet & Clank is almost disappointingly simple, even if the games’ more creative story ideas still do manage to creep in every so often. The higher sense of fun and adventure from the video games definitely didn’t wholly translate to the movie adaptation, but the result on film is nonetheless competent, if not outstanding.
It’s really too bad that Ratchet & Clank didn’t try to make a bigger splash with its storytelling, simply amounting to the bad guys destroying planets, and the good guys having to stop them for the most part. As with the lead voiceover actors from the games being maintained however, fans will appreciate the effort to be faithful to the foundations of the game franchise’s origins, even if this movie doesn’t fully replicate their appeal. The movie is quite faithful to the original PlayStation 2 game’s vague progression for most of its runtime, especially that game’s PlayStation 4 remake, and there are lots of nifty little in-jokes and Easter eggs for avid fans of the Ratchet & Clank games, as well as longstanding PlayStation enthusiasts in general, which are fun to spot.
There are missed opportunities in the storytelling to be certain, but Ratchet & Clank will still entertain you, so long as you’re not determined to hate it for the cardinal sin of being inspired by a video game. The adventure is fairly lightweight, and the plot progression is mostly predictable, barring a semi-decent twist or two, but the story does still manage to be pretty fun, if a little disposable.
Ratchet & Clank is a joint helming effort between Kevin Munroe, best known for directing 2007’s fully CG Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, TMNT, and Jerrica Cleland, a first-time feature film director who has done cinematography for a couple of other smaller animated projects such as Space Chimps for 20th Century Fox and Arthur Christmas for Sony Pictures. The strength between these two directors is clear, as Ratchet & Clank is definitely fun and vibrant to look at, being enjoyably watchable, even in its less successful moments.
The shortcoming to Munroe and Cleland’s efforts however is that the Ratchet & Clank movie doesn’t carry much weight or real investment for viewers to latch on to, which is probably no big whoop to people who are just in it for the laughs and whimsy, though it does mean that the movie aims a bit lower than it probably should. There were weightier and more emotionally ambitious moments every so often in the source games, and even beyond that, the humour was a little more consistently clever and memorable in the source games to boot. The Ratchet & Clank movie still manages clever and memorable jokes every so often, though the frequency of said jokes isn’t quite as consistent as in the games, unfortunately.
Thus, what we’re left with is a movie that is pretty funny, if not hilarious, and plenty fun, if not hugely memorable, beyond the expected delight of Ratchet & Clank finally hitting the big screen. Someone from the Dreamworks Animation or Disney/Pixar stables would no doubt be able to do a bit more with this concept than what we got here, but the effort is noticeable, and the movie is definitely likable and charming, if, again, you’re not determined to hate it for the cardinal sin of being a movie inspired by a video game.
The movie’s soundtrack is put together by Evan Wise, a mostly unknown composer making his feature film debut here. Wise’s score definitely evokes the feel of the Ratchet & Clank video games, and manages to capture a goofy sense of fun and ridiculousness, going nicely with the visuals on display. The music from the source games is definitely better though, and while the movie score is competent, it doesn’t consistently stand out, beyond a handful of better tracks behind some of the more interesting scenes.
The rest of the audio suite is predictably lightweight, much like the storyline, and sadly, the explosive punch of the game series’ ridiculous weapons isn’t really replicated here. One could justifiably accuse the Ratchet & Clank movie of being toothless with its weapons, but perhaps it’s understandable, given that the games and the movie seem to be courting different audiences. On the bright side, the lack of ear-splitting, destructive audio in the movie will prevent it from frightening young children, but unfortunately, this will also come at the expense of fans of the games, who will likely be hoping for a bit more carnage.
Considering that the animation studio for the Ratchet & Clank movie, Rainmaker Entertainment, has pretty much exclusively worked on television shows up to this point, you wouldn’t know it from looking, as the Ratchet & Clank movie looks pretty sharp. It’s not Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks Animation-level sharp, but it’s about Blue Sky Studios or Illumination Entertainment-level sharp, which is still pretty sharp as far as theatrical animated movies go.
The movie manages to nicely keep pace with the original Ratchet & Clank game’s gorgeous-looking PlayStation 4 remake, having very eye-catching, colourful visuals, well-realized character models, and a general sense of high-energy stimulation. Like I said, the level of destruction is a lot smaller in the movie than it is in the games unfortunately, but the movie is nonetheless presented well, and is enjoyable to behold, especially for avid fans of the Ratchet & Clank games.
The weak link in the movie’s visuals is, sadly, the 3D presentation, which is the one element of the animation that Rainmaker Entertainment didn’t seem to know how to work with. There’s a couple of small 3D effects in the movie, but for the most part, the 3D just kind of hangs there, adding a barely noticeable added degree of immersion to scenes like the spacefaring sequences. The 3D cut isn’t really worth it, frankly, and you’ll probably have the ideal experience if you just save the few extra dollars and watch this movie flat in 2D.
That said though, if you’ve been eagerly anticipating a chance to witness Ratchet & Clank and its lovable personalities be realized on the big screen, then you won’t be disappointed with this movie’s lively and colourful visual effects. The movie’s action may be pretty tame in contrast to the source games, but the rest of the presentation still feels very true to the style and presentation of the Ratchet & Clank games, capturing a galactic-scale community that is both exotic and ridiculous.
If you’ve been championing the idea of a Ratchet & Clank movie since the PlayStation 2 era, then you’ll be entertained by this movie’s final product, even if not blown away. As far as PlayStation adapting their beloved gaming icons to the big screen goes, Ratchet & Clank is certainly a rough draft in many key respects, but it’s far from a disaster, especially considering some of the truly horrendous video game adaptations that Hollywood has defecated out at certain points in the past. If you love the Ratchet & Clank games, or simply have young kids around that might grow to love the games, then this is among the small handful of current video game-to-movie adaptations yet realized that is actually worth checking out.
Realistically, the Ratchet & Clank movie obviously can’t outclass bigger and no doubt better animated movie offerings like Kung Fu Panda 3 from this past January, or certainly Pixar’s Finding Dory that’s releasing this June, but for a more risky animated movie that’s made by a smaller outfit, on a smaller budget, and given less promotion to boot, Ratchet & Clank is a commendable effort that succeeds at what it sets out to do, even if it doesn’t raise the bar. It probably won’t be a huge moneymaker, and whether or not it gets a sequel is probably up to how much capital PlayStation is willing to put towards gradually and painstakingly thinning the very thick wall of repulsion towards video game-inspired movies, but with a Sly Cooper movie set to follow this one, it looks like we can expect a spiritual follow-up, if nothing else.
That’s not a bad thing either, as Ratchet & Clank proves that video game-inspired movies can tap the animated movie market as effectively as they can tap the live-action movie market, in the right hands anyway. If you don’t think that you’ll be interested in Ratchet & Clank then the movie probably won’t offer much to change your mind, but if you’re open to the idea of video game-inspired movies starting to improve, then you’ll find that this movie contains enough bright spots to keep you hopeful in that endeavour.
- Fun cast, especially the veteran voice actors from the video games
- Colourful, lively presentation that effectively emulates the source material
- Some very funny moments, even for adults
- Some of the jokes really don't land
- Story is overly simple and unmemorable
- Lacks destructive scale in contrast to the video games