Ratchet & Clank is the rarest of things, a movie in which the tie in game is actually superior to the film it was apparently inspired by. That being said, the film is supposed to serve as a reboot of the video game series of the same name that first graced the PS2 way back in 2002, and subsequently wrote itself into a corner in 2015’s Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus.
If you’re reading this and you have PS4, you should go and buy Ratchet and Clank immediately. It’s a superb game, with top notch production values, plenty to do, imaginative weaponry and plenty of laughs. It’s a triple AAA game at a budget price and worth every penny.
Now onto the film which comes out on DVD and Blu Ray this week, after originally being released in theaters back in April to absolutely no fanfare at all. I had to hunt to find a cinema showing it and even then it was only a weekend matinee.
It’s… well, its ok; a fairly innocuous but certainly not offensive companion to the game. I know it should be the other way round, but chances are you’ve played the game (or even knew it existed), but not seen the film. It’s the same story but condensed into 94 minutes as opposed to ten hours, so expect a somewhat liner notes experience.
It tells the story of Ratchet, a plucky young mechanic that dreams of leaving his backwater planet and joining the ranks of the Galactic Rangers, a group of planetary law enforcers lead by the charismatic, but calamitously dunder headed Captain Qwark (think Zap Brannigan in spandex). After initially being rejected by the crime fighting team, Ratchet finds Clank, a defective war bot who crash lands near his home who has vital information for the Space Rangers about a dastardly plot by shifty magnate Chairman Drek to destroy whole planets and steal the best to create a home for his species the blarg.
Though it essentially tells the same story as the PS4 game, it does shed some light on the motivations of some of the characters and together they do a good job of covering each others short comings. that being said if you only watch the film there are so many massive leaps in logic and plot holes that you will be left wondering why certain events are happening, and if you played the game as well, you wonder why some of the game’s better elements, such as its awesome array of wacky weapons, and rather epic boss fights, are either missing, or didn’t get a whole lot of screen time.
That being said, the performances are all great. James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye playing Ratchet and Clank respectively, steal the show as the titular characters, and it was admirable that Sony decided to retain their services instead of opting for a big name for the sake of the poster. Likewise Jim Rash is once agian on fine form as the bumbling egomaniac Captain Qwark. Meanwhile seeing the likes of John Goodman, Rosario Dawson and Paul Giamatti gives the film the big name appeal and none of them disappoint.
Unfortunately, no one seems to get enough screen time, especially Drek whose motivations for blowing up the half the universe feel paper thin at best, adding some more time with them and developing a proper backstory would have gone a long way to giving the narrative some much needed depth and tone.
Overall, I can’t help but feel disappointed that the movie doesn’t quite do the series, or the companion game justice. My biggest bugbear though is that the writing doesn’t stack up to the source material. While the games have always managed to tread that fine line in their humour that appeals to kids and adults on different levels, the jokes and characters presented in the film never contained the same kind of depth or nuance. Kids will no doubt enjoy the rather simplistic humour on display, and I have to admit I did chuckle too (I am a big kid), but compared to recent animated features like the stupendous Zootopia, Ratchet and Clank doesn’t really have anything to say, and is entirely focused on the kids market. Which is weird because those most likely to want to see it are probably long time fans of the series, and they never really seem to be catered for in this adaptation. This in turn lead me to wonder, who exactly is this film for?
Ratchet and Clank is not a bad movie, but it’s not a great movie either. However, as a video game adaptation it is easily one of the best, though considering most video game adaptations of the past two decades have been god awful at best it’s not really saying much. When compared with the game series that spawned it, Ratchet and Clank feels like a shallow imitator, lacking the wry sense of humour, grand sense of adventure and over the top action the games are famous for. Which sadly makes it a somewhat disappointing take on the adventures of the plucky space wombat and his well-spoken robot buddy. My advice: stick to the fantastic PlayStation 4 game.