Ratchet & Clank is the recently released movie based on the 2002 game; Ratchet & Clank, it also has a tie-in game called Ratchet & Clank and is part of the long running Jak & Daxter series. Oh sorry, I mean Ratchet & Clank.
So admittedly this film has been out for a while now, I only got the chance to see it this Wednesday due to life getting in the way, which the exact same reason why I was only able to get this article out recently.
So a week ago I started out my √¢‚Ç¨ÀúUpcoming Video Game Movies’ article by stating that Ratchet & Clank is the type of property that has great potential to make the transition to film. The fact that Insomniac Games and one of the official writers from the games was working on the project raised my interest and the inclusion of the actors from the games also showed to me that the film-makers were willing to cater to the wants of the fans by not sacrificing the personality that the canon voice actors have given them, presenting a project where all the pieces can be assembled into a film that encapsulates what people love about Ratchet & Clank and presenting it to a wider audience.
Not only was the humour flat, the characters dull and the plot resembling the form curdled milk might take if it was being fingered by a Swiss man, but the action was oddly subdued. So be prepared as I eat my own words as I tell you why this film isn’t worth your time.
None of the action sequences in this film were exciting; there’s a bit where Ratchet flies around with a magnet to stop some robots, a bit where Ratchet and Co run away from some robots, and an underwhelming final battle. That’s it. The direction of the action is done in a way that everything seems slow; a far cry from the series origins where you can rush around making use of any weapons you have to defeat enemies. Speaking of which, the weapons are never given priority or focus upon in this film, they’re just there and could honestly have been replaced by anything. There’s a training montage and sometimes weapons are used in big set pieces, but it doesn’t add anything to the substance of the film and seems to just be there for fanservice.
“Oh but this is a film! And in your last article you said that films have to put more focus on plot and characters than games do!“
Yes, that is true Mr. Mysterious Speaking People’s Person. But R&C doesn’t do that right either.
So the plot. Chairman Drek is destroying and harvesting planets to rebuild his own one. The concept of a giant space station that blows up planets might be interesting if there weren’t three Star Wars movies with that exact same plot device. Ratchet wants to help the Galactic Rangers defeat Drek because he wants to be a hero, but he gets rejected by Captain Qwark. The problem with this is that it’s clear the writers were trying to make us empathise with Ratchet for being rejected, but at this point in the film, Ratchet has done precisely nothing heroic and has at worst tested my patience for waiting for something interesting to happen throughout the runtime. Then he meets a robot dubbed √¢‚Ç¨ÀúClank’ who has information that might be useful in defeating Drek. And then the adventure happens. Eventually.
Yes, the plot has various issues, namely that it can’t decide on whether it wants to remain faithful to the source material or take the story in a new direction as this so-called √¢‚Ç¨Àúre-imagining’ attempts desperately to appeal to a new audience, failing to make that balance between fans of the original or new fans. The film doesn’t seem to know what it’s audience is either. As mentioned, the plot is largely based on the 2002 game and I believe it since the script reads like something conceived from that era. With obnoxious quips such as √¢‚Ç¨ÀúSweet’, √¢‚Ç¨ÀúWicked’ and other words that are being thrown about in a non-ironic context scattered throughout the film.
The underdeveloped characters and meandering story leave you bored while you watch the various colours flashing onscreen and questioning how close to the climax the film actually is. The film is only around 90 minutes long yet it feels so much longer since there is little to feel invested in, even the climax of the film involves protecting a planet we’ve never seen before and don’t care about since the stakes are so low, this is because apparently the last planet that Drek blew up was evacuated. As in Everyone got off on time. There’s a fine line between suspension of disbelief and pure Fantasy you know.
In the run-up to the release for this film you may have seen this video clip:
You may have noticed the annoying Qwark fanboy from this clip. He’s annoying. But you may have also noticed that Clank makes use of a speech recorded to call out Ratchet’s lie about being friends with the Rangers. A well written story would have used this as a √¢‚Ç¨ÀúChekov’s Gun’ effect where this would be used later in the film for a different purpose, but it never has any effect on the film at all, nor does Ratchet’s lie put any strain on his relationship with Clank (I’ll go into some more detail about that later).
Indeed several elements such as the one mentioned appear throughout the film yet have no impact on the plot later on, the inverse it also true. You may have seen the use of the √¢‚Ç¨ÀúSheepinator’ in several of the Trailers and TV Spots, this gun is retained from the games and is used to turn enemies into sheep, likely a piece of fanservice to appeal to its prior audience. Bad news, it appears a grand total of once in the entire film, is never mentioned before that point and is never used again, ultimately making the presence of a fantastic weapon in a story that otherwise wants to be taken seriously seem extremely out of place.
Speaking of fanservice, there are several nods to previous games in the series that feel extremely out of place. An example is when Qwark is using a computer and the start-up tune for the original PlayStation plays (Ratchet & Clank never appeared on the PS1 by the way, making me question why it was added); it’s extremely jarring and takes you out of the movie. Another example is when we see one of the rangers training using a game. Eagle eyed viewers will notice that game is clearly Ratchet & Clank 3 played in First-Person mode. What may have been intended as an innocent piece of fanservice will be really out of place to fans of the series and will probably make common viewers do a double take upon what they’re seeing.
The characterization is a mess as well. In the original 2002 game (I haven’t played the 2016 reboot game admittedly, for all intents and purposes I hear it's great), Ratchet was a loner and a jerk to pretty much everyone and had a dated late-90s surfer dude attitude. I never liked his characterisation in that game, but upon seeing this film I realise how important that characterisation was to the Character and the overall appeal to the series. 2016!Ratchet is presented as dorky wannabe hero who is clumsy but has a good heart, I know this because throughout the film several characters literally say he has a good heart.
Even though I don’t like 2002 Ratchet, I do acknowledge that his transition from abrasive jerkass to the lovable Hero of the sequels is a great factor to the Characters lasting appeal and personal strengths. 2016 Ratchet is presented as a bland hero who is not interesting enough to get invested in.
Clank’s role in the film is completely superfluous. Considering his name is in the bloody title of the film that’s a pretty big misstep. In the 2002 game, the relationship between the two title characters was a big part of the development and appeal of the game, one has to wonder why this important element was omitted from the film. The two leads barely interact with each other and even when they do there is no meaningful conversation between them.
The new characters that have been added to the film are a bunch of the most forgettable supporting roles I’ve ever seen. A group of heroes known as the Galactic Rangers have been re-imagined as a superhero team led by Captain Qwark for this iteration of the franchise; they are all boring and forgettable. I don’t remember a single thing about any of them. Not one.
Ratchet gets a mentor early in the film played by John Goodman, now I like John Goodman but his role is literally any generic mentor type character you can think of. Imagine Obi-Wan if he didn’t die and just told Luke to be good. That’s the role. What a complete waste of your John Goodman.
Chairman Drek returns as the chief baddie for the film, this time played by Paul Giamatti, now for what it’s worth, Giamatti probably gives one of the best performances in the film outside of Jim Ward as Qwark and David Kaye as Clank, he does seem like he’s having fun with his part for what it’s worth and he does encapsulate the characteristics of the villain fairly well. Drek’s motivations have changed this time round to make him slightly more sympathetic, whereas 2002 Drek was a complete monster through and through, I won’t fault the filmmakers for wanting to make him more sympathetic. Both incarnations of the character have their strengths and weaknesses.
Dr. Nefarious is in the film as well. They screwed up big time with this character, the Nefarious of the games in my opinion, is one of the funniest characters put in a game. Film Nefarious is incredibly boring. He does nothing funny in the film and his status as a Mad Scientist has been flanderized into a Jerk who just happens to be a scientist. How the hell do you make Dr Nefarious boring!? I can accept applying him into the story but if you’re gonna do that, then at least make him fun to watch!
And finally we have Captain Qwark. He betrays everyone. I hesitate to call this a spoiler since this happened in the original game as well, so I apologise for spoiling a 14 year old game for you. I won’t fault Jim Ward’s performance since he definitely knows the role he’s been playing for the past dozen years through and through. But his characterisation makes no sense.
In the 2002 game, Qwark was working with Drek from the start because Drek was sponsoring him and making him loads of money. 2016 Qwark betrays everyone about halfway through because he was jealous of Ratchet getting all the hero attention. That’s a bloody weak excuse. It doesn’t even make any sense why he stays with Drek until the Climax either, Qwark’s betrayal is uncovered by Ratchet who is captured by Drek’s forces, so instead of killing Ratchet, Drek decides to let him go because... I have no idea. Why doesn’t Drek just kill him? By letting Ratchet live, Qwark's betrayal becomes public, so why the hell would anyone accept him as a hero now? This makes no sense; why doesn’t he just turn Drek in there and then!? Their deal is broken!
A similar thing happens later on after Sylvester Stallone’s character (who is clearly phoning in his role) gets anticlimactically killed off, when one of Drek's lackeys ends up turning good for some inexplicable reason.
“Well aside from everything negative that has been stated prior to this point, is it at least funny?“
Nope. If they can’t even make Nefarious funny then what else is there? The aforementioned training montage involves lots of prat-falls and stuff going wrong, but it isn’t funny, There’s a running gag where Drek’s minions are seen texting their stereotypical Jewish-sounding mothers during his speeches, it isn’t funny though. I will admit that I did chuckle a few times at scenes that I have already forgotten, and the payoff for the unfunny texting gag was the one time in the entire film that I laughed out loud. But other than that, it fails in the humour department.
Animation-wise, there really is nothing spectacular about it, the animation is fine in most parts of the film, but the use of animation never factors into making anything more exciting, a competent film would have used the fluidity of animation to improve the direction of the action, but that never happens, Ratchet runs to this place and fires a gun. There are no non-stop action moments throughout this film, like the whole film is taking a breather from doing nothing.
Some things that are legitimately bad relating to the animation however; there’s a moment when a planet is destroyed and the debris looks like it was rendered in 2002. There’s an image of the President of Planet Whatever which looks unaltered from his appearance in Ratchet & Clank 3 way back in 2004! In all Crowd shots there are dozens of identical clones present, because apparently the phrase √¢‚Ç¨ÀúVariety is the Spice of life’ just meant throw as much of the same thing into the product and hope that people don’t notice how bland everything tastes.
The soundtrack is forgettable as well.
So aside from the poor direction, clueless writing, boring plot, forgettable characters, mediocre animation, generic soundtrack, weak humour, average performances and awful dialogue, is there anything worth recommending in this film?
Nothing about this film works. In my last article I stated that this film would likely be the best video game movie in years. Oh how wrong I was. It’s not completely awful, I don’t think that it will make anyone’s √¢‚Ç¨ÀúWorst of’ lists, but as a film that had a lot of the crew behind the over the top zany action of the games behind it, it’s depressing to see how safe the film is trying to be, appealing to the lowest common denominator and offering little of substance in return, ultimately creating a boring and forgettable product that fails to do justice for the great game series it’s based on.
I also stated in my last article that the film would have to make its budget back quickly to avoid competition with Captain America 3. According to the-numbers.com the film, as of this writing has made around $8million on a $20million budget (although I question how much of that money was left over from the undisclosed budget of the game).
Nobody is interested in seeing this film. In fact the cinema I went to see this film at only had 3 showings a day (for a film which at the time hadn’t even been in cinemas for a week!) and there were a grand total of four people in the theatre: Me, my R&C-savvy friend (Who hated it even more than I did), some kid and her dad, and even they seemed bored by the film at the end of it all.
Somewhere among this 90 minute train ride of tedium and generic sci-fi slop is the film that I wanted to see, but what we ultimately have is a film with no ambition to be anything more than a promotion for a vastly superior game. And it feels very alien to me as well considering that this is the ONLY thing in the entire Ratchet & Clank franchise to receive universally negative reviews from critics (Yes, both those puns were deliberate).
So I guess Warcraft is the film that people are gonna be hyping as the first great video game movie (because I refuse to live in a future where people praise Angry Birds as a cinematic masterpiece), and for what it’s worth, Warcraft does have a good director behind it. Also considering how the upcoming Sly Cooper movie features the same Director and I was initially sceptical about that one, so I guess we can list that film as a premature dud.
Go watch Zootopia (yes, it’s still in Cinemas after all this time) or Captain America 3 instead as this film fails to do justice to the game franchise it’s based on or to entertainment as a whole. I myself will likely forget the entire film by the end of next week.