Ratchet & Clank Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
For a long time now the film industry has tried exploiting the video game industry through adaption, leading to many horrendous monstrosities that don’t resemble the original product. Most of the time the only association the film has with the video game is the title, with everything else being crude expansions on elements we should recognise and love but instead hate because of how out of proportion they are. It’s even funnier when the films attempt to put effort into their adaptions by adding in subtle references to the video games whilst the rest of the film has nothing to do with the original product.
So when Ratchet and Clank was first announced I assumed the worst, but in fact the film was being done right. The animation, the character designs, the characters themselves, the environments, the narrative. It was all there and even Insomniac Games, the original developers for the franchise, were brought on-board as supervisors. I thought to myself, “Could this be the first video game adaption that is done right?” Unfortunately we aren’t quite there yet. Let me explain.
In terms of the way the film looks it is easily the best video game adaption out there because of its attention to detail and the simple factor it sticks to the source material. It doesn’t just feel like the original product, it is the original product now on the big screen. But this is where the problem comes in. The Ratchet and Clank film lacks any kind of development. Whereas all of the video game adaptions prior to this didn’t get enough right, this one got too much right. I felt that the film didn’t get any real time to develop anything and stuck to a “by- the-book” structure and left it at that.
The narrative itself felt basic and because of the lack of development I didn’t feel any investment in the events or characters onscreen. What is supposed to be a cartoony space adventure instead becomes a montage of flashy, colourful images. In some cases you’re waiting with boredom for the playable sections to arrive so that you can interact with the narrative. And I suppose that’s what the film feels like, a collection of all of the games main cut-scenes all slammed together to facilitate a 90-minute movie.
If you haven’t played any of the Ratchet and Clank games then you will be completely clueless to the characters and events onscreen. Basically the film follows the titular characters Ratchet and Clank. Ratchet is a bad mechanic who wishes to become something more, and Clank is a robot that was created by mistake. They come together through circumstance and attempt to warn the Galactic Rangers about the plans of the film’s villain, Chairman Drek, and eventually become involved within an adventure to save the galaxy. We get some time to get to know Ratchet and the first 10 minutes or so of the film is rather decent. But once Clank comes into the picture things begin to feel rushed. In fact the pacing literally slams Clank upon Ratchet after a mere brief scene of Clank’s creation.
One of the things that definitely feels rushed is the friendship between our main protagonists. At no point did I feel like these two characters had a whole lot of chemistry together, which is odd considering the film is called “Ratchet and Clank” and is based off the video game of the same name. Even by the end of the film, where these two characters are supposed to have had formed a friendship, don’t feel like friends and instead feel like plot-threads to further along the narrative. Plus there weren’t many points in the film where the two characters actually spent time together. It felt as though the film focused on the wrong elements.
Speaking of characters, I disliked them greatly. Apparently they are the same in the video games (which I haven’t fully played) which is fine because that means they have been adapted well but bad because that means in both versions I dislike them. They felt very unlikable because they were either annoying or devoid of any real characteristics. They all felt generic, and placed there for a set purpose in order to progress the film. Also the comedy formulated by the characters felt very awkward, to the point where it was cringe-worthy.
Captain Qwark was by far my least favourite character, and strangely enough one of the only characters to receive a sense of character development. He was selfish and completely full of himself. I hated the fact that all he cared about was his fame and not his job. The fact he could be easily persuaded to betray his own comrades just to revitalise his fame, after Ratchet steals it from him, is beyond redeemable. And yet the film felt the need to have Ratchet help him see his inner hero by proclaiming how much he meant to him as a symbol of justice despite the fact that Quark betrayed him and showcased he was nothing more than a publicity seeking a-hole.
Going back to the narrative, it really did feel rushed even though it wasn’t rushed. It’s hard to explain but the best way I can sum up the narrative is by saying yes it fits well into a 90- minute slot-time but at the cost of showing any real development. All the core aspects are there, the key notes, and all the boxes to be ticked but its missing heart. Without any character development or narrative development it all just becomes a bland piece of artwork which you don’t truly care about. Yes it looks nice but it holds no value because there’s nothing to suck you in with.
Say, the narrative plays out how it should and the characters get to where they need to and accomplish what they need to but you don’t care about them because the film doesn’t give you any real time to feel invested with them. Ratchet and Clank are shoved in your face and you are expected to like them from the get-go and are expected to like them further by watching them do cool things with cool technology against evil guys. It doesn’t work like that unfortunately. Captain America: Civil War wouldn’t have been nearly as good if we had just had Captain America and Iron Man fighting each other without any real development as to why they want to fight one another. It just would’ve been two guys fighting. It would’ve looked nice but we wouldn’t necessarily be invested.
The villains themselves felt very generic as well. Drek was a greedy corporate guy and Doctor Nefarious was an evil scientist. Both of them were committing or trying to commit horrible acts throughout the film but their motives for doing them made their evilness fall flat. Nefarious’s motives felt very petty and didn’t excuse him from wanting to blow up the entire galaxy. It did feel like this film was made for a very young demographic, which meant that the characters, especially the villains, were bright and colourful and lacked any sense of seriousness despite the film’s premise.
At one point Ratchet is shocked that he fails to save a planet from destruction, creating a Death Star shock-valued moment, only to have the consequences of the situation taken away when in the next scene it is stated on a newsfeed that the planet had (somehow) been evacuated. So essentially you have a protagonist quitting his job in the clichéd “I was wrong, you were right” moment over the fact that billions of people lost their homes despite still having their lives intact. I just couldn’t believe how child-friendly the tone was. It really detracted a lot of the enjoyment out of the film on top of the enduring blandness.
I suppose one thing to appreciate about the film is the amount of nods it does to the games, especially concerning the weaponry. But they do feel forced sometimes in order to give the fanboys something to cheer over. And this comes to my biggest complaint about the film. It’s literally made for the fans. Now normally this is a good thing, and something I would normally scream for, but not at the expense of telling a good story. For me it felt like you needed to have played the game, or the newly released reboot that accompanies the film, in order to have a true grasp on the characters and narrative onscreen. The film is simply the basic outline, allowing the fans to fill in the gaps whilst they enjoy the spectacle. That to me felt like a risky move and one that I feel may jeopardise the film and any future films Sony want to make.
I could give Ratchet and Clank a lower score but that would be wrong considering the amount of effort that went into making this film. And as stated at the beginning of the review, this is the best video game adaptation out there. Half the work is there onscreen, it just simply requires the rest of the work which would solidify it as a good film. At the minute it is just an OK film.
My advice would be to give it a go and see what you think. This is only my opinion at the end of the day and a simple guide based on those opinions. Also it’s worth mentioning that I’m not the biggest fan of the franchise so it is clear that the film isn’t catered for me. I definitely think if you are a Ratchet and Clank fan then you will enjoy it. For those who aren’t familiar, just be cautious and be aware you won’t be seeing the best animated film of the century. At best it’ll just be an entertaining experience that you will be appreciative for but will most likely not sit through again.