Ratchet & Clank (The Movie Based on the Game): Review

Written by: Carlos Zotomayor

Film | Jun 1, 2016

Insomniac Games PlayStation Ratchet and Clank

Well, here we go again- another video game movie. Might as well bash on it like the breakables in the game that is infinitely better than the movie it is based on. Of which there are a lot.

There are precisely two types of people the Ratchet and Clank movie was made for: those who have played the video games, and children.

Glad to see that I fall under both categories, then.

Retelling the tale of the classic PlayStation 2 game that was released in 2002, Ratchet & Clank follows the plot of the first game (Ratchet & Clank) and the new reboot of the first game (also called Ratchet & Clank- which just makes my life all the more difficult to differentiate them) in an unremarkable adventure that left me as disappointed as a father with overbearing expectations of his children. So yes, I didn't really like it.

Let's discuss this from the perspectives of the two potential audiences, shall we?

For those who haven't played the games, the movie is pretty meh. The story, following a very predictable plot, sees Ratchet (an orphaned Lombax and totally not a Tigger rip-off because he wears clothes and has shoes) as the protagonist who longs to be a hero but is stuck fixing ships on Planet Veldin. 

But lo and behold, when Chairman Drek (an evil CEO who happens to look like a swollen piece of coral) decides to do the whole evil villain thing and goes about destroying planets with something that is totally not a Death Star™, it falls onto Ratchet and a small defective robot named Clank to save the galaxy.

There are a few twists and turns but ultimately, this is one story that seems to tread on the most familiar of grounds without even bothering to see how many films already went down the "saving the galaxy/world/universe" road.

Not a very good selling point is it?

Nothing in this film stands out to the average movie goer at all. The writing, as I mentioned, is not even worthy of mentioning (quite ironic, that). The characters, apart from Captain Qwark (who interestingly enough, seems to be the most memorable and human-looking of the lot), are pretty cut-and-dry and can be replaced by just about any cartoon animal that can talk and hold a gun. 

And it's not just that. Even the dialogue and graphics give the feel that this is just another movie looking to cash in on the "cute-and-cuddly" animated genre without putting in much effort. There's nothing wrong with that; it's just that it does not make for a very memorable film when compared to others that came out this year such as Zootopia or Kung Fu Panda I-forgot-which-number-we-were-at.

So how does it hold up for those who HAVE played the games?

It's still meh, but for a different reason.

As a fan of the series, I was disappointed because despite seeing my video game childhood immortalized on the big screen, I couldn't help feeling that I would rather play the games than watch a film with the exact same story. It's like the producers didn't do much other than just copy and paste cutscenes together to give us something ala-Heavy Rain without any gameplay (which is still better than Heavy Rain, come to think of it).

There are even parts where you KNOW there is supposed to be gameplay, but seeing as this isn't an interactive form of media like a Choose Your Own Adventure book or a video game (I sure wish there were one or two of those), you have to contend with rapid cuts in the story.

[Minor Spoilers]

This is evident in two major parts of the movie: one is where Ratchet decides to try out for the Galactic Rangers but you never see him do so and it cuts straight to him failing them. Another is when Clank has to escape the Sylvester Stallone-voiced Victor (no kidding, that is actually Sylvester Stallone in a children's movie) and the movie fast-forwards to him having already escaped.

[Spoilers End]

It might have worked in another animated movie but this is a movie based on a videogame, so by definition it already has the potential to be garbage.

But is it garbage?

No, not really.

It has some standout moments- most of them due to the fact that the series has established itself firmly over the last fourteen years as one based on witty humor and outrageous weaponry.

For those who are just getting introduced to Ratchet & Clank, you may chuckle now and then to some fourth wall-breaking dialogue or Captain Qwark's childish drawings, but it is only when you have shared a history with the franchise that the movie shines at its glossy, pixelated brightest.

You will notice things that someone without a knowledge of the games will not. It makes nods to the games' history: from the various weapons (yes, even the useless ones) to the other cartoony video games that it was compared to. Even its PlayStation history isn't safe from the movie poking fun at it (which has an audio cue only children in the early 1990s would recognize).

There are various Easter eggs scattered throughout that will make you feel like you're on a search to find every subtle reference to a game franchise that is remarkably better than the movie you are currently watching.

And that, ultimately, is where Ratchet & Clank (the movie based on the game) fails.

It is so focused on what was so great with the past that it fails to deliver anything new in the present. It has a lackluster story only children would appreciate because they still haven't watched movies like Memento or Inception (though you really should not let children watch those kinds of movies yet) and it constantly scrapes the bottom of the pile for lines and ideas that have been said one too many times in movies that even your great-grandparents have watched when they were young.

I wanted to love this movie, I really did.

It's kind of disappointing because whenever I look back on the Ratchet & Clank franchise, I always imagined that it would be the kind of series that would make for a great movie. It has that Pixar-movie feel. It has subtle humor that would make even adults guffaw and imaginative weaponry that puts modern military shooters to shame. It has an interesting world and characters that have history with a large fanbase of not just children, but children-at-heart too.

But retreading on history can only get you so far before the formula starts to get stale. Maybe if Sony and Insomniac spent a little more time focusing on one project instead of whether or not to make a game or a movie based on the game (because that never ends well), then maybe the end result would have been a lot better. Because this movie, while living up to the series, is just that word which I have been repeating over and over in this article: "meh". 

About the author: Carlos Zotomayor

Zoto can see your underpants. Mmm... tasteful.

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