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Mar 06

Movie March – Ratchet & Clank

Definitely a “Full Frontal Assault”

Welcome back to Movie March! All month long, we’ll be looking at and reviewing animated films from both the east and the west. Today it’s the turn of the movie adaptation of the semi-reboot of the Ratchet & Clank video game series, called… Ratchet & Clank.

I have played the 2016 game this is based on (and nicked scenes from), so I was interested to see what had gotten cut for the game, what had stayed in and what was exclusive to the PS4 title. Y’see, while the game played great, the storytelling… not so much, certainly compared to the original. But this is a film. Its entire shtick is storytelling. So it couldn’t be bad, right?

Weeelllll, let’s get the one big thing out of the way first. Ratchet and Clank is, at its heart, a game about shooting things with a lot of different weapons. Some make sense. Some don’t. You roll with it. Point is, the gameplay is all action orientated, so the story and cutscenes don’t need to be. Bad guy blows up planets. Stop him. That’s it. That’s the game.

A movie, obviously, doesn’t have gameplay scenes. Sadly, it feels like they forgot to insert any action scenes to make up for it. Not until literally the climatic battle of the movie does it feel like Ratchet’s fired a weapon aside from killing the odd robot. Any time they enter what should be an action scene, it tends to skip ahead or cut away so it doesn’t have to show any big epic fights. A letdown would be the apt term.

But hey, loads of films aren’t action orientated. All this film has to do is be something else. Like comedy. The Ratchet games have loads of that.

Weeeeelllllllllllllll.

If you’ve played the games, you’re in luck, as there’s plenty of joke references just for you. PS1 startup sound? Check. Daxter and Sly cameos? Check. Callbacks to pretty much every past game? Check check checkaroo. You even get to see the Omniwrench beat the RYNO, which… well, if you’ve played the games, you’ll get it.

There was comedy for people who’ve not played the games, including some funny one-liners from the overlaying text, and the best Wilhelm joke I’ve ever heard, but you’ll probably felt left out when veterans are smirking away at seemingly random touches.

What about the characters then? Ratchet and Clank are two loveable scamps who’ve made over a decade of games based off their witty retorts to one another.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeelllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll.

Actually, I noticed in the game how much blander the two of them felt, never really undergoing an arc. Thankfully, there is a little more characterisation in the film, such as Clank’s origin being a lightning storm causing the warbot machine to temporarily malfunction and Clank to be constructed in that time, and Ratchet, who… is all over the shop.

Sometimes he comes across as an inept goof, when he’s struggling to materialise weapons and use them. Sometime’s he’s a genius, a dab hand at repairing and customising ships from his day job. He thinks Clank is talking nonsense about a threat to the good guys, then immediately 180s and claims he is one of the good guys, willing to travel across the stars for something he thought was a lie literally 30 seconds before. His ending feels off too, which is probably why the game cut it.

The rest of the good guys, the Galactic Rangers… well, the film has this arc about all of them except for Elaris (and Clank) wanting to shoot first, ask questions later. But it makes the entire team of people who are the last hope of the galaxy look like idiots when they won’t spend mere minutes to listen to data the tech duo have come up with. In the final act of the film they do finally take the time, but the damage has long been done. And Elaris’s frustrations are pretty much her whole arc too. I suppose it could be explained away by Quark hiring people with his mindset, but there was still plenty of time to give the Rangers more personality.

Speaking of Quark, the film actually bothers to show the internal strife he goes through which the game mostly skips over. An egomaniac who loves the fame of being the leader of a hero team, he gets deeply annoyed by Ratchet stealing his thunder, allowing that to cloud his judgement and let the bad guys win him over temporarily, until he realises what he’s done. In the game he turns himself in afterwards, in the film he just… carries on, but does a grand apology tour. Guess that keeps with his character.

Quark is a good showcase of something I didn’t expect from this film actually. The villains are more fleshed out and relatable than the good guys. In the game, Chairman Drek is just shown as an idiot. In the film, he’s desperate to achieve his goal of building a new, better planet for his race, and is willing to go to any lengths, hence why he saves and recruits supervillain Doctor Nefarious, and the two build a “Deplanetizer” which… well, you can guess. Ultimately though, Drek is in over his head as the balance of power shifts towards the Doctor before the Chairman is ousted completely.

Nefarious also has a backstory, being a former Galactic Ranger in Elaris’s position, who left and turned evil after being treated and insulted as a nerd for his entire working life. Seriously, the lead villain has a more relatable backstory than anyone else. His rise from Drek minion to final boss is well played out, and he provides a good foil for characters throughout the film.

Even the secondary villains thrive, at least compared to the game. Zed, an assistant robot, gets to talk for more than one minute, and actually gets some closure. Victor, the leader of the warbots, gets to rampage a bit and cause some destruction, though his weakness to water just randomly pops up, unlike the game where it’s seeded (they had that scene in the film too, they could’ve done it if they wanted).

Perhaps most maddening of all is that while the plot of the film feels pretty meh, some elements are really well done. Towards the start of the film, they make the joke of “why would you ever need magboosters on a ship”, and showcase this when they get chased by a workshop of metal. But then in a later scene they use it to fly away warbots and save the city, and then towards the end they use it to redirect the big planet busting gun. They seed something in advance and then it pays off throughout the film.

But then at other times we’re supposed to care about undeveloped things. The planet of Novalis gets annihilated, which is horrible… except we know everyone got evacuated, and what’s more, we’ve never been to that planet in the film!

It’s that lack of interesting storytelling that means I don’t recommend this unless you’re a big fan of the games and can fill in the blanks. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done better countless times elsewhere, and without the engaging gameplay to fall back on, this is just dull. And should I really be coming out of a kid’s film feeling sorry for the villains but not caring about the heroes?

So to sum up? Play the game. Hell, play any Ratchet game, they’re all better than this.

Two down! Stay tuned throughout the month of March for plenty more movie reviews, and if you’ve got any requests, hit us up on Twitter and maybe that’ll be the next film we review…