The first GOOD videogame movie?
The announcement of a Ratchet and Clank movie was both surprising and incredibly exciting for pretty much any fan of the space-faring duo. While videogame movies have a (deservedly) bad reputation, it looked like this one would be the first to get everything right. It was animated in the same style as the games, the original voice actors would be reprising their roles, it was being written by the same writing team from the games – what could possibly go wrong?
Well, apparently a lot could go wrong. Upon this movie’s release, a bevy of mixed opinions started surfacing. While fans of the series were ecstatic with the result and praised it to high heaven, the critics were either left disappointed or outright trashed the film; it currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 16%! Is all this negativity well-founded or are the critics just being mean? With the film now out on DVD and available to rent, let’s see if this cinematic offering truly deserved to hit the big screen.
For those who don’t know, Ratchet and Clank is, in fact, a reboot of the original videogame series, re-telling the events of the very first game, showing how the titular duo first met and their battle against Chairman Drek, who is destroying planets and gathering the remains to build a new one for his race, the Blarg.
If you’re a fan of the games, you’ll be pleased to know that it resembles the source material practically perfectly. This movie could be easily mistaken for a cutscene. The character models, locations – everything is spot on. While the likes of Drek and Dr. Nefarious have slight deviations from their original designs (in fact, the entire Blarg race looks a lot more reptilian than before), they’re still recognisable. Even the new characters made for the film fit in and don’t feel out of place. Unlike most videogame movies, you can tell that those involved have either worked on the games, fans of the series or just did actual research into the series.
Not to mention that it’s just nice to look at. The PS3 games had their cutscenes described by some as being Pixar-quality and I feel like the same applies here. There wasn’t a moment where it felt like the animation was cheap. Which is why it’s such a shame that the positives kind of end here.
First off, the voice acting. OK, technically there’s nothing wrong with them. There’s not actually any outright bad performances and James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim Ward and Armin Shimerman do stellar jobs as Ratchet, Clank, Qwark and Dr. Nefarious respectively. They have been voicing these characters for over 10 years now so they’ve pretty much become synonymous with them. The problem lies with the celebrities that the movie managed to pull in.
Again, the performances themselves are by no means bad – they just don’t add anything. Sure, Paul Giamatti is decent as Drek but there’s nothing about it that makes me think that Paul Giamatti HAD to be Drek. There’s nothing about Sylvester Stallone’s performance as Victor von Ion that makes me think “Oh yeah, he’s perfect. No one else could do that role.” If the film had just hired some regular voice actors, they probably could’ve done just as good of a job. The celebrities are only here to entice the average movie goer and serve as bragging rights.
But, hey, they’re not the main focus. It’s all about Ratchet and Clank, right? I mean, they’re the stars of the movie, right? Well, Ratchet is. I’m not sure about Clank. See, the movie starts off with Ratchet wanting to become a Galactic Ranger and helping save the galaxy (a far cry from his original character who just wanted to get off his planet and go exploring) and the movie is all about him doing just that – becoming a hero and learning some lessons about true heroism or something like that. He’s very much your average wide-eyed dreamer who feels he could do something more, which is honestly disappointing since he loses his edge as a result of this.
While he became nicer as the games went on, Ratchet was always a bit of a snarky bastard and quick to anger. When people got on his nerves, he was never shy about letting them know how much they annoyed him. Here, he has no real bite which is a shame since he becomes the kind of protagonist we’ve seen in almost every bad kid’s movie.
But hey, at least he has screen-time and development as opposed to Clank. Despite being one half of the movie’s title, it feels like Clank doesn’t get to do that much. He spends a great deal of time not getting involved with the action and a lot of his interactions with Ratchet don’t really develop their relationship; they just kind of talk to each other and occasionally bicker. He has some weird, one-sided rivalry with Stallone’s character but it isn’t really explained all that well, doesn’t really go anywhere and is just as quickly resolved as it’s started.
Even the circumstances surrounding his creation are lame. In the original game, he was meant to be another mindless robotic goon for Drek’s forces but was created due to a computer malfunction when, in fact, the computer (his mum essentially) created him with the intention of foiling Drek’s plans (and that’s not going into the stuff revealed about him in A Crack in Time – one of the PS3 games). Here, a random lightning bolt causes the malfunction and that’s it. Rather than be part of some greater plan, Clank’s existence is purely accidental; a result of pure happenstance. Does that not seem really weak to you?
Captain Qwark gets more screen time than Clank does (and arguably even more development than Ratchet), but it’s kind of a double-edged sword. To explain, I’m going to have to spoil one major twist of the movie (but if you’re familiar with the series, you’ll have already suspected this would happen). At one point, Qwark betrays the heroes because Drek convinces him that Ratchet has stolen his spotlight and that he can make him an even bigger celebrity.
There is so much wrong with this, I don’t even know where to start so I’ll keep it brief. While Qwark DID betray Ratchet and Clank in the original game, he was presented as a straight-up villain. He did it for the money and that was that. In the movie, while Qwark IS an egotistical showboat, he’s not presented as evil. It’s just a mistake he made because of his jealousy. When he agrees, he demands that Drek not hurt his friends or anyone else. It’s just hard to believe that Qwark, despite his ego and idiocy, would ever agree to this, at least in this continuity.
It pains me to write this, but Ratchet and Clank is not a very good movie. As an adaptation, it lacks the edge that made the games so popular and abridges so much that it honestly feels like not much was really achieved by the end of it. But it at least has some decent jokes and gags for the fans (I certainly cracked at a smile at the familiar weaponry).
As a standalone movie, however, it fails even harder. There’s a reason the critics gave it such a thrashing. If you’re not familiar at all with the series, I can’t recommend this movie. It’ll just be a flashy, incoherent and loud mess.
Let’s hope that Sly Cooper movie turns out better.
Final Score: 2/5