Ratchet & Clank – the movie review

Warning: contains spoilers for the original Ratchet and Clank game (2002)

A review of the accompanying video game can be found here – Ratchet & Clank (PS4)

 

I’ve been a fan of Ratchet & Clank since I was first passed a controller to try the original title at a friend’s house back in 2002. Since then I’ve picked up every game in the series on release and played them through multiple times in the space of a few days (yeah, even Secret Agent Clank). The games are simple and addicting but it was always more than that; the fantastic worlds and creatures discovered along the way feel so tangible and are simply lovable, including the villains! The connections between the characters so real. Until now, that is. Any and all fans of the series have been waiting about 3 years to see the duo on the big screen and I don’t believe a single one of us could feel anything less than disappointment.

First of all there are the obvious changes to the original story, such as throwing in Dr. Nefarious; a recurring villain from later games and the new ‘Galactic Rangers’; who aid Captain Qwark in defending the galaxy. Straight away the inclusion of these new and quite frankly pointless characters means much less time to focus on the bond between our two heroes. In fact we barely see the titular characters interact at all, with the exception of their first meeting and journey to help the Rangers. That was a bad move. The reboot movie/game crossover was supposed to bring in a new generation of fans but without the core relationship being cemented between our heroes there is simply no reason for them to stay together and their friendship is just not the same.

Villains

At the end of the original game, after the villain is defeated and the two barely make it out alive there’s a moment where they each start to go their own way. It’s melancholy and before Ratchet breaks the moment by coming back and telling Clank they need to go fix his wounds, you feel what they’ve been through together. This is because in the original story there was a lot of conflict between them on the subject of whether or not they should trust Captain Qwark. After he did inevitably betray them the pair clashed and almost gave up working together, until they discovered that the final planet on the villain’s to-destroy-list was Ratchet’s home. This forced them both to put their differences aside and fight together one last time. That along with the ending cutscene let you experience the connection grow first hand. Both outcasts, the only ones of their kind, overcoming their own egos to save the galaxy. Brilliant. The movie has none of this.

Instead we get a rather dire clichéd attempt at a ‘nerds vs jocks’ problem within the Galactic Rangers that separates the protagonists. Although it doesn’t really go on to accomplish anything other than letting Ratchet give the ‘intelligent’ characters a chance to view their concerns and plans, bringing them closer together, I guess? Except that even this is ultimately rendered moot when one of the major parts of the plan comes from Ratchet himself, instead of the brainy half of the duo – Clank. So this minor, tiny, insignificant spec of an ‘issue’ is just about the only conflict Ratchet and Clank go through in the movie and this is supposed to spark a deep, meaningful connection? Laughable.

Galactic Rangers

At least it has the classic Ratchet and Clank humour…kind of. While there are a lot of jokes it’s unfortunate that most of them fail to be anything more than childish silliness. Once again it’s clear that Insomniac Games were looking to bring Ratchet and Clank back for the next generation but they so clearly failed to understand that they should also appease their current fanbase, after all they are the crowd responsible for any popularity the series already has, but they missed that middle-ground by a landslide. This is most strange when you consider that the franchise usually contains more than its fair share of dark humour, even the titles of the games (in the US) are a little risqué. I mean “Up Your Arsenal” and “Going Commando” are only 2 simple, hilarious displays of the usual level of comedy found in the Ratchet and Clank series.

The movie also feels to clumsily flit between situations and you can feel where you would be usually left to play a new level in the video game. Not having that time set aside between situations for Ratchet and Clank to improve their combat skills and arsenal of weapons comes off as rushed, more so after two entire self-referencing montages. For example, we go from a scene where Ratchet keeps blowing himself up in training; showing how completely inept he is, to holding his own against an experienced veteran of warfare in no time at all. We needed to see the characters gain experience and rise above a few challenges before being amazing for no reason other than because the ending of the movie demanded it. I truly feel it would have been a better experience all around if the movie was cut up entirely and placed into the in-game cutscenes for the paired video game. Separated, they are both incomplete and awkward.

Head Bump

In reality this film could have been a masterpiece but it turned out feeling like too many stakeholders were involved, each one trying to pull it in a different direction, resulting in an average, uninspired mess. I can see them in a meeting room, making hell for the writers – “We need it to sell the game”; “We need to introduce more characters, that’s what the other superhero movies are doing”; “It needs to be funny for the kids”; “It needs to follow the original story, but spice it up”; “We need the recurring villain to show up now, in case of a sequel”. I can not at all recommend this movie, but I can still hope that it makes enough money for them to be able to try again. This time do it for the fans. Also, a little marketing may have helped with the complete lack of audience. Outside of video game circles I literally saw nothing about the movie or its release, it was even difficult to buy tickets for like the cinemas were trying to hide that it existed at all. Also, we want more of Clank’s laugh.

TL;DR

  • Not enough of a bond created between Ratchet and Clank.
  • Addition of new characters that change nothing and simply waste screen time.
  • Aimed at much too young of an audience, when the fans of the series are older now. It needed to aim more for the middle-ground.
  • Besides the flimsy at best idea of having ‘nerds vs jocks’ come between our heroes, there is nothing to break them apart and for them to ultimately overcome.
  • Things just seem to ‘happen’ without the game-time in between scenes, making it feel jagged and incomplete.
  • An ad campaign was heavily needed, even a small one.
  • Clank needs to laugh more. It’s the greatest.
  • Try again, do it better!