Of all the video games out there, Ratchet & Clank is the one which seems to most naturally lend itself to movie adaptation. Because the cutscenes accompanying the games have always been of such high quality, it has often been said that they resemble a Pixar movie, and that the almost unbelievably high quality of the in-game graphics in recent iterations gives the feeling of actually playing a Pixar movie. So is the Ratchet & Clank movie one of those great rarities: is it a good video game to movie adaptation?
Well the answer to that question is that, while Ratchet & Clank will undoubtedly appeal to a very young audience, overall the movie simply feels underdeveloped. From the storyline, character design/development, to the rather bland environments and lack of great jokes, it’s clear that this project has been hampered by budget and, most likely, time constraints due to its tie-in with the original game’s remake for the PS4. It’s also a good example of a movie which unwisely allocated a chunk of its budget on star power (a topic which we’ve written about before) but to little effect, considering those characters come across as either cameo, lesser, or not particularly recognisable voice-wise anyhow. They should have forgotten about the movie posters and focussed more on creating a high quality animated movie – what’s wrong with all of those great voice actors without star power anyhow?!
There are glimpses scattered throughout of what it might have been, but unfortunately the end result is an animation which more closely resembles an episode of Thunderbirds Are Go than a Pixar movie. Hence, it comes across as a TV movie for kids, rather than a classic animation appealing to both children and adults alike. If Disney had made this, it would have been one of those animated movies going straight to home release.
The storyline essentially boils down to Star Wars for kids: a vile alien named Chairman Drek is destroying every planet in the Solana Galaxy, so must be stopped by Ratchet & Clank and pals. One of those pals is Captain Quark, leader of The Galactic Rangers, who finds out that he isn’t as great as he thinks he is when Ratchet & Clank show up. But the writers really missed a trick here: in the games much humour derives from the reality that Quark is a coward, whereas here they’ve been keen to uphold his heroic qualities too much. He could have served as a great source of comedy had they have him turn out to be an utter buffoon. The jokes in general fall rather flat too, and much of the comedy is lifted from other titles, such as Frau’s screaming in Austin Powers.
The story also doesn’t capture that relationship between Ratchet and Clank as it should have: a very close, almost brotherly relationship, and one in which they co-operate to get past anything which gets in their way. The characters never truly feel in peril at any point, so dramatically there is never enough to really make us care about the story. Without these things the film has very little heart.
Playing it safe and making this film appeal to a very young audience isn’t necessarily a bad move by those involved, but it is a shame that it doesn’t have more mass appeal, particularly when the games can be enjoyed by players of all ages. If this weren’t being marketed as a family movie, but rather a kids movie, then it might merit 3 stars. Because it won’t provide much entertainment to parents who take their children to see it, and the fact that it could have been so much more, it only merits two stars however. Despite Ratchet & Clank‘s potential to break the trend, we’re still no closer to that great video game to movie adaptation.