‘Movies adapted from video games’ is a genre that is usually a groan-inducing venture and may strengthen your eyes with the many times that you will roll your eyes at the clunky exposition or the sheer dumbness of the direction. Rarely do we get a film that works like Silent Hill because we are mostly saddled with duds like the Resident Evil series, the infamous Super Mario Brothers or any film from Uwe Boll’s catalog of terrible projects. Now, PlayStation themselves have decided to make one of their properties themselves, making an animated film of a pretty popular series and if they don’t get this one right, we still have three more adaptations of highly popular games to come this year including Angry Birds, Assassin’s Creed and, of course, Blizzard’s Warcraft.
Originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2002, Ratchet and Clank was a three-dimensional platform game developed by Insomniac Games and debuted to fantastic rave reviews from both game critics and the general public. From then until now we’ve had eight follow-up games as well as two spin-off titles. Fans of the series have proved to be ravenous, so is it really a gamble for Sony PlayStation to want to try out a feature film version of their successful franchise? It kind of seems like a money bet but, to me, it should be dependent on the big screen final product rather than nostalgia.
Ratchet and Clank is essentially a mismatched buddy cop / science fiction comedy in space. Ratchet is a Lombax, a fictional species in the film, that kind of resembles an anthropomorphic wombat and cat mixture. He is a mechanic working for his mentor Grimroth (voiced by John Goodman), where he consistently tries to go above and beyond to improve his customers speed and gadgets on their vehicles, to disastrous results. Dreaming of one day becoming a “Galactic Ranger”, an intergalactic police force, Ratchet feels that he is destined for greatness and refuses to allow himself any mediocrity.
Clank is an anomaly of a character in this universe, as he is basically a mistake made by our central villain. The leader of the Blarg, Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti), an evil but completely incompetent ruler who is bent on destroying pieces of the universe in order to create his own special Utopia. Along with his blind followers and right-hand henchman, Victor (Sylvester Stallone), Drek creates a robot army which, during manufacturing, accidentally produces a smaller yet infinitely smarter robot that escapes and ends up almost falling on Ratchet’s doorstep. The two become quick friends, with the mechanic giving the little guy his new moniker, Clank and together they try to take on Drek and his army and save the universe.
This film will definitely hit well with the fans of the series. If you have any sort of loving connection to this game, you will be more than blown away to see these characters brought to life on the big screen. All the game to screen transitioning leaves the characters looking exactly as they should look; with no noticeable changes and the world is the same as you know it to be. There are also many in-jokes throughout the film that not just Ratchet and Clank fans but fans of the PlayStation in general through the ages that will definitely make you chuckle with references to other franchises owned by the company and even things about the system itself.
Unfortunately, the film has far more failings than it does successes. As something that always plagues the video game adaptations, the script is pretty simple in this production, seemingly taken straight from the original 2002 game itself. Even the bigger celebrity stunt castings of Goodman, Stallone and Rosario Dawson do nothing but show how unnecessary bringing them in was. Their dialog could have been delivered by anyone and they really come off as an after note, which is definitely not what PlayStation wanted. I assume they wanted these castings to drive their film alongside their two well-known leads, but it just served to drag the film down and make you think it has the quality of a ‘direct to video’ film.
It’s really a bummer that the family-oriented venture PlayStation tried to take with Ratchet and Clank most likely won’t play out well with an audience unfamiliar with the subject material. It’s a small and fun little story that works well with a controller in your hand and Ratchet and Clank’s fate resting firmly in your ability to guide them to victory, but as a movie, it really doesn’t have a lot of appeal to it. It feels stale, completely predictable and a bit low on intelligence. On the plus side, it won’t annoy you like Alvin and the Chipmunks or make you wonder what you’re doing with your life like Norm of the North.
Even if Ratchet and Clank turns out to be a dud, it will likely still count as a success for PlayStation and Insomniac, as it really is just a precursor to the release of the reimaging of the PS2 classic for the next generation console, PlayStation 4. The fanboys are going to eat this one up and get psyched for the game that is already on shelves now. If anything, this is just the biggest ad you’ve ever seen for a video game, something none of the other films have done. I didn’t finish watching Max Payne or Hitman with an immediate urge to play the games afterwards and with this one, well, I kind of wanted to dust off a PlayStation 2. Even still, I give this one a low one and a half out of five.