Looking through the Rotten Tomatoes reviews of Ratchet & Clank is painful. Some consider the animation pedestrian; others believe that the story is too Hollywood-ized and packaged into some form of generic product placement. And some just believe that it’s Disney lite.
But here’s the problem – they don’t seem to understand the perspective of a Ratchet & Clank movie. It can’t have a Disney sized budget because, as big a franchise as it is in the game world, that’s not enough to justify a $200 million budget. As far as being “packaged for Hollywood,” what isn’t lately? Didn’t we just see an advertisement for Turkish Airlines in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice? Or, for that matter, the trailer for an Angry Birds movie? Finally, the “pedestrian” animation…well, again, it’s not Disney, but Rainmaker Studios. So that’s the end of that.
Now, those corrections aside, as a gamer, let me just say that Ratchet & Clank: The Movie was pretty good. Not great, mind you, as there were some issues that emerged midway through the film, and characterization of secondary folks wasn’t exactly on point. That said, though, it’s the kind of intergalactic fun that you can still enjoy with your kids.
Ratchet (voiced by James Arnold Taylor, just like the games) dreams of joining the Galactic Rangers, and jumps at the chance when Captain Quark (Jim Ward, from the games) offers tryouts. But after he’s rejected, he finds himself on a crash course with Clank (David Kaye, again, the games), who’s escaped from the headquarters of Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti, not from the games, but awesome), who wants nothing more than to tear planets apart only to create an ideal utopia.
It’s a bit silly, but eventually Ratchet & Clank catch up with the Rangers and join them to stop Drek and his forces. But not everything is what it seems…especially with Victor Von Ion (Sylvester Stallone – yes, that Sylvester Stallone) and Dr. Nefarious (the always game Armin Shimerman) lurking about.
First off, for an indie production, the voice cast is great. Getting the familiar game voices was a wise decision instead of recasting, and some actors, like Giamatti and Stallone, have fun with the roles, even though they aren’t given too much to do thanks to lacking character development. Still, it’s fun to hear them get in on the fun, along with John Goodman as Ratchet’s boss Grimroth and Rosario Dawson as the helpful Ranger Elaris. But, really, this is Taylor and Kaye’s show, and having Ward and Shimerman back them up is just the thing gamers will want.
Secondly, the animation for a feature such as this – with a limited studio and budget – is quite good. The 3D effects could’ve probably been done without, but the quality is pretty impressive (well, not Disney, but still hardly scoff-worthy like most critics deem it to be), and some of the design work is inspired.
Thirdly, the movie moves at enough of a pace to entertain. There are lapses with the momentum at times – like about the midway point when the team gets broken apart – but nothing to derail the film. However, some decisions were questionable ones. You’ll reach one point in the film where you’ll wonder to yourself, “Wait…is Captain Quark REALLY that gullible?” Yes, that Captain Quark, the same one that’s caused havoc before.
Nevertheless, the film has a decent amount of action, a few good laughs (mixed in with some groaners, but not too many), and even a little bit of heart. Again, more character development would’ve gone a long way (is there a particular reason Victor can’t just crush Drek and take over himself?), and some decisions with the story would’ve sped things along, but Ratchet & Clank is nowhere near as bad as some detractors may insist it is.
I say if you’re a fan of the series, just go and turn your mind off and enjoy. There are far worse game films out there (again, forget what the critics blabber), and the production value, for a movie with such a minimal budget, is quite impressive. It’s a nice way to lead into what will no doubt be a chaotic summer season.