Reviews: Ratchet And Clank 2016
Huge disappointment for a nostalgic fan.
I watched the 2016 Ratchet and Clank movie on Netflix. I loved the PS2 games to death as a kid, but this movie (which is a retelling of the first game) was a huge disappointment for me. My biggest beef with it is how they handled the characters personalities—it seems they put the cliche plot in priority over making the characters interesting, and it shows. In the original game, Ratchet was a hotshot jerk who gradually mellowed into a snarky adventurer, and he and the intellectual, nerdy Clank played off each other a lot as they went on their adventures, even when they had a bad falling out. There was a real episodic charm to the first game, because the original game had no real writer on board—the dev team just made up the story as they went, and this gave them lots of room to build up the characters quirks and chemistry in a way that probably couldn't have been done in a more regimented plot. In the movie, they completely destroyed their chemistry. Ratchet is now a bland Luke Skywalker clone, Clank doesn't interact or play off him that well as a result and is given the backseat to a bunch of other new supporting characters. While Captain Qwark is more or less the same ham as before, I felt the movie shouldn't have given him more character focus than Ratchet himself. Turning Chairmen Drek from a cunning sociopath and parody of slimy executives into a bumbling goofball to make room for the films other villain, the one-note Dr. Nefarious, was a terrible mistake. The rest of the characters are completely forgettable and unengaging. While the animation is very professional and a significant improvement over the now badly dated graphics of the original game, it just doesn't have that same feeling of fun to it, whether its in the art or in the acting. On top of that, they completely sanded down the humor of the original game into nothing—the original game had a sense of humor that was kindof like what you'd get from hanging out with your college buddies while playing video games and engaging in nerd culture. This movie throws all that out for lazy writerspeak jokes (theres a gag that really grated my nerves—during the city battle, a robot falls over a wall and bellows the infamous Wilhelm Scream, prompting another soldier to reach other and call "Wilhelm!") and tired sight gags, and feels like it was just solely made for kids in mind. Everything about the film just feels so uninspired and stale. All in all, I'm in no hurry to rewatch this one again.
Ratchet and Clank is a film of two worlds. Comedy and Action-Adventure; film and games. It knows when to poke fun at itself, when to be meta, and when to take a moment to address the serious stuff. For the film's pacing strengths and some clever writing, it does have it's pitfalls. It's full of story clichés, and it doesn't always give characters a full fleshing-out. It can also be alienating (no pun intended) to viewers who aren't familiar with the games. But as Ratchet and Qwark so eloquently put it, "You can do anything if you have heart!" And just like Ratchet, those with experience sometimes have trouble recognizing the strength of that heart. It's not for everyone, but I recommend it if you want a little something fun before the summer wave hits.
A Video Game Movie Done Right
I was smiling the whole time while watching this movie. It's heartwarming to see just how faithful to the source material this movie is. Ratchet, rather than being the jerk he was in the original game is a more relatable dreamer, and is much like his subsequent characterization(s). Clank is largely the same, not that that's a bad thing. Qwark, rather than being the Lovable Coward, and outright buffoon, is able to go toe-to-toe with Ratchet. Though he still retains comedic qualities, but these have more to do with being a Glory Seeker than a buffoon. It's a welcome change from the comic relief who kept getting dumber and dumber. The Galactic Rangers themselves are all organics who really seem to take after Qwark, save for Elaris who is probably what Dr. Nefarious would be like if he remained a hero. Drek this time around is more entertaining, and also gives an air of Ax-Crazy while Nefarious is one of the film's highlights, arguably steals the show. Victor von Ion is a genuine badass and is perfectly voiced by Sylvester Stallone. The plot, which can be described as The Hero's Journey, is tight and fairly-fast paced which does actually work to its advantage. This allows it to cover a good amount of ground without feeling slow and/or boring. The voice cast is nothing short of spectacular. Paul Giamatti himself manages to be a better Drek than his predecessor and notable series regular reprise their respective roles. The animation itself is extraordinary; despite a low budget, it's on-par with its competitiors. The best part of the movie are the jokes, all of which are hits. One of the best is when during Victor's funeral, numerous henchmen text behind Drek's back despite him explicitly stating otherwise. They are jettisoned into space at the end of the funeral. There's even an Emperor's New Groove-esque self-awareness to the film, most notably with those subtitles. As much as I love the movie, it is still far from flawless. It's a shame that the Blargian Snagglebeast never showed up as that part from the game delivers one of the best exchanges. Also, it should have been longer so the Rangers could be fleshed out more, along with Drek, and perhaps even Grimroth. Then there's Victor von Ion; he exited the movie too early. Still, perhaps he will return in a sequel. Still, this is one of the few movies I could actually watch repeatedly without feeling any fatigue doing so. The only other movies that I can say that about are: Disney's Robin Hood and The Jungle Book (both the cartoon and the new live-action film), The Prince of Egypt, Treasure Planet, and Kung Fu Panda 3. 3D adds a nice touch but is not required. I rate this film 3 out 5 stars. It's not Oscar-worthy, but damn is it good. There's also enough material to draw from that they could make a TV show out of it.