I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Jared McMillan // Film Critic
RATCHET & CLANK | 94 min | PG
Director: Kevin Munroe and Jericca Cleland
Cast: James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim Ward, Bella Thorne, Rosario Dawson, Paul Giamatti, John Goodman and Sylvester Stallone
There’s always a little apprehension with a movie release that has those three little words attached to it: video game adaptation. In fact, saying video game adaptation immediately made your mind jump to some of the worst examples, like SUPER MARIO BROS., STREET FIGHTER, or anything made by Uwe Boll. Video games have a concept that is heavily relied on imagination, and the use of real world adaptation takes away from that charm, leaving the movie at a detriment from the outset.
The only way to capture that imagination is to make a live-action homage, something like HARDCORE HENRY, or use animation to make sure that imagination can translate better to the viewer. While not a direct adaptation, the shining example is WRECK-IT RALPH. The video game world had plenty of video game characters that existed in a Disney universe. However, the use of those characters evoked the feelings the audience should get from seeing an adaptation of their favorite video games.
True animated adaptations are, surprisingly, still a bit of an outlier for Hollywood. Even if the adaptation happens, it usually relegated to television, like Sonic the Hedgehog or The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. It still has yet to reach its potential on the silver screen. The next up to challenge this perception is RATCHET & CLANK, based on the popular PlayStation series. Can it break through that wall and entertain an audience while maintaining its video game roots?
Ratchet (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) is a cat-like creature known as a Lombax. He longs to make more of himself but is sort of stuck in his life…until the Galactic Rangers come calling for a new recruit. Led by his hero Captain Qwark (voiced by Jim Dale), the Galactic Rangers need help in finding out who is destroying empty planets to keep certain pieces. This villain is Chairman Drek (voiced by Paul Giamatti), who wants to use the planet segments to create his own utopia.
While creating an army of robots, a defect is made known as Clank (voiced by David Kaye). Clank escapes termination and finds itself crashing in Ratchet’s backyard. Clank tells Ratchet of the impending doom and they go to help the Galactic Rangers from getting destroyed. Clank is the perfect match for Ratchet, as the robot uses logic to help center Ratchet’s innovation and imagination. They join the Rangers and are off to save the galaxy from being destroyed.
The animation is fantastic to look at as the movie progresses. It is a completely different universe and style unseen in any other sci-fi/fantasy, animated or otherwise. Translating the video game world onto the big screen has given it more depth and texture. There could’ve been the chance to make it excessive in order to enhance the oddity, but it stays true to form. Also, there are hints of Star Wars sprinkled into the origin story of RATCHET & CLANK, from Ratchet being orphaned on a desert planet to the use of wipe editing to change scenes.
That being said, it’s hard to not notice the irregularities in the voice direction. Sometimes the dialogue fit the scene perfectly and other times it just seemed bland and off-putting, much like a video game cinematic cutaway. Not to say that the voice acting was bad, but the vocals just didn’t match the intensity of the scene.
Also, another problem is that the film has excellent humor, but directors Kevin Munroe and Jericca Cleland don’t take the time to let the humor absorb. It spends too little time in order to keep the narrative moving fast, so some action/sound overpowers the jokey dialogue. (Best joke is an excellent pun that involves the Wilhelm scream). It’s an animated movie so the visual appeal is already there; no need to rush past the dialogue that has clearly been thought of in earnest to enhance the experience.
And while RATCHET & CLANK is an uneven journey, children will have a blast. That the movie is not a solid adaptation of the video game is of no consequence as kids 10 and under may have never played any of the R&C franchise. Adults might easily find the problems in the production, but families taking their children to be entertained will find that successful. It does prove a bright future for the video game adaptation if they stick to putting it in an animated frame, but it can’t be afraid to achieve its own identity to combine with its roots.
RATCHET & CLANK opens nationwide on Friday.