Movie Review: ‘RATCHET & CLANK’ gives some promise to video game adaptations

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

RATCHET & CLANK | 94 min | PG
Director: Kevin Munroe and Jericca Cleland
Cast: James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim WardBella Thorne, Rosario DawsonPaul GiamattiJohn 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.

Clank (David Kaye) and Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor). Photo courtesy of Gramercy Pictures.

Clank (David Kaye) and Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor). Photo courtesy of Gramercy Pictures.

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.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.