In a year where four video game adaptations will be coming our way, Ratchet & Clank does not exactly win the gold medal for being the best, but it does do enough to be one of the more sufficient ones. The popular Insomniac Games series has made its way to the big screen and has done plenty to preserve many of the elements that make those games fun. The approach ends up lacking much bite for non-fans who will mainly be getting a standard kid’s space adventure, but familiar or not, there is still some enjoyment to be had.
The film serves as an updated remake of the first game, which tells the origin story of the Lombax mechanic Ratchet (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) and escaped robot Clank (David Kaye). Various circumstances bring these two together and into the world of the Galactic Rangers, headed up by self-involved celebrity Captain Qwark (Jim Ward). Together, they must work to stop the galaxy from being destroyed by Chairmen Drek (Paul Giamatti).
If that seems like a lot of information to keep track of, it really isn’t. Ratchet & Clank has built up a universe in the gaming world over the years, but it is all fairly straightforward and of little consequence, as far as the film goes. That is something of an issue, when it comes to really caring about the stakes of the film, but this is where the irreverence comes into play.
While game fans will admire seeing various visual nods and references here and there, the majority of viewers can simply take in the idea of this world and how it attempts to have a snarky attitude about the whole situation. The film is not entirely self-aware, but it does have a sense of humor about the types of characters we are seeing and the nature of a story this familiar. It is true that little is overly ambitious in terms of how certain character arcs and story turns play out, but it is the attitude of the film that should provide the most for audiences to connect with.
As far as other hooks go, the key element that made the games so popular, aside from its colorful sense of humor, is the huge array of weapons available to utilize and the silly creativity that went into them. This is where things get tricky, as a platformer like Ratchet & Clank really isn’t winning people over for story. It is the interactivity that a video game adaptation really can’t capture. This movie does find a way to incorporate the weapons element, but it ends up not being as fun, because you are not switching things up on the fly to all these crazy options and taking on opponents yourself.
Some games have inherent cinematic value, but to make this movie work, you really have to hope the animated film comes off as more than just a series of CG cutscenes put together. Directors Kevin Munroe and Jericca Cleland do their best to make this a worthwhile film experience, but you can only go so far when taking a game to this level. Not every animated film needs to be Pixar quality, but were one to walk into this animated film at random, I wouldn’t think they would be overly impressed by the visuals.
Ratchet & Clank does not end up as a true triumph in the realm of video game adaptations, but I do think there is a level of goofy joy that can come out of it. A younger audience is certainly who this film is intended for, even if time is made for jokes that skew towards adults. Were more thought applied to the key elements of what makes this game series tick or to strengthening the parts that would work better in a film, this could have been more of an accomplishment. As it stands, there was enough spirit, but not enough to make this one of the shining examples of the video game film sub-genre.