If we're being honest, the original Ratchet & Clank's story wasn't that stellar. Insomniac Games deserves recognition for establishing memorable characters, exhibiting its unique brand of dry, mischievous humour, and building an outlandish universe that makes its story seem all the more interesting. However, the actual plot, its writing, and character development were fine at best; they were secondary elements to the tight gameplay and imaginative levels.
Thankfully, all of this would quickly improve as the franchise matured, so with that in mind, it makes sense why Insomniac Games has chosen to return to its iconic series by improving the title that started it all with a game based on a movie based on a game, and a movie based on a game and a game.
Still with us? If so, you can read our thoughts on the new Ratchet & Clank game, which definitely lives up to the series' high standards, through here. Can we say the same for the movie? After all, people have had cause for concern with some of the obnoxious, dubstep-filled trailers and Rainmaker Entertainment's sub-par pedigree of animation, but what seems to have confirmed the worst are the painful reviews, seeming to prove once again that film adaptations of video games can't escape their curse. We prepared for the worst with this knowledge in tow, so that's why we were shocked when it turned out to be far better than we anticipated. The film certainly has its issues to be sure, but it's hardly a disappointment either.
The best way to describe how the film relates to the game is that it fills in gaps and intersects with it. For example, the movie takes more time to establish Ratchet's humble beginnings and character before he encounters Clank, whereas the game fills in the period where Ratchet returns to his garage as Drek's Blarg forces try to apprehend the "defect" Ratchet is carrying. There are plenty of other moments where you'll notice small and huge time discrepancies between events in the movie because the game already covers them.
Likewise, the game relies on movie cutscenes and interprets some sequences through gameplay for the sake of pacing and coherence. We have a form of cross-media going on here, which is risky business in telling tales since individual stories might feel incomplete or confusing if you don't consume the other pieces that fill in the puzzle. The game manages to avoid this hurdle, but the movie doesn't make the jump.
It largely focuses on Ratchet's relationship and journey alongside Galactic Rangers Captain Qwark, Cora, Brax, and Elaris, whereas the game focuses more on Ratchet's solo, side-adventures. It was always his dream to join the Galactic Rangers, so after saving them from Drek's robot army in Metropolis, they let him join the team so they can stop the antagonist from destroying any more planets in the pursuit of making his own. There's also a lot of focus on the villains, such as how and why Drek is building an abominable amalgamation of planet fragments with the help of Dr. Nefarious, who didn't have a role in the original story.
There's potential to go places with these plot elements, and while some things like Ratchet and Clank's relationship and Qwark's character feel well-rounded, the movie seems to glance over rather than meaningfully explore most of its characters and big moments. Part of this stems from revelling in comedy to the point where intended life lessons and character development don't come through smoothly.
Even action sequences leave more to be desired that the game has to make up for. The movie is very much about style over substance, and while it certainly looks pretty, we were confused by poor lip syncing that occurred more often than we expected. Overall, the motion picture doesn't have much to say at its core, but to discredit the movie on that basis alone would be disingenuous.
While the goofs, gaffs, and laughs may not be up to the same calibre as what we've gotten in the past – since it's more family-friendly with unoriginal jokes and some eye-rolling toilet humour this time – there's no doubt much of Ratchet & Clank's charm shines through. There's plenty of fourth-wall breaking, smart lines, ironic moments, and lovely references that will please any fans of the games, but when you combine this with the pacing and jarring jumps, it's understandable that many critics would pan the movie.
A lot of Insomniac's humour is an acquired taste, and since the new game and its legacy relate to the movie in so many ways, you'll understand why being a fan is part of having a better-rounded, positive take on the film. So while it certainly could have been better, it isn't bad. The movie boils down to innocent, solid fun, and that's not including how it does partially excel over the original game's story.
Ratchet has a more consistent personality with flaws and all compared to his selfish, rude counterpart in the first title. His backstory of being raised by Grim rather than working alone allows for nice conflict between his dream of being a Galactic Ranger and being loyal to his mentor throughout the story, mirroring Luke Skywalker's humble origins. And like we said earlier, Dr. Nefarious has a massive role, and while we won't say much, his shocking past, how he achieves his goals, and why he ends up hating Ratchet provide depth to his long history with him.
We would actually argue that Qwark receives the best treatment. The story takes advantage of his vanity and cowardice to make his original descent into villainy more understandable and grievous. It's even sad to a degree, since his immense narcissism gives way to legitimate regret, which moves him to help Ratchet in the end. He's still a simple character with simple motives, but instead of only making him a two-dimensional plot device and comedy act, he has internal conflict and a solid story arc.
It's worth mentioning that the soundtrack has this cheery upbeat that complements the tone of the movie, and while it's not that memorable, it's fitting as solid filler. The same goes for the new voice actors. Bella Thorne as Cora and Paul Giamatti as Drek are decent, but some do a surprisingly great job, like Rosario Dawson as Elaris and John Goodman as Grim. It should go without saying that all returning voice actors for classic characters are as good as ever.
If you were expecting to see Insomniac Games at the top of their game on the Hollywood scene, lower your expectations. The Ratchet & Clank movie exhibits symptoms of your average animated film that's focused more on the destinations than the journey, resulting in grand ambitions carried out with light characterization and jumpy pacing, backed by some underwhelming writing to boot.
However, there's significant redemption to be found among these lacklustre categories, and we'd still venture to call this one of the best video game film adaptations to date. It brims with good CG guided by fantastic artistic direction, intact Insomniac humour, and inherent charm. While the flick may not R.Y.N.O., you should still Slingshot over to your local theatre for what harmless, ephemeral fun it provides.
Have you been to see the Ratchet & Clank movie yet? Do you think that it was a crackin' time, or did it make a full frontal assault on your senses? Kick some asteroid in the comments section below.