29 April 2016 | dave-mcclain
"Ratchet & Clank" is a better-than-average video game turned-film.
The trend of turning computer-based video games into movies (and vice versa) started in the 1980s and became a popular trend in the 90s, but Sony Entertainment figured out a new dynamic for the 2016 release of the computer-animated sci-fi action-adventure "Ratchet & Clank" (PG, 1:34). Pong, the first commercially successful video game, came out in 1972 and became the inspiration for "Tron", the 1982 film in which a human being gets trapped inside a game (although one much more complex than Pong). The Tron movie spawned several video games, other entertainment products and a 2010 sequel. In the meantime, video games which became feature films (some live-action, some animated and some a combination of both) included "Super Mario Brothers" (1993), the "Mortal Combat" movies ('95 and '97), the "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" films (2001 and 2003), the "Resident Evil" series (2002-2017) and "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" (2010). More recent examples include the nostalgia-fueled films "Wreck-It Ralph" (2012) and "Pixels" (2015), not to mention 2016's animated fantasy epic "Warcraft".
With a "Lara Croft" reboot planned (starring Alicia Vikander), the cross-pollination between game consoles and movie theaters doesn't look to end any time soon, especially when you consider the new "Ratchet & Clank" template. Croft's video game franchise got a reboot in 2013, followed by the reboot of her film franchise, both of which serve as prequels to the earlier versions of the game and the Angelina Jolie movies. Likewise, 2016's "Ratchet & Clank" film is an origin story for the characters (whose first video game appeared in 2002), but this film was actually developed in conjunction with the video game reboot, which is based partially on the film, which had its original 2015 release date delayed, leading to a matching (coordinated) postponement in the release of the new game. Of course, all that is just background to a movie which, as a feature film, needs to stand on its own and entertain audiences whether they're gamers or think that "Ratchet & Clank" is just a bad name for an auto repair shop.
Ratchet (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) is a Lombax, a cat-like creature with especially large ears and thick eyebrows. He's an earnest mechanic who works for Grimroth Razz (John Goodman) repairing and maintaining spaceships. Ratchet's a relatively small creature, but he has big dreams. He wants to join his heroes, the Galactic Rangers, fellow anthropomorphic animals who travel around the Solona Galaxy battling evildoers (kind of like an animated "Guardians of the Galaxy"). The Rangers' leader is Captain Qwark (Jim Ward) a large attention-seeking humanoid with a larger-than-life personality (think Buzz Lightyear on steroids) and ego to match. Ratchet is crushed when he responds to a Galaxy Rangers open try-out, only for his hero to tell him face-to-face that he doesn't have what it takes to be one of them.
Ratchet gets the opportunity to prove himself when he meets up with an undersized but sentient factory-rejected robot whom he calls Clank (David Kaye). Clank carries information about the evil Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti), the leader of the Blarg, and his involvement in the recent destruction of several uninhabited planets. Working together, Ratchet and Clank are able to throw Drek's plans off track and prove themselves worthy of joining the Galactic Rangers. The adorable title characters work with Qwark, Cora (Bella Thorne), Brax (Vincent Tong), Elaris (Rosario Dawson) and others to keep Drek from meeting his increasingly dangerous goals. Meanwhile, Drek works with his robot henchman, Victor Von Ion (Sylvester Stallone), and his head scientist, Doctor Nefarious (Armin Shimerman) to infiltrate the Galactic Rangers and move forward with his plans, but Drek's not this story's only villain with a plan.
"Ratchet & Clank" is an entertaining and smart blending of various elements and characters from the video game series with a new origin story. Screenwriters T.J. Fixman, Gerry Swallow and Kevin Munroe (who also directs, along with Jericca Cleland) give us plenty of action and some good life lessons which parents will appreciate and will (hopefully) inspire kids, but the script is a short on laughs (including mature humor that pops up in the games). The voice work of the stars in the cast is predictably reliable, but can't outshine the relative unknowns (some of whom voiced the video game characters), proving that it's not necessary to stock every animated movie with big-name voice talent to create an entertaining product. This film's biggest strength is its creative and state-of-the-art animation. Even without viewing the film in 3D, we see remarkable detail and depth in its characters and backgrounds, giving the audience the impression that they already know what the objects and textures would feel like. This is one of those rare video game adaptations that's not only visually stunning, but entertaining AND family friendly. "B+"