Ratchet and Clank (2016) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Ratchet and Clank (2016)

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Two souls in a big universe are about to collide with capitalist evil.  Ratchet, lombax mechanic extraordinaire, and Clank, a diminutive robot, may be the only hope against continued planetary annihilation.  Kevin Munroe directs Ratchet and Clank, with the screenplay written by Kevin Munroe, T.J. Fixman, and Gerry Swallow, and stars James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, and Jim Ward.

Does anyone else out there feel a bit of remorse that the bizarre video game to movie adaptations of the early '90s faded out?  Regardless of their quality, and we can definitely have a big debate on that, they were their own beasts.  Super Mario Bros. turned a platformer into a sci-fi universe with giant sentient fungus, an enraged Dennis Hopper, and red leather clad women going by the name Big Bertha.  I don't care if an adaptation is faithful to the source material or not.  All I really care about is being entertained or, barring that, seeing something interesting.

Ratchet and Clank earns high marks with respect to faithfulness of the source material.  They're some of my favorite video games, with Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal spinning in my PS2 to the point I could reproduce Armin Shimerman's cries of, "LAWRENCE," upon request.  But the Ratchet and Clank games weren't sparkling with creativity when it came to the world, just the oddball characters and their equally strange weapon sets.  You see one bustling metropolis world with flying cars, you see them all, and it's up to the gameplay to keep your interest from there.

Another of the, "decent enough," running gags consists of the bad guy minions impatiently waiting for their boss to turn away so they can text.

The faithfulness to the odd characters creates some fun moments in Ratchet and Clank.  I liked the quick visual jokes, such as the moment when Captain Qwark (Jim Ward) is praising himself for walking by a fire, not notice he is now ablaze, and one of his poor teammates has to blast him with a fire extinguisher.  There are a couple of lines of dialogue that drew legit chuckles from me as well, mostly having to do with the characters quibbling over minor details.  I loved Dr. Nefarious (Shimerman) reasserting he's more vengeful than nefarious, and Quark gets plenty of one-liners completely lacking in self-awareness like, "Prepare to be blown away by my epic humility."

While these moments are fine the big problem with Ratchet and Clank as a movie is right there in the title.  Neither Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor) nor Clank (David Kaye) is very interesting.  We get to double-up on boring origin stories as both Ratchet and Clank are abandoned from their creators, and Ratchet's dialogue has an annoying tendency to slip into long exposition.  It's not even the kind of exposition which introduces or explains the nature of reality in this weird existence.  Ratchet's dialogue is more of the, "I feel this now, and I feel this because of that, and that makes me feel differently from this," and by Qwark is it tedious.

As a video game duo, the dialogue scenes are implemented in-between playable action scenes.  This keeps the endless exposition down and lets the player fill in the gaps of their relationship based on the actions you need to take to complete a level.  When it comes time to make a whole movie on the duo the issue is both of their personal conflicts are off-screen and hardly dealt with.  By the end of act 1, almost exactly thirty minutes into Ratchet and Clank, Ratchet's abandonment issues have been forgotten in the embrace of his new surrogate family, never to return.  It's boring storytelling.

What's surprising is that the action scenes of Ratchet and Clank, where I'd expect to see some excitement, turn out to be terribly designed.  They're plodding, with Ratchet and the other combatants odd movement looking like their bodies are installed with tiny springs making their limbs jolt out randomly.  Watching the action did lead me to one of my most specific movie-taking notes in a long time, "Another Ratchet walking very slowly around a ring while he's being shot at scene."  That wouldn't be out-of-place in the video game, but the ring dodging arena is boring level design to play in, and downright excruciating to watch.

The action is surprisingly flat too, with a lot of the movement constrained to a single plane.

It doesn't help that Ratchet and Clank takes time from the plot to remind me I could be playing the video games instead.  A little over halfway through, Ratchet gets loaded up on weapons, only for the screen to flash literal stats and use words like, "Equip."  I'm aware that Ratchet and Clank shares storytelling DNA with the reboot of the video game franchise also released in 2016.  But is it too much to ask that the double-dip into the same material at least try to separate one medium from the other?

Ratchet and Clank, as a movie, is one of those rare experiences where my rating system can't be used on a strict numerical scale.  I'm more likely to recommend, or at least drive conversation toward, a movie like Sausage Party where I'm morally repulsed by 90% of the run-time.  But Ratchet and Clank is inoffensive, good for a smile once in a while, and totally inept when it comes to action.  In the long run, that may be more harmful to artistic value than anything else.

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Ratchet and Clank (2016)

Directed by Kevin Munroe.
Screenplay written by Kevin Munroe, T.J. Fixman, and Gerry Swallow.
Starring James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, and Jim Ward.

Posted by Andrew

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