Based on the popular videogame series of the same name, revolving around a ‘somewhat fox like creature’ and his partnership with a robot. Ratchet & Clank is brought to the big screen by Rainmaker Entertainment, responsible for a lot of the straight to DVD/on demand Barbie films of the last decade. Having made the jump to cinematic releases in 2013’s Escape to Planet Earth, with reasonable financial success, their follow up is an attempt to adapt one of gaming’s most successful pairings of the 21st Century.
Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor), a Lombax, is a mechanic with dreams of achieving big things by joining the Galactic Rangers, led by his hero Captain Qwark (Jim Ward). However Chairmen Drek (Paul Giamatti), the leader of the Blarg, is destroying planets whilst building an unstoppable robot army led by his henchman Victor Von Ion (Slyvester Stallone), but due to a system error one of the robots created is Clank (David Kaye) a diminutive being who wishes to seek out and warn the Galactic Rangers of what is about to happen.
Immediately it becomes apparent that, despite some great efforts on the part of the design team, the budget impacts on the overall quality of the films aesthetic. Rather than feeling like a big screen adaptation of a videogame it feels like a high cost cut-scene, impressive on an XBOX one but not in a cinema. The film’s eponymous pair are likeable with the enthusiastic Ratchet contrasting charmingly with the robotic Clank, but they feel less like individualistic characters and come across as poor imitations of what we have seen before. As “cute” as Clank is he is not as funny or well designed as Baymax, or as emotive and endearing as Wall-e and he holds nothing like the depth and complexity of a character like The Iron Giant. With some marquee names in the cast, combined with veteran voice actors from the videogame series, the performances are large, enthusiastic and energetic, doing the maximum amount possible with the limited quality of the script and story. Co-written by Kevin Munroe, T.J Fixman and Gerry Swallow they attempt to draw humour through breaking the fourth wall but Sadly despite a few admittedly well written gags, the best of which younger children won’t enjoy anyway, Ratchet & Clank is a rather drab replay of better films.
In the age of animated brilliance we currently find ourselves within you can’t simply turn up with a few decent gags and an unoriginal plot and expect to get a return. The excuse of being “Just for Kids” doesn’t apply anymore when you consider how successful animation has been at appealing to all ages, something it should always aim to do. As proof the fantastic Zootropolis is currently the highest grossing film of 2016, sitting just shy of $1,000,000,000 worldwide gross. Should we expect an inexperienced studio, with a limited budget, to match the work of Disney? No, But is it wrong to want Ratchet & Clank to not take the easy options with its storytelling, to try and reach a little higher? The movie doesn’t completely lack humour; it’s got a colourful design, an inoffensive tone and charming lead characters to make it a passable experience. But in a world of Disney, Laika, Pixar, Dreamworks, Ghibli, Aardman, Illumination and countless other talented animation studios passable just isn’t enough.
Dir: Jessica Cleland, Kevin Munroe
Scr: T.J Fixman, Kevin Munroe, Gerry Swallow
Cast: James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, John Goodman, Paul Giamatti, Sylvester Stallone, Rosario Dawson, Jim Ward
Prd: Kylie Ellis, Brad Foxhoven, Kim Dent Wilder, David Wohl
DOP: Anthony Di Ninno
Country: United States/Canada
Run time: 94 mins
Ratchet & Clank is out now in UK cinemas.