Ratchet and Clank is a rarity in its genre: a video game movie done right.
This movie makes me feel like I did when booting up the original game in 2002—only this time, the graphics are better.
I can say with certainty that this film delivers a nice blend of nostalgia and freshness. It toes the line between giving older fans the little nods they crave in order to connect with the film on a deeper level as well as a thoroughly fleshed out and relatable story to bring new watchers into the fold. While designed to be accessible to all viewers, however, this film is definitely a fan affair. Set against a beautifully designed backdrop and populated by the unique world of creatures and characters from the original series, Ratchet’s story hits all the right strides.
This video game inspired animated adventure follows Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor), a lone Lombax working under the care of Grimroth (John Goodman) on their little planet in the outer reaches of the Solana Galaxy. Ratchet, filled with dreams of grandeur and super heroism, wants nothing more than to join the ranks of the mighty Galactic Rangers and fight besides the likes of Captain Qwark (Jim Ward) and co. His chance arises when the Rangers decide to seek out new members as they face the villainous Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti) and his monstrous crew—his mech assassin Victor Von Ion (Sylvestor Stallone) and the slightly insane but completely evil Dr. Nefarious (Armin Shimerman). Ratchet joins forces with an escaped defective warbot, Clank, and the two forge an unlikely bond while setting off to save the galaxy.
For fans of the series, the movie is a full length adventure that allows players to leave the controller on the couch and sink into the story, re-imagined and expanded while retaining all of the charm that drew us in to the original games. Most notably, the cast of the video games follow the film, so the voices we have grown to love are there to usher the characters we have grown to love into this new medium. This in of itself is a huge plus for video game fans, and a comforting clue that the folks behind this movie wanted it done right. This movie was made for the fans. The weapons, the planets, the unforgivably self-centered Captain Qwark, lovably perplexed Clank, and serious snark all make the jump to the big screen. Plenty of Easter Eggs are tucked away within the frames, too, little experiences that enhance the movie for the videogamers.
Rosario Dawson’s Elaris is undoubtedly the breakout new addition to an already amazing cast, a science minded inventor who may be part of the renowned Galactic Ranger team but isn’t often treated like it. She settles in amongst the voices of Ratchet pros like James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Armin Shimerman, and Jim Ward, who continue to do an incredible job of bringing these otherworldly characters to life in this new format, with ease. The tension that exists within the dynamics of the elite Galactic Rangers is both interesting to explore and ensures that, while we didn’t get much history for Brax, Cora, Elaris, or Qwark, the characters are not merely one-dimensional. It was great to see the Galactic Rangers, led by over-the-top Captain Qwark and his pedestal, fleshed out into a proper team populated by proper characters.
The same can be said of the villainous Drek and Dr. Nefarious, who leap off the screen as fully realized characters, complete with motivations, drives, and backstories—even if Drek is about as deep as Captain Qwark.
The film touches on several zany, trope-y, high-stakes conflicts, and the fun is never far behind. Comedic gags and cleverly used moments of self-aware humor set the pace without overrunning the story aspect, balancing the various conflicts—which can explore very real clashes, such as the running brains vs. brawn struggle among the Galactic Rangers, as well as more far-fetched evil plots, like Chairman Drek’s entire notion of building the perfect planet from chunks of existing planets. The blend of wild science fiction ideology and the more mundane interpersonal relations allows the film to operate in a fantastical realm while remaining grounded and giving the audiences strong connections with which to relate.
While the story and the friendship between our dynamic duo hits the mark, I must say the film’s humor standard didn’t quite live up to the “Kick Some Asteroid” tagline, nor the vaguely raunchy humor embedded so skillfully into the original games (take the tagline to the original game, for example: “It’s time to rip the galaxy a new one.” Or the sequels, Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal). I’m not entirely sure this is a complaint, since potty humor/obscured sex jokes aren’t generally my thing anyways, but the slight tonal difference did not go unnoticed. Okay, fine. I still giggle a little bit whenever I talk about Up Your Arsenal. Of course, the movie made up for its cleanliness with a regular stream of situational parodies and silly moments. I’m calling it now: Ratchet’s weapons-training montage will live on as a classic trademark of the franchise. It’s pretty much how I felt whenever I got a new weapon in the game.
Seriously, though, the worst I can say about this movie is that it’s designed to be family friendly. It makes for an enjoyable romp for the younger ones and a nostalgic tribute for the ones who’ve been around longer. Like our favorite Lombax Ratchet, this film is bursting with heart, an engaging tale of finding your place in the universe while remaining true to your own values, opening your mind to different possibilities in order to succeed, and learning that the big flashy action isn’t always the right one.
Ratchet & Clank blasts into theaters April 29th, 2016. We’ll see you at the movies!