A film review by Craig J. Koban May 7, 2016


2016, PG, 94 mins.


James Arnold Taylor as Ratchet (voice)  /  David Kaye as Clank (voice)  /  Jim Ward as Captain Qwark (voice)  /  Armin Shimerman as Dr. Nefarious (voice)  /  Kevin Michael Richardson as Chairman Drek (voice)  /  Marc Graue as Mr. Zurkon (voice)  /  Michael Bell as Lawrence (voice)  /  Rosario Dawson as Elaris (voice)  /  Sylvester Stallone as Victor (voice)  /  Bella Thorne as Cora (voice)  /  John Goodman as Grimroth (voice)  /  Paul Giamatti as Chairman Drek (voice)

Directed by Kevin Munroe and Jericca Cleland  /  Written by Todd "T.J." Fixman, Kevin Munroe and Gerry Swallow


RATCHET AND CLANK has all of the necessary core ingredients to make for a splashy and enjoyable animated film.  It’s based a series of science fiction, action oriented platform video games designed by Insomniac Games for the PlayStation consoles and features a cat-like alien mechanic and his trusted pintsized sidekick robot that zip throughout the universe and save it from nefarious foes of all shapes and colors.  Considering the limitless possibilities contained within the game franchise – enjoyably lively characters, lush and colorful alien worlds, ridiculously crazy weapons, a space trekking theme, and thrilling adventure – this movie adaptation seemed like a qualitative win-win for all involved. 

Then…why is RATCHET AND CLANK such an unqualified bore to sit through? 

The film regretfully marks yet another in a long list of failed attempts by Hollywood to successfully appropriate a video game series to the silver screen.  Yet, what makes RATCHET AND CLANK such a crushing disappointment is that its own core mythology and overall look and tone seem so ripe for cinematic exploration.  The intersection between movies and video games have become an increasingly blurred one over the last several years, with both parties increasing their overall reliance on the aesthetics of each other to further wow their core audience bases.  The big problem, though, with RATCHET AND CLANK is not that it’s a failed attempt at adapting the characters and situations form its video game source material, but rather that – when compared to the finest animated efforts from competing studios – it never successfully segregates itself apart from the pack at all.  The film is a competent artistic vision, but shallow writing, bland dialogue, a thin attempt at meta humor, and an overall storyline that lacks intrigue stymies it from transcending its home console origins. 



The film’s tale of a lonely and isolated, but plucky and determined outcast that desperately wants to be a hero and achieve galactic glory is so tired and overdone at this stage in the game that it becomes really hard to invest in yet another permutation of it…but RATCHET AND CLANK somewhat lazily endeavors to so.  One of the titular heroes is Ratchet (voiced by James Arnold Taylor), who is a bordering on extinct Lombax, a species that essentially looks like a walking, talking feline (visual comparisons to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY's startlingly similar Rocket Raccoon seems unavoidable).  Ratchet is a highly skilled mechanic that works on the desert planet Veldin (visual comparisons to STAR WARS’ startlingly similar desert planet of Tatooine also seems unavoidable); he might as well be the strange distant extra-terrestrial offspring of Luke Skywalker and Rey. 

Anyhoo’, like all desert planet residing outcasts that have populated George Lucas’ iconic film series before him, Ratchet yearns to blast off from his sandy and rocky surroundings and join up with squad of beloved intergalactic rangers known as…The Galactic Rangers (Guardians of the Galaxy was already taken), a team comprised of Captain Qwark (Jim Ward), Brax (Dean Redman), Cora (Belle Thorne) and Elaris (Rosario Dawson).  When it appears that – wouldn’t ya know it! – an opening for a new team member arises, that springs Ratchet into action, and even though he initially gets turned down, the Galactic Rangers begrudgingly accept him and his newly formed friend in Clank (David Kaye), a sentient robot that has a knack for spouting out all sorts of dizzying statistics about probability.  The deeply self-serving Captain Qwark grows jealous of all of the new attention that Ratchet and Clank are receiving, which makes it easy for the villainous Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti) and his own hideous sidekick Victor Von Ion (Sylvester Stallone) to coerce him to join their cause.  Their plan is insidiously nuts, but ambitious: they wish to destroy planets in their way and use their spare parts to create new ones.  Why didn’t THE FORCE AWAKENS’ First Order do that instead of creating yet another Death Star clone? 

Obvious sarcasm aside, RATCHET AND CLANK is at least trying to have fun with its underlining material, even though its attempts at genre satire and would-be sly mockery of movie conventions are somewhat awkward considering the utter conventionality of its own storyline.  In terms of imagery, the film has a pleasingly opulent color scheme and a decent attention to world building detail, especially when it comes to overall character design and the look of the villain’s headquarters.  RATCHET AND CLANK simply doesn’t look as good or as joyously brimming with life compared to so many other recent animated efforts, which may have a considerable amount to do with its rather limited budget (at just $20 million, that’s approximately 5-6 times less than most other studio animated fare as of late).  The animation is endearingly cute and lively and will mostly appease young kids, but it may be a chore for adults to become fully enraptured by its relative B-grade sheen. 

Maybe the big issue with RATCHET AND CLANK is that it’s populated with a multitude of characters that frankly didn’t command my attention…or a willingness to care about them.  Aside from the two main heroes, both of whom are agreeably likeable protagonists, no other characters in this universe feel really fleshed out.  The core of the Galactic Rangers – sans the amusingly smug and arrogant knucklehead Captain Qwark – don’t really have one interesting or compelling personality among them; they are all defined by idiosyncratic character quirks, and not much beyond that.  Paul Giamatti does have some boisterous bravado as his beyond bonkers villain, but I did have to pinch and remind myself that Stallone voiced one of his henchmen.  Considering Stallone's infamously unique vocal timbre, I’m surprised that the makers here didn’t make better usage of it.  The unintended side effect of all of this is that RATCHET AND CLANK rarely feels like a wondrously lived-in universe that I wanted to subconsciously inhabit for 90 minutes.  Mournfully, the film represents a highly unwanted crossroads between novel imagination and sleep inducing tedium.  But the time all of the key players face off against one another in an obligatory save the universe climax the stakes never felt consequential at all, especially since so many ideas and concepts in the film feel monotonously regurgitated from better films. 

As a lifelong cinephile and gamer, I wanted to like RATCHET AND CLANK…an awful lot.  The unbridled potential of this video game to movie adaptation felt boundless, even more so when one considers recent abysmal failures like the drearily forgettable HITMAN: AGENT 47.  Unfortunately, RATCHET AND CLANK never finds a way to capitalize on its inherent promises and instead emerges as yet another squandered opportunity for a movie genre that’s endlessly struggling for critical and moviegoer acceptability.  The film simply doesn’t stand proudly on its own two feet while paying respectful homage to its video game antecedent.  With a distinctly direct-to-video vibe that begs for – but never fully attains – the eminence of a mainstream theatrical release, RATCHET AND CLANK may only appease children and diehard fans of the PlayStation game series.  As for the rest of us that have been exposed to the finest entries of the Pixar and Dreamworks catalogue – animated efforts riddled with pioneering ingenuity and legitimate awe and wonder – over the years, RATCHET AND CLANK will mostly feel like discarded and stale genre leftovers.  

  H O M E