Fans of the popular PlayStation franchise will be happy to hear that director Kevin Munroe and the rest of the cast and crew have created what is almost certainly the most faithful to the source material video game movie to date.
Combining original voice actors James Arnold Taylor (Ratchet), David Kaye (Clank), Armin Shimerman (Doctor Nefarious), and Jim Ward (Captain Qwark) with veteran actors like Sylvestor Stallone, Rosario Dawson, John Goodman, and Paul Giamatti, as well as having the movie studio partner with Insomniac Games, creators of the video game, Ratchet & Clank brings hope to gaming fans who are seeing more and more of their favorite franchises being scooped up by movie studios.
Just as Blade and X-Men led to the explosion of the successful comic book movie, could this be perhaps the start of the era of quality video game movies?
What is it about?
Ratchet & Clank tells the story of how Ratchet, a Lombax with a mastery of mechanics and a longing to join the Galactic Rangers, meets Clank, a rejected warbot who has escaped from the evil Chairman Drek to warn the Galactic Rangers of an impending attack. Packed full of inept heroes, mad…er, vengeful scientists, evil rulers, and faithful companions, Ratchet & Clank is mostly a tale of friendship and a lesson on the importance of never giving up.
Will I like it?
If you’re a fan of the video game, almost assuredly. There is no shortage of Easter Eggs for veteran PlayStation fans, and the story flows very similarly to a video game with moments of intense action interspersed with witty banter and good character development. There are many video games where I always skip the cut scenes, as they are frequently dull and add nothing to the story, but Ratchet & Clank has never been one of these. That same quality storytelling has been brought over into the movie.
If you’re not a fan of the video game or have never even heard of it, you’ll still likely enjoy the movie. It is unapologetically a kid-friendly movie but has plenty of moments for the parents as well. I found myself smiling through most of it, sensibly chuckling quite a few times, and laughing out loud at least twice. (Film buffs, pay special attention during the attack on the Galactic Rangers.) It’s no Toy Story or Incredibles, but if you enjoyed movies like Ice Age, Despicable Me, or Megamind, you’re probably going to like Ratchet & Clank.
Will my kids like it?
This is always a tough one, as I don’t know your kids. There has been an idea for some time that kids over the age of twelve or so are not going to enjoy a PG movie. That to get them to like it, you need to push the boundary between PG-13 and R. In my opinion, pushing a movie to PG-13 just to draw in audiences is a sign of a weak movie. Nobody complains that Iron Giant did not have enough destruction and death, or Kung-Fu Panda needed a Panda / Tigress sex scene. They stand on their own due to the writing and acting. Ratchet & Clank does the same. That’s not to say there isn’t any crude humor or violence at all. Merely that the studio didn’t push anything beyond what was already in the E10 rated video game.
So, will your kids like it? I’d say that outside of a few cynical teenagers, if they’re fans of humorous animated films with lots of action and even more heart, then yes, they will enjoy it. Tech / nerd / science kids will particularly appreciate the emphasis on the importance of intelligence and creativity over just being brave and heroic.
When is a good time for a bathroom break?
It’s a 94-minute movie. Go before and you will hopefully be fine. If you can’t make it, there is a short segment where Ratchet is training with various weapons. While it is good pratfall comedy and is a nice nod to the gaming fans who know that the various guns are a big part of what made the video game series great, it doesn’t necessarily add a lot to the story.
Is the rating appropriate?
Yep. It earns its PG rating. Smaller kids may find the warbots scary, and the final scene is very intense, but there is nothing exceptionally crude or overtly violent. Battles are mainly against non-anthropomorphic robots who, aside from Drek’s personal bodyguard Victor, are also largely soulless machines with zero personality. Pretty much the most offensive thing is the “Kick Some Asteroid” tagline. There is plenty of humor for all ages without resorting to adult humor innuendos like you find in movies like Shrek (compensating for something) or that abomination that was Mike Myers’ Cat in the Hat (dirty hoe).
How’s the animation?
Just saying that the animation is good doesn’t do justice to what the studio has accomplished with this movie. Yes, it’s good animation. No, it’s not groundbreaking like Pixar was doing decades ago. What makes it special, though, is that it feels just like a superbly animated video game cut scene because, in many cases, that’s exactly what it is. I’ve been playing the game for a few weeks now, and there are so many places in the game that are identical to the movie. However, they didn’t just take the animation from the game and stick it straight into the movie. Instead, director Kevin Munroe took the game scenes and gave them to the animation team to use as a foundation. It’s cleaner and much more detailed than the cut scenes without sacrificing what makes the game great. When asked about it, Mr. Munroe said, “Why would I even have the audacity to go in there and say, ‘The movie should look differently than what those awesome games look like’? Let’s just make it look like a movie version of it. That’s the only thing I can bring to the table.”
Author’s Note: What this does mean, unfortunately, is that I can’t share videos of my game because YouTube keeps blocking them due to copyright claims from NBC Universal. I’m curious what Insomniac thinks about this.
How’s the music?
The score, composed by Evan Wise, did an excellent job of setting the tone of the movie. It’s not a bunch of music by famous people you’re going to want to go download the soundtrack for. Instead, it complemented the movie and I felt it gave it a “Saturday Morning Cartoon” vibe. According to Munroe, this wasn’t an accident. “…[Wise] hit some parts that were really great, driving action, and other parts that sort of had that ambling kind of heart. And then at the same time, he worked in this fun thing, where it was almost like a Carl Stalling Looney Toons kind of vibe…there’s so few movies that you could get away with that, and definitely not in any of the big studios’ animated films.”
Do I need to stay to the end of the credits?
Yes, at least mid-way. There is a fun end credit scene that, like lots of other moments in this movie, spoofs on itself.
Is the 3D worth it?
I have no idea, as I saw a 2D screener, but if I had to guess, I’d say…maybe? There are one or two scenes where I said to myself, “Yep, that was put in for the 3D effect,” but since I haven’t seen it myself, I can’t say how well it was done.
Wow, this movie has [my favorite actor]! How much screen time do they get?
If you’re hoping for Demolition Man levels of Stallone dialogue or Monsters, Inc. amounts of John Goodman, I’m sorry, but you’re out of luck. While Goodman and Stallone, as well as Giamatti, Thorne, and Dawson, play their roles well, they are minor characters. By my estimation, 95%+ of the dialogue is Ratchet, Clank, and Qwark. I’m not saying the studio is trying to sell the movie using big names like Tom Cruise in Magnolia, and honestly, Taylor, Kaye, and Ward are far better voice actors anyway, but it’s something you might want to be aware of.
Ratchet & Clank comes to theaters Friday, April 29.
Focus Features covered my expenses to screen this movie in LA. All opinions are my own.