We gave it a C-
The aesthetic line separating the world of Hollywood movies from the realm of video games has blurred in recent years, with big-budget studio spectacles increasing their their reliance on computer-generated imagery that’s often indistinguishable from the digital scapes brought to life on Xboxes around the globe.
Ratchet & Clank, adapted from a PlayStation series that has spawned around a dozen titles across several consoles since the original’s release 14 years ago, boldly chooses to tell its tale—based almost entirely on the plot from the games—as an animated feature. The transition ends up doing neither medium any favors as it jostles along an action-packed 94 minutes that look and feel no different from the titles upon which it’s based.
The film revolves around a familiar outcast-turned-hero plot, which has been rehashed by Hollywood so many times that taking issue with it is almost a cliché in itself. Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor), a catlike creature who inexplicably crash-landed on an alien planet as a baby, works as a mechanic by day, longing to join an elite group of beloved intergalactic defenders (Jim Ward, Bella Thorne, Rosario Dawson) as a means to “be somebody.” He finally gets the chance when forced to defend his home from the evil Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti) who, dissatisfied with his own overpopulated planet, destroys others to use their remnants as building blocks for a new one.
With a story lifted straight from the games, Ratchet & Clank forces itself into a corner from the start. Amid a barrage of video-game-to-Hollywood crossovers, the film finds itself at a crossroads of imagination, its regurgitated ideas unable to transcend their source as a work that justifiably stands on its own as a film in a sea of superior animated titles. Though the series has remained popular on its original platform, it’s difficult to justify the existence of an animated movie that fails to expand on the already-established Ratchet & Clank universe while removing a key factor — the audience’s ability to control characters and play through the story as a game — from the founding equation.
With both the animated film and video game industries producing masterworks of their respective bloodline (Inside Out, Zootopia, and Rise of the Tomb Raider are prime examples), Ratchet & Clank‘s bland dialogue and stale formula make it feel like a miniscule crumb among its monumental brethren. All the banging, exploding, screeching, and flashing amounts to nothing more than an ultimately harmless romp that’s easy to forget, but momentarily amusing for its unabashed simplicity.
Video game adaptations—like video games themselves—have long struggled to gain acceptance as legitimate works of art, but Ratchet & Clank is too closely entrenched in pandering to those who will forgive its shortcomings as a film in favor of indulging in nostalgic affection for their beloved video game franchise that it forgets it has an audience of newcomers to impress, too. For the rest of us, the looming notion that Ratchet & Clank‘s story and characters already exist (in playable form, to boot) consistently tugs us away from the film at hand and into the nearest GameStop, where we’re free to browse the shelves for a far more satisfying experience. C-