There’s no question to how the Internet feels about video game to film adaptations. Most are made cheaply without any disregard for the original creators or source material just to cash in on brand recognition. Despite the fact that games are trying harder to be like movies, we haven’t had the right people behind a camera to make a movie with the same narrative structure. If people treat video games with the same respect as famous book adaptations, then we might have gigantic, multi-million dollar making blockbusters on our hands that would make audiences and studios ridiculously happy.
When you think about it, it’s surprising more animation studios aren’t making video game adaptations already. Video game developers put so much time into creating cut scenes that last the length of movies themselves such as the Metal Gear Solid franchise or play out as interactive movies like Until Dawn. There’s strong evidence this direction was killed immediately due to the massive bomb of Final Fantasy: Spirits Within, but with how many video games were already turned into cartoons, I’m surprised that never stuck around.
Ratchet and Clank’s initial announcement was met with glimmers of hope, thanks to the crew of Insomniac Games taking direct control of the film’s adaption. The current senior writer of the franchise, TJ Fixman, is attached as screenwriter. And with the trailer out, we can see how much the game developer is keeping to their promises.
There’s no mistaking it; this movie is Ratchet & Clank. The look, the original voice cast, the playful tone with the backdrop of classic space epics; Insomniac made their game into a movie. It appears to be telling an origin story with the events of the first game, but it mixes in elements of Up Your Arsenal with Doctor Nefarious and the Galactic Rangers. Ratchet & Clank has a very expansive world with 9 games within the primary canon, so we can imagine Insomniac wants to take this jump to a different medium very seriously.
Yet, I can’t help but feel that there’s something…average about the movie. In that same way you look at Dreamworks films where you know there’s tons of good catalogs, but it follows several of the beats of trailers aimed at small kids. The quick cuts, the tiny character exclaiming “AWESOME” and that autotuned, chipmunk-sounding pop song that blares at the ending are all trademarks of forgettable animated movies.
I really like they are putting so much emphasis on Captain Qwark, who was always the funniest and energetic character of the entire franchise. Just like Hercule from Dragon Ball Z, he served as the perfect joke character to serve as this scapegoat for much of the plot development in the series. In several of the games, he worked as a consort with several of the villains, but there’s ways to write him as a good guy as well. His voice actor, Jim Ward, has a fantastic opportunity here to play off great character actors like Paul Giamatti.
The primary missing feature from this trailer is Ratchet’s natural talents. The movie is playing him off in the stereotypical unassuming hero role, showing him as a joke in training and his “I wish for big things” type dialogue. What I really loved about the first two games that although Ratchet was an adventure-seeking dreamer, he had the skills to traverse the galaxy. The gameplay was so fun because Ratchet had so many skills from swinging his wrench, to shooting the complex weaponry, and swinging around with his electro cable across the big cities. We aren’t really shown that here.
Unless Ratchet & Clank is handled as bottom-barrel, straight-to-Netflix trash with a script on par of Planet 51 or Home, then I believe Rainmaker Entertainment and Blockade Entertainment have a slam-dunk on their hands. Still, I don’t want to see mediocrity. We have Jericca Cleland, an animation cinematographer, and Kevin Munroe (2007’s TMNT and Dylan Dog: Dead of Night) attached to direct, so there’s a possibility Insomniac wanted lesser-known people so they could have further creative control. Dialogue and story take a backseat as the core gameplay takes control in a video game, but that’s a lot trickier to do in a film.
2016 is looking to be the big video game film year, with Angry Birds, Warcraft, and Assassin’s Creed hitting theater. This is a fun way to kick off what is hopefully a successful trend. After all, the one good video game movie that exists is Takashi Miike’s straightforward adaptation of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Purists are going to have to see make these movies financially successful, so the Hollywood can start treating the video game industry with respect. The look and the original spirit is there, we just have to hope the price of admission is worth it than purchasing a discounted Ratchet & Clank Collection.