Animated Anarchy tries to work out Ratchet and Clank’s killer kinks in this study of multimedia marketing gone haywire.
So Ratchet and Clank took a rather decimating hit in the name of video game films, making only $4.8 million according to an article on Cartoon Brew. To put that into perspective, this promising, “for the fans” feature was beaten by Disney’s Zootopia in it’s 9th week at the box office. I covered the trailer for Ratchet and Clank months ago, thinking America finally found our good video game movie. It even breaks the norms I’ve complained about in the past, as Insomniac Studios had a direct hand in maintaining the series’ “cartoony” format in the film.
I’m going to get this out of the way first as its worth commenting that the video game tie-in was made at the same time of the film. The new PS4 release rightfully deserves the praise it’s getting as a new reboot priced at a serviceable $40. I’m pointing towards the game because 1/3 of this movie is directly lifted cutscenes from said game, but without the standout celebrity voices due to guild rules. So I feel terrible for any families with children that had to shell out money on such a fleeting failure like I did.
Ratchet and Clank may be one of the most devastatingly bad game-to-film adaptations in recent memory. It isn’t a failure of research like Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li or Uwe Boll’s line of cash-grabbing dreck. Ratchet and Clank is horrible for the fact that it’s unbearably inoffensive, lazy, and boring. Plus, if you know anything about Animated Anarchy, you know we do not give “harmless entertainment for babies” a pass.
My biggest fear from the trailer reaction would be that there would be no exploration of Ratchet’s talents. Since there is no scene comparable to what you actually play in the Ratchet and Clank games, there are massive chunks of character development and world building that are missing. Ratchet is just the typical dreamer who wants to succeed on hope alone. Clank’s appearance is sudden and accepted without question for the sake of plot convenience. The buddy chemistry you love from the series evaporates in a confusing barrage of poorly cut, ADD-riddled gags in the same exhausting pattern.
Humor is what gave Ratchet and Clank that defining allure in the PS2 area. YouTube Gaming Analyst Super Bunnyhop notes the Ratchet and Clank series was the perfect transition between the mascot platforming era of the 90s and the emerging genre of shooters on consoles. The spirit of our protagonists is centered between Ratchet’s headstrong spirit versus Clank’s methodical wit for fun jabs at the sci-fi genre. Yet with no time for our heroes to bond, the gags are dependent on tired, manic duds that come up in the worst animated movies: one-liners, rubbery slapstick, and quiet moments frequently interrupted by stupidity.
As a certain famous Internet psychopath once said, the most important four letter word that comes to mind when writing a screenplay is
fuck, crap, shit, piss, poop tone. The film has everything in fast motion due to editing pushing every single scene in the exact same comical tone. There are no moments of verklempt contemplation or patience here at all. Even in the WORST animated movies there’s a mild slow down for the sake of self-reflection/sadness. The forced hyperkinetic mentality leaves all the characters one-note. It’s a tilt-a-whirl of half-assed failure from a studio that only looks at the brand as…a brand.
There’s so much wrong with this “movie” that I can’t just contain it to a simple film review. It’s the kind of bad, half-assed filmmaking that makes you realize why video games can’t simply transition into a new medium at a 1:1 ratio. Maybe the failure stems from the arrogance of trying to capture 10 hours of a video game in 90 minutes. We get no moments showing fighting skills, brilliant engineering, or exploring alien worlds. Any opportunity for meaningful action or dialogue is sacrificed for a lame jokes or clumsy self-aware nudges to the audience.
By stringing along a narrative through cut scenes alone, the experience feels relatively hollow. Ratchet doesn’t even get his trademark wrench until the end of the movie, which is his very first weapon to beat up evil robots. The way the plot progresses in the series is incredibly active, where we control the heroes to overcome obstacles. The sense of time is loose when playing a video game because you decide when the plot needs to move forward. Since there is no buildup moving from piece to piece; the writers drench the audience in a rushed plot.
What’s bizarrely infuriating about this direction is that you get nothing but bad plot that’s all filler. As I previously mentioned, bad jokes and manic tone remove any kind of weight or meaning to the story. There’s no control to introducing characters or letting action scenes play out at a natural pace. I know the time spent watching a movie is definitive but almost all movies know when to put on the pause button or edit the breaks. When you have no control without a compelling tale, your series is in trouble.
Ratchet and Clank is not a series that relies on cutscenes. That’s why Phoenix Wright succeeds as a movie and anime from the subdued, natural speed of storytelling. Even Warcraft has a shot at this, because you get hours of content, world building, and character development from cut scenes alone. The gameplay only moves the characters forward. Ratchet and Clank is very dependent on the gameplay for both these qualities, so you’re left with a mess when we don’t even get to feel like the characters get any control in their own film.
Although you would think having Insomniac would involved would overcome these errors, you’d be sadly mistaken. In a series of articles detailing the film’s downfall, screenwriter T.J. Fixman denounced his involvement with the movie. The series senior writer stated that he left the project two years before the film came out. He cites scheduling conflicts and “differing opinions” from the powers that be; the biggest changes happening around the film’s humor. Director Kevin Munroe (of Dylan Dog…fame) was brought on after TJ had already written the script. The hole might go even deeper upon following a post made by a story boarder who claims to have leaned about the film’s troubles when applying to Rainmaker Studios:
“One of of the lead Storyboard Artists that was working on the film (as well as doing development art for the Sly Cooper movie) had told me the film had not only completed production a long time ago, but the film distributors had purposely hold back the release of the R&C movie for the video game. If that wasn’t the case, the film would’ve been released almost two years ago! He wished they could’ve used the original script that Todd had written, but one of the films directors hated it and wanted it to be more like other “contemporary animated movies,” whatever that means. Ratchet was much more snarkier like the games with the cut that I watched, but Quark pretty much stayed the same, instead of being the douche bag that he was in the original PS2 game.”
Whoever had executive decisions to change the original script made a grave mistake when it came to overseeing this project. Maybe you can say that it’s made for fans and they had to courtesy to bring on all those old voice actors, but it fails so hard on any movie-making level. The villains? Don’t really matter at all. The gun variation? Only used for gags; all the heroes just use the same Combuster. You somehow end up with a movie that’s so slavishly loyal to the franchise that it becomes soullessly safe and uninteresting. Even attempting to appeal to the fans of the video game series didn’t help as you could see from the box office results.
At best I can commend that the animation looks fair for the low $12 to $20 million-dollar budget. The transition is fine for a movie theater and it fits pretty well for the games. Most of the celebrity voice cast is even good, the standouts being Paul Giamatti and Sylvester Stallone. Nevertheless, the celebrities added felt tacked on for the sake of making it “theatrical” as if this movie was packed with the game or aired on television, I don’t think critics would attack it so hard.
This is the type of movie where the complaint, “I wish I had a controller in my hand,” is completely validated. I so wished I was watched a Let’s Play on the video game by Super Best Friends Play or Sword and Shell (Andre “Black Nerd” Meadows’ Gaming Channel) instead. Any badness or dull moments could be assisted by personalities peppering in funny anecdotes. Not to mention, it would drown out this film’s notoriously cliché, bad dialogue written by the guy who added comical voices to Walking With Dinosaurs 3D.
Just as I wretched with everyone else at the The Angry Birds Movie, I can at least say there’s no stakes in harming the canon and legacy of that franchise. Hell, the newest trailers even look halfway decent by including moments of birds actually smashing against buildings to destroy pigs. Ratchet and Clank was the chosen one, but proved that the most dangerous force against video game movies is still executive meddling.
My Arbitrary Review for Ratchet & Clank is 2 out of 10 Broken Dream Bots.
Thanks for reading everybody! I’m currently writing for multiple different outlets now but I’m still loyal to the OneOfUs! Keep up with my posts and I’m still up for suggestions for the next Animated Anarchy!