TL;DR: Not great, not bad, not obnoxious. Nice animation and fun soundtrack.
Cute, mildly amusing, good for young kids or a rainy afternoon.
So last Saturday, my two oldest (Jake, 18, and Maverick, 15) willingly woke up at 8:30 and traveled in a car with me for an hour.
To see a kids’ movie.
8:30. On a Saturday.
Obviously, this wasn’t just any old made-for-kids movie. This was a press preview of RATCHET AND CLANK, a CG-animated movie based on the PlayStation video game.
Two unlikely heroes struggle to stop a vile alien named Chairman Drek from destroying every planet in the Solana Galaxy. Ratchet is the last of his kind, a foolhardy “lombax” who has grown up alone on a backwater planet with no family of his own. Clank is a pint-sized robot with more brains than brawn. When the two stumble upon a dangerous weapon capable of destroying entire planets, they must join forces with a team of colorful heroes called The Galactic Rangers in order to save the galaxy. Along the way, they will learn about heroism, friendship, and the importance of discovering one’s own identity.
The boys wanted to see how well they’d managed translating a game they enjoyed into 90 minutes on the big screen.
I myself not only never played the game, but I don’t even remember the kids playing the game, which honestly raises some concerns about my longterm memory (or lack thereof) but that’s a story for another time. Since I went into the movie with no preconceived notions, no nostalgia, and no expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. While Ratchet and Clank didn’t hit the very high notes that some animated films achieve— like say, Big Hero 6, or How to Train Your Dragon, or The Iron Giant— it also didn’t hit the lows that so many kids’ movies do (I won’t call any out by name but I’ve spent more than my fair share of time sitting in movie theaters praying for the thing to end).
What that means is that Ratchet and Clank is pretty neutral. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it, it dragged a tiny bit at the end of the first third but made up for it during other action sequences. There were a fair number of jokes that I knew would have landed with my 11 year old (who was at soccer) but elicited eyerolls from my older kids. The plotline, like in a video game, barely registers. There’s not a lot of character growth, or explanation of the villain’s motives, but the main audience I imagine is younger kids wanting more of the video game characters, and that you have.
Some random thoughts about the movie:
- It was really pretty nice to look at. We’ve come such a long way with animation since we were kids that we take it for granted now, but there were a couple of shots that were genuinely wow moments.
- There were a few scenes that felt like they probably came from the video game: a sped-up tutorial on weaponry, for example, and any aerial chase scene. Those scenes would have been so much cooler if they’d played up the video game-ness, and there should have been more of them.
- The puppet master bad guy, Dr. Nefarious, who was planting evil plans into Chairman Drek’s head (I presume Dr. Nefarious is the final “big boss” in the game) used to work for the team of good guys that Ratchet and Clank join, but they made him work in a tiny office and didn’t treat him well. This idea of the bad guy being caused by the behavior of the good guys is actually really interesting— too bad they didn’t develop it at all.
- They did, however, introduce us to his replacement Elaris, and when we first meet her she’s feeling oppressed and unheard too. Although our heroes do finally listen and use her plan in the end, there’s no real resolution or definite feeling that her everyday life will improve. Setup for the sequel? Possibly, I guess, but in the short term it’s profoundly dissatisfying that they would create this interesting storyline and then not explore it.
- The soundtrack and voice acting were great, and seeing Sylvester Stallone’s name come up in the credits was surprisingly delightful.
- The words on signs and things were in a foreign language, and it took me a while to realize that was because they were on an alien planet. I realize it would be silly to assume an alien planet would speak English, and yet I found the alien characters really distracting when I should have paying attention to what was happening.
- Clank has excellent comic timing, for a robot.
I guess overall, I wanted a movie that moved and felt like a video game, while developing a strong plotline from the simplistic outline the game provides. Instead we were given a movie that was simply derived from a video game, and while that wasn’t a bad thing, it wasn’t a great one either, and we’ve come to know for a fact that the animated film industry can do so much better.