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Ratchet and Clank Movie Review: A New Hope, Dashed

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Movies based on popular video games generally haven’t been well received. Ever since the Super Mario Bro’s movie left audiences and critics reeling, studios and production companies just haven’t managed to emulate the wonders that Disney and Marvel worked with popular comic book franchises. Sure there have been a few exceptions, think of the Tomb Raider and Resident Evil movies, but nothing has ever reached the heights of something like the Avengers.

With expectations mounting around movies like Warcraft and Assassins Creed, 2016 promises to hit the reset button on the slew of disappointing video-game-based-movies, or so the marketing machine would have you believe. Ratchet and Clank gets the first crack at changing history as it releases this week. The madeyoulook* and GameZone team were lucky enough to attend an early screening of the film this past Saturday, so we have the privilege of telling you if the movie is a roaring success or a whimpering failure.

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Whilst not a complete disaster, Ratchet and Clank is by no means a good or even an entertaining movie. If I had to sum it up in one word, I’d call it boring. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to name a recent animation that’s more mechanical, predictable or un-funny. I don’t think the audience laughed more than once during the screening.

Ratchet and Clank was originally slated for a 2015 release, prior to the launch of the PlayStation 4 game - which is one of the most beautiful games you'll ever play. The (PS4) game is based on the movie, which in turn is based on the (PS2) game. But the movie was delayed and released significantly later than the game, which makes this all very confusing. I’ll forgive you if you need to read this paragraph again.

Here’s how the story goes: Luke is an orphan stuck on the planet Tattooine, working for a greasy but oddly likable mechanic called Watto. Luke yearns for the heroic lifestyle of the Rebel Alliance/Jedi, as they battle the nefarious Galactic Empire and their world-destroying Death Star. Through happenstance Luke eventually gets his wish and finds himself on the adventure of a lifetime, accompanied by the semi-cute R2-D2. Together they save the galaxy, but not before they help their fallen mentor find redemption.

You know how this story ends, right? And, no I didn’t suddenly switch to a synopsis of another movie.

The story and characters in Ratchet and Clank are a direct rip-off of Star Wars. It might work in the games, where the story is largely a vehicle to advance the gameplay, but it does not translate well onto the big screen. The plot isn’t satirical or even mildly funny, nor does it pull off the slap-stick style of something like Spaceballs (if you’re old enough to remember that).

The characters are just as unoriginal, generic, and one dimensional as the story. The film never manages to make them endearing or particularly likable. Furthermore, it fails to create any meaningful connection between the film’s two protagonists. The musical score fairs no better as it tries to impersonate the sweeping compositions of John Williams.

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As I said earlier, the film isn’t a complete disaster. There are a few positive things worth talking about. I felt that the animation quality was of a high standard and easily matches what you would expect from a studio like Pixar. Most of the voice actors delivered decent performances – the actors voicing Ratchet and Clank easily stood toe-to-toe with the better known Hollywood names attached to the film. That being said, I was a bit disappointed with Sylvester Stallone as he failed to bring any of his inadvertently humorous mannerisms and charisma to the film.

Ratchet and Clank might stay true to its source material, and that’s where it falters. The entire movie feels like a bunch of short-films strung together into an hour and a half long sequence. It’s almost as if you’re watching someone playing a video game – making his or her way through the game’s levels and stages. The characters needed more depth, the comedy needed more originality and better execution, and the story could have been told in a better way.

You might argue that the film is targeted at a far younger demographic, but I disagree. Studio’s like Pixar have, for a number of years, successfully created animations that simultaneously appeal to both child and adult audiences. Whilst Ratchet and Clank certainly looks the part it completely lacks the soul and charm now synonymous with all of Pixar’s productions.

Here’s hoping Warcraft and Assassins Creed fair better when they are released later this year.

A special thank you goes out to the Ster Kinekor team who hosted us at the event.

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"Ratchet and Clank might stay true to its source material, and that’s where it falters."

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