In 2016, the beloved gaming duo Ratchet & Clank had their first outing on the silver screen… and it sucked. That’s what most believed, at least, so today I look back on it to see if it deserves the hate it got on launch.
Going into it, I was tense because I was (and still am) a huge Ratchet & Clank fan, so my biggest concern was that they wouldn’t nail what makes Ratchet & Clank such an iconic franchise. In that sense, it’s a mixed bag. The biggest issue is the humour. This movie contains very little of the classic Ratchet writing, as its cutting edge humour, biting social commentary and great character banter are scarce. The humour feels like something you’d see in any other average family flick, which is disappointing as Ratchet & Clank is so much more than that. The jokes about smartphones are excruciating and the slapstick doesn’t land – in a series that makes the difficult art of comedy feel so effortless, it was embarrassing watching this with others that knew how much I liked the series but hadn’t experienced it themselves.
The poor writing carries over to the story and characters. While the simplistic story could have worked with the right execution, it’s so painful because it forgets what makes the original story it’s adapting so enduring. Namely, the arc of Ratchet & Clank, both as a duo and on their own. The story is meant to be an origin story of how they met and how they grew to become best friends, yet they spend almost the entire film acting as if they’ve known each other since kindergarten. It’s especially a shame because it leads to the few potentially solid emotional moments, such as the destruction of Novalis, not hit as hard, because you’re just not invested in the stagnant relationship. As noted above, this also applies to the characters on their own, as Ratchet’s intriguing “butthole dragged into a heroic adventure” arc is replaced with a generic “I wanna be a hero” arc, and Clank’s is replaced with… well, nothing at all. According to this movie Clank really is just a backpack, at least if you were to look at his character development which is identical to that of every backpack I’ve ever owned.
That said, the movie does have some redeeming elements that stop it from being a complete trainwreck. The most notable one is Captain Qwark and Doctor Nefarious’ relationship. The movie reworks and expands on the backstory between them detailed in Ratchet & Clank 3 and A Crack in Time, and the way it does it is simply excellent. It puts a fresh perspective on a known relationship that works both for longtime fans and new, and the way it tied into Qwark’s redemption at the story’s climax was satisfying and enjoyable. I’m not sure why developing this duo’s relationship was prioritised over, you know, the main characters’, but it was something I enjoyed regardless.
The writing of these two individually was just as great – Nefarious especially is a joy to watch here and his portrayal was everything I ever could have hoped for in an adaptation from game to movie. I especially liked the twist of him taking out Chairman Drek – while I understand fans being angry at that (they definitely should have used Drek more before his demise), I still felt it was a legitimately shocking moment that cemented Nefarious as just as big a threat as he is in the games. Qwark’s buffoonish mistakes and ultimate change were just as entertaining and enjoyable.
Overall, I don’t think the Ratchet & Clank movie is as bad as people remember. However, it’s also just painfully average. While it has moments of brilliance (mostly coming from Qwark and Nefarious), The majority of it is a subpar experience that I’d only recommend to diehard fans. If they had put as much focus on Ratchet & Clank’s relationship as they did Qwark and Nefarious’ and had the humour more in line with that of the first four games, it could have been a really fun film. What we got, however, is a discount interpretation that doesn’t understand why the franchise is so special.
What do you think of the Ratchet & Clank movie, including its supplement PS4 game? Let me know in the comments or via my Twitter profile @JoshsJots. Also check out my review of the PS4 game, a game that’s considered the most controversial in the series.