“Ratchet & Clank” begins its theatrical run across the country starting tomorrow through Gramercy Pictures and Focus Features.
Based on the video game of the same name, “Ratchet & Clank” reintroduces the popular characters to a new generation. The Galactic Rangers, led by Captain Qwark (voiced by Jim Ward), is in search of a new ranger. Meanwhile, Chairman Drek (voiced by Paul Giamatti) is destroying uninhabited planets and rearranging the remaining fragments to create Drek’s own super planet. Drek’s chief scientist Doctor Nefarious (voiced by Armin Shimerman) creates an army of warbots to destroy the Galactic Rangers, but one defective bot named Clank (voiced by David Kaye) is created with a good-natured objective and sets out to warn the Rangers. He encounters a Lombax mechanic named Ratchet (voiced by James Arnold Taylor), who has always dreamt of becoming a Galactic Ranger. The feline and the robot unite in an effort to stop Drek before he starts targeting populated planets.
Directed by Kevin Munroe (“TMNT,” “Dylan Dog: Dead of Night), co-directed by cinematographer turned director Jericca Cleland, and written by Munroe, T.J. Fixman (who has written the video games since 2007), and Gerry Swallow (“Ice Age: The Meltdown”), “Ratchet & Clank” is the type of animated film that fails to make a long-lasting impression. This is a film that is perfectly comfortable being mediocre and getting lost in the massive shuffle of animated films.
Animated in 3D computer animation, this science fiction action comedy has lackluster animation at best. The film looks like it was meant to go straight to DVD with unimaginative character designs and weak visuals overall that blatantly seems like “Ratchet & Clank” is barely trying to be entertaining and settles for being nothing other than something that connects to an already well-established universe that has been around since 2002. The uninspired animation is reminiscent of the 2013 animated film “Escape from Planet Earth” and computer animated series from the late 90s like “ReBoot” and “Beast Wars: Transformers” if they were released today as is with writing that isn’t nearly as captivating.
The voice cast is a bit awkward. The film features a lot of the same cast from the video games, but swapped several characters with well-known actors in an effort to reel new viewers in. The issue with this is it doesn’t make much of a difference. John Goodman’s Grimroth character and Sylvester Stallone’s Victor Von Ion sound so similar you’ll think they’re voiced by the same person. Paul Giamatti doesn’t sound like himself while voicing Chairman Drek and it’s to the point where you question its legitimacy like when Bradley Cooper voiced Rocket Raccoon in “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
The “Guardians of the Galaxy” reference feels incredibly warranted, especially since a good portion of “Ratchet & Clank” takes place on a spaceship in outer space and revolves around an intergalactic team trying to save the day. However, “Ratchet & Clank” fizzles when it comes to humor or amusing character development. Ratchet is a duller and more family friendly version of Rocket while the Galactic Rangers “shoot first, think about repercussions later” attitude gives the entire team a Drax mentality. Qwark is this mishmash of a ton of muscle head characters including Drax, Zapp Brannigan, and Buzz Lightyear rolled into one extremely cliché package.
The highlights of the film are the few times the writing does actually hit its mark. Clank processing what species Ratchet is when they first meet invokes a graphic featuring other popular Playstation characters including Jak and Sly Cooper, the Wilhelm Scream reference is the film’s sole and lonely laugh out loud moment, and “Ratchet & Clank” practically lifts the T-1000 telling the helicopter pilot to get out in midair from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” verbatim early on in the film. The only other amusing sequence is near the end when Captain Qwark and Dr. Nefarious have an entire conversation regarding confusing one-liners, but Nefarious gets bonus points for creating some imaginative weaponry such as the sheepinator and the tornado launcher.
What’s disappointing is that “Ratchet & Clank” chooses the easy route and travels down a storyline dozens of other animated films have already worn out. It’s the underdog story where brute force overpowers intellectual thought because everyone calling the shots likes shooting things and making things explode more than actually using their brains. Jealousy plays a factor as the popular character is pushed aside when someone else gets the spotlight and that jealous character dabbles in villainous behavior for a bit before realizing that it’s not such a good idea. There is nothing original about “Ratchet & Clank,” which makes the whole reintroduction factor a complete waste of time.
“Ratchet & Clank” has a storyline similar to “Kung Fu Panda” and “Megamind” if either film took place in a run of the mill science fiction universe. The animation is bland, the writing is flat, and the entire experience will be forgotten about as soon as you leave the theater.