Considering Ratchet & Clank is the first feature under the production banner “Playstation Originals”, it’s remarkable how much seems to be a copy of different properties. Based on the computer game series that began in 2002,Ratchet & Clank is clearly a Sony-take on the Nintendo “Starfox” series that began in 1993.
Its anthropomorphic creatures, in a sci-fi environment, complete with quirky blasters and fantastical spaceships couldn’t be cut from a more similar cloth. This particular tale even nabs the teleportation effect from Star Trek and the hallways from Star Wars. In fact, the plot even kicks off with the destruction of a planet – something we know Princess Leia and Spock are exceptionally familiar with.
The snarky attitude of Ratchet & Clank begins within seconds. The countdown begins to “Cue the bad guy speech” and, without surprise, Chairman Drek (Paul Giametti) reveals his plan. He intends to destroy each planet, and nab the best chunk, only to fuse them all together to make his perfect world. With the assistance of a henchman (Sylvester Stallone) and a mad scientist, Dr. Nefarious (Armin Shimerman), he targets the next planet. But it’s not easy; he needs to defeat the Galactic Rangers too. Led by, unlikeable Buzz Lightyear wannabe, Captain Qwark (Jim Ward), the Galactic Rangers need a fifth member. Short mechanic, Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor), believes he is up to the job. The army Drek is putting together to defeat the rangers also, unexpectedly, creates a likeable little robot in Clank (David Kaye), who escapes to Ratchet’s planet to warn him of the impending attack. Together, Ratchet and Clank, and the Galactic Rangers, all take on Chairman Drek but it’s not as easy as they expect.
Unfortunately, Ratchet & Clank looks and sounds cheap. Clearly, this isn’t Playstation taking on Pixar – though it can feel like a feature-length low-fi version of the sci-fi opening to Toy Story 2 at points. Sometimes, the scaly reptilian textures and metallic surfaces give a sense of a slightly higher-render than TV CGI cartoons, but it is pulled down by flat, dull characters that lack momentum throughout. Ratchet & Clank feels functional; as if an executive realised the deadline was fast approaching and they needed to cobble something together quick.
Considering Ratchet has an “I can fix this” mantra, it’s worth trying to fix Ratchet & Clank. In the first instance, the cliché “don’t give up on your dreams” drive of Ratchet should never have been the core plot line. Though it’s touched upon, Ratchet never really comes across as an outsider. He may be a “lombax”, but it is Clank’s defective, destroying machine that desperately needs more love. Clank is the logical, rational balance to Ratchet’s impulsive, trigger-happy needs. Clank is pushed to the side, mocked and considered disposable. This is where the heart of the film should lie. Instead, the boxing-glove gun and The Incredibles rip-off persona of Captain Qwark have priority.
The vocal cast also includes John Goodman, Bella Thorne and Rosario Dawson. The cast feels diverse, with female characters that are strong and intelligent – a far call from the delicate, pretty Disney Princesses. But the story is weak with jokes that often sit awkwardly in this kid’s action caper. The film acknowledges fame-hungry wannabes and phone-obsessed teenagers, but it fails to dig deeper. Low in quality and lacking innovation, Ratchet & Clank shoots for the sky but struggles to even lift off.
This was originally written for Culturefly in August 2016