Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 14, 2016)
Though I’ve maintained an interest in videogames all the way back to Pong, I must admit I’ve never played – or heard of - Ratchet and Clank, a platform franchise exclusive for the Playstation consoles. Since I’ve owned Playstations for 15 years, I don’t know why these games’ existence escaped me, but it took an animated 2016 movie adaptation to bring them to my attention.
Set in the “Solana Galaxy”, the villainous Chairman Drek (voiced by Paul Giamatti) aspires to destroy all of this area’s planets. Why? As part of his scheme for galactic domination, of course – that’s what bad guys do.
In an attempt to halt Drek’s threat, two improbable candidates emerge: a spaceship mechanic named Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor) and his robot assistant Clank (David Kaye). Along with the Galactic Rangers, Ratchet and Clank battle to save the galaxy.
If this film’s plot doesn’t remind you of Star Wars, then you’ve probably never heard of Star Wars. Though Clank mixes in so many other influences, I can’t really call it a Star Wars remake – it acts as a hyperactive melange of inspirations.
Not that Clank found much of an audience to recognize all those allusions, as the movie earned a miniscule $8 million. That figure seems semi-shocking, as I thought a CG-animated colonoscopy would earn at least $120 million.
I don’t know why Clank flopped, though perhaps the filmmakers simply overestimated the audience for a movie based on the videogame – or maybe the film’s obvious connections to prior flicks left potential viewers with a “been there, done that” vibe.
Which Clank deserves, as it lacks much true creativity. The movie packs in as many allusions as it can find and occasionally shows some humor, but it fails to provide anything especially winning or memorable.
Despite all those cinematic references, I’d argue the biggest inspiration for Clank comes from TV’s Futurama. Like that series, Clank lampoons sci-fi tropes and offers a rapid-fire series of comedic beats.
Unfortunately, Clank never threatens to approach the intelligence or wit of Futurama. It feels like a second-generation copy of that series, which is enough for occasional mirth, but it still comes across like a lackluster imitator.
None of this makes Clank an actual bad movie. I felt surprised to see its miserable 16 percent Rotten Tomatoes ranking, as that seems like an awfully low rating for a movie that never seems worse than “okay”.
But it rarely rises above that level, so I can’t fault the negative reviews too much. Ratchet & Clank throws enough at the wall that some of its sticks, and a nice voice cast adds to the proceedings. The film just doesn’t show enough creativity to become more than a mild diversion.
Footnote: stick through the conclusion of the end credits for a cute tag.