Monday, October 3, 2016

Ratchet & Clank

   Yet another movie with a mixed to weak reception that should honestly be wholeheartedly embraced, not just by gamers, or fans, but by any audience who loves a good space faring romp. I've been a fan of Ratchet & Clank since their debut title on the PS2. Admittedly, I've only played about four of their games, but each one was excellent. I just finished a revisit of Up Your Arsenal today, so I was in the perfect mood to finally pop this in and see how it was. And, you know what? I really liked it. Ratchet & Clank isn't perfect, but few films are and this one hits all the right notes.

   I've heard all kinds of complaints about this movie, from "They didn't use enough weapons from the games" to "the pacing was bad" and frankly, most of those complaints are ridiculous. Proving in one fell swoop that most audiences are either exceptionally picky, or just looking to have a bad time. The movie uses a wealth of the fancy and ridiculous weapons from the game, even if some only make glorified cameos, it still brought a smile to my face. One of the last guns from the game I ever expected to show up in this flick had a pretty fantastic moment that genuinely made me laugh- as did many of the sight gags and punchlines in the movie.

   Someone who's never played the games should still enjoy Ratchet & Clank for what it is though. It's a bright, colorful, hi-tech, space faring, adventure movie with endearing characters and energetic humor. It's a stylish and visually gorgeous movie that might not win any awards or break any records, more than satisfied me. People said that the games dealt with more mature themes, and maybe they did- but not in the ones I played. This movie deals with the usual themes of friendship, loyalty, being a hero by doing the right things, not big things. It's all familiar stuff, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The comparison is a compliment, and it's even easy to liken Ratchet (arguably the most adorable current animated hero outside of Pixar's oeuvre) to Luke Skywalker.

   They both have that wide eyed hunger for adventure and heroism in their eyes as they look up at a vibrant sky flush with warm hues. In that vein, Ratchet & Clank is a fine little romp across the cosmos, and I have few complaints about it. As a fan of the games, one of things I loved most about it was it's varied locations. You went to about ten different planets in each game, and each planet was distinctive, visually interesting and fun to explore. The movie on the other hand is quite claustrophobic in that regard. It's not really a planet-hopping adventure, but instead trades in varied locales for the streamlined nature of an origin story.

   The same kind of constraints that hold back so many comic book offerings being rebooted on the big screen these days? Ratchet & Clank surprisingly suffers from the same maladies. It's missing an essential ingredient that the games had, and should've been transferred over to the screen. This would've been the perfect movie to use a maguffin-centric plot in. Like Guardians of the Galaxy or the last Star Wars outing. But instead it sticks to an even more formulaic origin story. I expected Uncle Ben to show up and insist that Ratchet listen to the iconic 'responsibility' speech. The story never takes us to more than two planets (if you wanna get technical, four) but most of the screentime is spent indoors, training and corridor-running. If not there, then in space- in no fewer than three or four dogfights.

   I'm just being fair, the movie isn't perfect, but I'm remiss that I even have to mention all that. The movie is so energetic, lively, and flat out fun that I was entertained from beginning to end with a big smile on my face to boot. The training montage is a clever stand-in for the typical video game tutorial, only way funnier. The nods to the game, and to gaming itself were aplenty, and each one plastered a grin on my face. There might not be any standout, narrowly defined, action set pieces, but the movie is creative in it's swashbuckling daring-do and packs in the requisite amount of excitement. It's humor is rather base, and silly, and I felt kinda dumb for laughing at some of it- but kids will eat it up, and that's fine by me. The movie really did bring out my inner kid, and I felt like I was watching a big, long, Saturday morning cartoon. In what world could that be considered a bad thing?

   Of course the movie does pale in comparison to playing the games, which are decidedly (and gleefully) trigger-happy, but for an adventure movie based on these eponymous characters, I was pleased to see the focus shifted to nailing their personalities, the tone of the world, and the flavor of the property itself. All of which was accomplished with gusto. Ratchet and Clank are at their most endearing here, and seeing them grow to appreciate each other was a major nostalgia trip for me, way back to their first PS2 game. The movie managed to make a familiar story feel fresh and bursting with energy. It's an easy movie, and an uncomplicated one, which might be dwarfed by the excellence that recent Pixar movies (i.e. Zootopia) have accomplished... but there's no denying that Ratchet & Clank is still a big-hearted blast with colorful sets, and excellent voice acting. I loved it.

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