Games

What NOT To Do When Turning a Game Into a Movie

For a long time, many game companies have tried to get their games turned into movies, often unsuccessfully. Despite the dubious results, the idea is still a popular one. Rainmaker had been planning on making a Ratchet and Clank movie for a long time, and it seemed like a pretty solid setup too. While some games have very little that could be used to make a film, the Ratchet and Clank series has a whole load of advantages: unique weapons, interstellar space travel, robots, diabolical villains and a crime-fighting duo composed of a talking cat/fox-like creature named Ratchet and his clever robotic sidekick Clank. This sci-fi action adventure game could work incredibly well as a film, seeming practically foolproof with its built-in kids-to-early-teens demographic, thanks to the games. They had the funding, the resources, and an entire series rich in humor to work off of, with more than enough creativity and action to pack into a film. Unfortunately, it all went horribly wrong. Ratchet and Clank flopped hard at the box office, having a $20 million budget, yet barely making back over half of that. To explore why this happened, I’m going to pick out what not to do when making a game into a movie, using Ratchet and Clank as my prime example.

1) Don’t Sand Your Characters Down Around the Edges

When turning a game into a film certain changes must be made now and then, which is understandable. At the same time not all changes made are necessary or even good. An example of this is the characters’ personalities. In an attempt to try and make the movie more appealing Rainmaker made the terrible mistake of dumbing down their characters. I’ll use Ratchet as a primary example of this. Ratchet’s personality has developed over the course of the series significantly. He’s been shown to be brave and selfless in combat and is not only relatable but also very likable due to his sarcastic nature and ability to dish out insults to villains he faces. He is also flawed, having a tendency to take things personally and get mad, but usually comes out on top and does the right thing. That’s the Ratchet the fans know of from the games. The Ratchet we see in the movie, however, doesn’t feel like Ratchet. He acts like an adoring fanboy of the Galactic rangers and has the dreamer type of personality, the one where a person constantly dreams about being something bigger and better and never shuts up about it. He doesn’t have the same spark of attitude that made him as entertaining or relatable to the audience and that really harms the connection the audience has with the main character.

In fact, there’s also a strong lack of character development for all the characters. As the story goes on we’re introduced to the Galactic Rangers, a group of space rangers led by Captain Quark consisting of Cora Verlux, Brax Lectrus and Elaris (Elaris is a tech builder, the rest are field operatives). These people protect the galaxy from villains and whatever catastrophe may occur. A man named Drek is planning to tear apart several planets using a weapon called ‘The Deplanetizer’ to build his own and the Galactic rangers need to up their numbers from four rangers to five. Now, the movie centers around Ratchet and Clank going on missions with the galactic rangers but despite this we know very little about them asides from one or two character traits. I understand Ratchet is the main focus but side characters should feel like more than just props in the movie. In fact, the character who seems to get the most development is captain Quark. He’s not the most likable character and its odd seeing him going through a character arch as opposed to someone like oh, I don’t know, the main protagonist?

Anyway, the Galactic rangers don’t want to take Ratchet on due to his many misadventures listed in his bio such as almost destroying the space-time continuum or being in possession of an illegal gravity booster. After being rejected he soon meets Clank, a warbot defect who escaped from the lab of Doctor Nefarious, a mad scientist who is supplying Drek with warbots to help him with his scheme to create the ultimate planet. He explains Drek’s plan to Ratchet and also that the warbots are scheduled to ambush and annihilate the rangers soon. They then save the rangers from the warbots and Quark gives them a position with the rangers, much to his own irritation since Ratchet is unintentionally getting the attention from the media that Quark usually does.

2) If the Joke Doesn’t Make You Laugh, Don’t Put It In

In this movie, there are a few good jokes pegged at the audience but very few of them actually make us laugh. In a previous game, there was a scene where Captain Quark was thought to have died. In this scene, Ratchet had to host a type of memorial with his crew and talk about how great Quark was. Ratchet clearly struggled to do this and instead of being able to complement Quark on any good features he instead ended up saying he was tall and had a butt shaped chin before awkwardly scampering away from the podium. This is an example of humor that actually works. It’s funny because Ratchet is trying to be nice but can’t find anything good to say and fails so miserably at the speech that he just quits and walks off. These jokes are genuinely funny and kids would be able to get them but the jokes in the movie feel rushed and lazy, like the writers don’t think we’ll notice they’re not trying. I’m sorry but making your guard loudly scream out whatever command he’s given or having your villains laugh like idiots isn’t funny enough to make me want to buy a ticket for your movie. I think I’ll just stay at home and play the game without the awkward cringe jokes, thanks.

3) If There’s a Plot Point That Connects to a Side Character, Use It to Develop Them, Rather Than Push it Aside

There is a very important plot point not mentioned in the film: The next planet Drek plans to strike is Novalis, the home planet of Cora Verlux, one of the galactic rangers. It’s terribly ironic because in the game this is mentioned by Cora but in the film, she just states that the planet is heavily populated. You’d expect an important detail like this that adds more drama to the scene to be included in the cinematic release, not the game (There was a game made of this movie with the same plot). Whether it was lost during editing or cut out since they didn’t like this particular plot line I don’t know, but it seems like a poor decision. The fact that Novalis is Cora’s home planet means this planets safety is made more personal to the viewers since it is the home of one of the characters we know. Or it would be more emotional if we got more character development from Cora but whatever, I just think it’s a wasted opportunity and confusing for those who played the game and watched the movie because then we’re not sure which is canon.

4) Your Villain Can’t Be a Complete Idiot

Ok, so the rangers try to attack the deplanetizer but their weapons systems are disabled due to their captain sabotaging them since Drek convinced Quark it will get Ratchet out of the picture. Ratchet makes a gutsy move and despite his ship having no defense systems he guns it through a fleet of Drek’s ships to the deplanetizer and ejects himself. Ratchet manages to get his way smoothly to the deplanetizer’s control room, no hiccups or problems along the way. He actually gets to the control panel and is right about to deactivate the device when Drek shows up on his floating scooter. Yeah, he rides around on a floating space scooter and I don’t know why. Maybe its supposed to be scary? Man, imagine if more space villains did that. Hey, can we get Darth Vader on some roller blades? Or maybe Lord Zarkon on a skateboard? That’d be sick. Anyway, Drek just happens to show up and shoot Ratchet with a gun that creates a force field around him, immobilizing him just before he can turn on the deplanetizer. Drek then brags about how much of a fool Ratchet is.

Boi.

A SINGLE ranger managed to infiltrate your base, get through a barely guarded control room and almost shut down your machine and you’re BRAGGING? You could argue he was laying in wait for Ratchet to appear so he could blast him but seriously, why not put down a booby trap in the room? Why not have a group of blarg there with those guns ready to shoot Ratchet as soon as he came in? Drek isn’t the sort to get his own hands dirty or throw himself into the way of harm, so him showing up to shoot Ratchet seems very out of character and poor in regard to his plan.

5) Don’t Let Your Protagonist Take the Easy Way Out! Make Them Struggle to Overcome the Problem

If you think that’s bad planning, hold onto your hats babes because we’re about to go from stupid to agonizingly moronic. After capturing Ratchet, a galactic ranger, does Drek kill him? No. Does he put him in a cell? No. He decides he wants Ratchet to live to see his failure in stopping the deplanetizer, so he orders his soldiers to put Ratchet in a spacepod and fire him into space. Yeah. THAT’S his plan. It doesn’t even have a bomb attached to it or anything! Seriously, this could have been done so many different ways to work! If the writers needed Drek to not kill Ratchet then have him find a way to escape the forcefield! Maybe Drek would try to get Ratchet to join his side like how he did with Quark, but Ratchet would instead escape and try to stop the deplanetizer but be too late? I can’t even call this the sort of thing a dramatic cliché villain would do. Making grandiose speeches while the protagonist escapes a convoluted contraption made to kill him, or constantly stalling as you boast is one thing, but this? This is beyond idiotic. The kids who watch this film aren’t stupid and they will catch onto these flaws in the story. If your characters are being idiots to this extent then its going to harm the film, especially considering how lazy it is from a writing perspective. This is another factor that needs to be focused on when making films: Don’t dumb things down or take the easy way out. Your characters need to find a way to overcome their obstacles, not just slip around them! A movie isn’t exciting if they just conveniently get the easy way out.

Anyway, Novalis is destroyed by the deplanetizer and the mission has been failed. We have a brief moment where we get to see the rangers reactions as they realize they failed their mission. Even Quark, being the traitor, is transfixed by the sight of Novalis being shattered. Ratchet curls up inside the ejected space pod as if floats through space, clearly upset by what has just occurred. Now, this scene is important but what could potentially come after it even more so. Unfortunately, the writers can’t seem to stop throwing good opportunities out the window. It’s a shame because this is a perfect set up. Instead of showing Ratchet having to return to the Galactic Rangers and see their reactions to being betrayed by Quark as well as Ratchet’s failure, the film decides to just show Ratchet back on his home planet Veldin moping around. This is a HUGE missed opportunity that could really help enrich the storytelling and character development of the Galactic rangers all at once.

6) Don’t Leave Out Facts That Make Us Interested in the Supporting Cast

Novalis is Cora’s home planet so the failure of this mission would be all the more devastating to her. Despite spending so much time around the Galactic rangers they’ve been given very little character development. This would be a perfect chance to show more of who Cora Verlux is in a time of crisis. Her home planet has just been destroyed, the mission has been a complete catastrophe, her captain betrayed her team and now the person who was just seconds away from stopping the total annihilation of her planet before being caught is now standing right in front of her. There was so much that could have been done with this scene. How would Cora have reacted? Would a part of her blame Ratchet and blow up at him? Would she just carry on with a grim sense of acceptance? Would she instead offer support to him and show maturity? How would the other rangers react to this? Unfortunately, we have no idea because this concept was never explored. It’s really quite disappointing because Ratchet and Clank is a series full of rich possibilities for a film but all of them are being squandered in the writer’s attempts to pander to kids by dumbing everything down from the plot to the characters.

7) Dumbing Down the Story is a Bad Idea

Some may argue that this is supposed to be a kids film and doesn’t need a moment like that to hammer in the consequences. At the same time though there are some sections in certain Ratchet and Clank games where something was lost or a mission was failed. In these segments it wasn’t just brushed over either, it was fully addressed. If you want a good example of this you could look at Ratchet and Clank: a Crack in Time. This was a Ratchet and Clank game in particular that reveals a lot of important backstory for Ratchet and also had a stronger emphasis on the emotional bond between Ratchet and Clank. If the games were like that, why would the movie need to be any different? It’s a tragic case of trying to make the movie more appealing but instead having the total opposite effect.

When Ratchet returns home to Veldin to work at his previous job as a mechanic and Clank goes after Ratchet to try to convince him to join up with the rangers again. Ratchet argues he messed up the mission and needs to take the blame for not stopping Drek. Clank, on the other hand, points out that if Ratchet wants to really hold himself accountable he should try to fix the problem, not run away from it. The story does actually make a very good point: Ratchet needs to confront these problems and take responsibility for what happened, not just sit around and let blame hold him back from doing anything even though it was mostly Quark’s fault but hey, whatever.

The Galactic rangers show up and talk about another planet that is going to be destroyed, this time not by Drek but by Doctor Nefarious, who was working with Drek but then turned him into a sheep and shot him into space so he could take over the plan (yeah, I said sheep) and blow up a planet causing a chain reaction due to that planets particular atmosphere that would blow up an entire solar system. Nefarious doesn’t actually have a reason for doing this aside from being a mad scientist but it’s kind of an anticlimactic finale. Like, that’s it? He’s just doing it for laughs? Okay.

Anyway, the story ends the way we think it will. Ratchet and Clank save the day, Quark apologizes for his actions and faces the consequences, Dr.Nefarious is stopped and the deplanetizer incinerates Drek. Ratchet goes back to Veldin to work as a mechanic with Clank as his friend, and the duo swear that next time trouble rears its ugly head they’ll drop the omni-wrench, pick up a blaster and take down some diabolical villains. I could give you more details on the ending but there isn’t anything much of interest to even discuss. I personally felt pretty disappointed in this film. Rainmaker had a great set up but squandered it on trying to pander to kids and focusing too much on moving the plot to let us enjoy the film. I personally love Ratchet and Clank. It’s a great series with incredible potential for a film but now I doubt it’ll have another hit in the cinema. While I may not have enjoyed how Ratchet and Clank performed on the big screen, I know that with the right script and right crew they could easily be a blockbuster film.

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