The journey from videogame to film is a long and arduous one; the failure to recognise one another’s respective mediums usually culminates in an unholy mishmash of half-baked ideas and soulless execution. The strenuous transition of a beloved property is fraught with misunderstanding and a simple-mindedness approach revolving around the idea of monopoly and franchise expansion – if presented correctly, audience rapport and brand recognition cement the companies reputation as a force to be reckoned with. Think Disney and their popular children’s title Disney Infinity; a successful collaboration between the World renowned Disney conglomerate and game developer Avalanche software. Rather than designing a linear title based on one of their hit features, Disney and Avalanche discovered a way in which to encourage players to create, share and extend their own adventures: the ultimate toy box. Avalanche were gifted the rare opportunity to indulge in every generations favourite heroes without the prerequisite of set-in-stone story beats and character arcs. Now imagine the complete opposite to this situation.
Directed, and written by, Jerrica Cleland and Kevin Munroe (of TMNT fame), with former Insomniac games senior writer T.J Fixman on writing duties, Ratchet and Clank is another game-to-film adaptation gone awry – it also happens to be one of the most faithful adaptations in film history, at least in terms of story and scene-to-scene coverage. As a child and early adopter of films and videogames, 6-year-old Craig (me) was always excited to play the videogame adaptation of the big film blockbusters on the Super Nintendo: Jurassic Park, Toy Story, The Addams family, Judge Dredd etc. The problems arose when it soon became clear the game was taking liberties with its source material; locations, enemies, and weapons that never appeared in the films were everywhere in their videogame counterparts. On reflection, these developers made the wise decision to add gameplay conventions where applicable to appeal to a different audience. On reflection, after having seen the Ratchet and Clank film, 6-year-old Craig had it a lot better than the 6-year-old about to sit down to watch said film.
The game is an action-packed, adrenaline-fueled science-fiction title with an emphasis on exploration and the ability to obliterate hilarious enemies with the vast range of creative weapons at your disposal. Each encounter is different because Insomniac – while admittedly reducing the inventory from past games – have refined the usefulness of each weapon ensuring each tool of destruction has its place in any situation: this is the core appeal of Ratchet and Clank the game. The film’s biggest concession is the way in which it undermines every pro in the game – even the simple omni-wrench melee mechanics are left out until the very end. During the rare combat sequences, the only weapons utilised are the simple, generic guns that lack the flair of the groovitron (a weapon that forces any enemy to dance) or the sadistically evil glove of doom (a weapon that releases a small horde of tiny maniacal robots to destroy the enemies). The inventiveness and humour of a company that continues to innovate today is curiously absent here – a far cry from Insomniacs’ best.
Aside from being derivative, monotonously dull and devoid of any real identity amongst the animation category’s best, Ratchet and Clank’s biggest crime is its adoption of every cutscene from the game – at least half of the film is recycled from the game except the crazy action sequences that really matter. For example, the beginning of the game showcases an exciting chase sequence as Clank attempts to escape one of Chairman Drek’s hulking henchman. In order to successfully complete this task, it is up to the player to run towards the screen whilst dodging the henchman’s many laser and rocket-based projectiles – it’s simple yet fun – and eventually Clank makes it to his escape pod. The film scraps these tense obstacles, instead opting to cut straight to Clank escaping – this is the problem: the directors are too focused on getting from point A to point B in the game to imbue the film with any sense of meaningful conflict or danger that might challenge the protagonists. The noticeable absence of the beautiful vistas and secret-ridden planets the player is encouraged to explore in the game is substituted for the dark and dingy corridors of Chairman Drek’s dull and uninspired deplanetiser base. The directors refuse to indulge in the series’ vibrant settings, further adding to the films’ lack of ambition and scope – a big mistake, especially when being released alongside a game critics consider to be the revitalisation of the series.
It’s clear now: the purpose of the videogame/film adaptations are to act as companion pieces; the act in which one medium opens up, and extends, the game/film World like Avalanche Software did with Disney Infinity. The Ratchet and Clank film does nothing that the game doesn’t already accomplish, and with the game having been released first there simply isn’t any justification in watching the film after having played through the same events, and more, on the PlayStation 4. It raises the question as to whether the game was meant to promote the film, or vice versa? It almost seems like a cheap trick to convince a loyal Ratchet and Clank film to watch a film primarily salvaged from static cutscenes from a vastly superior game. Without displaying anything integral to the success of the Ratchet and Clank videogame legacy, the film feels hollow and character-less, and, consequently, it’s what makes it a bad film in a continued trend between the fruitless marriage of the videogame and film industry.
6-Year-old Craig didn’t know how good he had it.