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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Ratchet and Clank (Blu-ray)
Ratchet and Clank (Blu-ray)
Universal // PG // August 23, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 23, 2016 | E-mail the Author
Maybe it's dangerous to say this in August, but I will not have more fun with another video game this year than I did with Ratchet and Clank. I'm not exactly the type of guy to go back and play through a game a second time, but Insomniac Games' reboot of the long-running franchise is so compulsively replayable that I tore through it four times in the space of a few weeks. I scored my first platinum trophy on the PlayStation 4 here, and I'd seriously point to Ratchet and Clank as the single most gorgeous game of this generation. I had such a blast that I wound up replaying the other six (and a half?) mainline titles in the series this summer. I was so hopelessly addicted that "mainline" might be the right word for it too.

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Wait, though, did we somehow wander into Video Game Talk or some wannabe film critic's LiveJournal? I know, I know, I'm getting to it. If there's one thing about the Ratchet and Clank game that let me down, it was that after every level, everything'd come to a screeching halt so it could lob out another clunky scene from the movie. The badniks' sinister scheme(s) unfolded too clumsily for me to care all that much about what was going on. The camaraderie between Ratchet and Clank wasn't really there the way it was in the stacks of video games before it. I was jazzed about the idea of watching one of my all-time favorite video game franchises soar onto the big screen, but after suffering through a sizeable chunk of the flick in largely lukewarm cutscenes, I wound up not bothering. That's what Blu-ray is for, so...yeah, here we are!

Peering over the shoulder of someone else playing a video game is borderline-never as much fun as picking up a controller and giving it a go yourself. That's what too much of this adaptation of Ratchet and Clank feels like. Even worse, they're not even playing it well. Anyway, Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor) was born to be an intergalactic hero. He's just waiting for the rest of the universe to realize it, and he's content souping up spacecraft on a sprawling desert planet in the meantime. The bad news...? Some unknown sinister force -- you can call him Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti), though -- is destroying one planet after another. The "okay, so let's make lemonade" part of the deal...? That means the Galactic Rangers need to beef up their ranks, and they're even having open tryouts right in Ratchet's backyard! Alas, he's a wee little Lombax with a record a mile long, lacking the bulging biceps or history of derring-do to land this gig. Bye bye, Captain Qwark (Jim Ward). Hello again, spaceship garage.

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Oh! And hello to you too, Warbot Defect B54296! In a gambit to stamp out the Galactic Rangers once and for all, Drek commissions the manufacture of an army of cybernetic warriors, but a pint-sized defect like B54296 isn't gonna cut the mustard. Before Victor Von Ion (Sylvester Stallone) can chuck this tin can into the trash shoot, the cunning 'bot is already on his way to warn the Rangers. His ship is damaged in the escape, but as luck would have it, he crashlands right in the backyard of one of the Rangers' closest allies. That's the story Ratchet spins to the newly-dubbed Clank (David Kaye), anyway. Hey, it's the truth...eventually. He and Clank just need to fend off a planetary invasion first. Not only do they have the Galactic Rangers' attention, they're inducted as members! Ratchet gets the Lightning Round version of superhero camp with the big boys (and gal), while Clank is shoved to the sidelines with the brilliant and perpetually ignored tactician/weaponeer Elaris (Rosario Dawson).

So what if the Galactic Rangers are more the "shoot first, ask questions later" types? Their ranks are swelling, they know exactly where Chairman Drek and his Blargian fleet are, and they're about to knock on his front door armed with the most gloriously ridiculous arsenal in the charted universe. It's just...y'know, Captain Qwark is used to being the big hero type. Why is this puny little Lombax stealing all his thunder? If the Galactic Rangers wind up fighting each other, how could they stand any chance of taking down Drek?

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It's not that Ratchet and Clank is a dreadful, unwatchable misfire or anything. It's a perfectly adequate, if completely forgettable flick with the sort of candy-colored visuals I love, a few solid laughs, and reasonably nicely staged action. It's just that Ratchet and Clank aren't really Ratchet and Clank for a massive portion of the film's runtime. The two of them are split apart far, far more often than not, because that's you want to play your buddy cop dynamic, right? It feels like a Galactic Rangers movie more than anything else, and yet it doesn't really seem sure what to do with Brax (Vincent Tong) or Cora (Bella Thorne). As much as I like Elaris, she's there to service the plot and underlying messages -- hey, the Galactic Rangers should form a plan before storming into battle and respect their teammates! -- first and foremost. Ratchet and Clank juggles three villains -- Chairman Drek, Victor Von Ion, and a decidedly fleshy Dr. Nefarious (Armin Shimerman) -- and that scattered focus keeps any of 'em from really resonating. Bizarrely, some fairly pivotal moments related to this are only found in the game, and others are only found in the movie. It takes both to get any sort of complete picture, and that's not exactly how things are supposed to work. As for its sense of humor, Ratchet and Clank keeps going back to the breaking-the-fourth-wall well a little too often. Cue bad guy speech! Cue montage! Time for a flashy montage! Wilhelm!!! That sort of thing is funny to a point, but that's one of the only arrows in the comedy's quiver.

This adaptation is slavishly devoted to the PlayStation games in all the wrong ways. Ratchet and Clank rapidly bounds from planet to planet, not because it strengthens the story but because that's what happens in the games. It's supposed to mean something when Novalis is in Drek's sights, for instance -- a critical moment in the film that's meant to have seismic repercussions -- and yet Ratchet and Clank never actually land there. So, who cares? The off-the-wall weapons are a chief part of the appeal of the video games, but they're mostly squandered here. They're rarely used for laughs or to cleverly advance the plot; weapons like the Combuster and Plasma Striker just sorta show up, are used once or twice, then completely fade from memory. More outlandish stuff that would've looked great on the big screen and made far more of an impression is nowhere to be found. Say, the Pixelizer, which zaps bad guys into looking like 8-bit Nintendo sprites, or the Groovitron, a disco ball bomb that makes nogoodniks dance till they explode. The Rift Ripper sends Cthulu-tentacles flailing out of an extradimensional portal, pulling screaming villains into its inky maw. The list goes on and on, and all the best stuff is missing in action. One of the absolute most hysterical things about the games is Mr. Zurkon, a tiny little robot that floats next to Ratchet and blasts enemies in between one-liners like "why do you hide, stupid aliens? Mr. Zurkon only wishes for to kill you!" The movie gives him a much more boring voice, chucks a bunch of 'em onto the screen at once, and fails to get so much as a chuckle along the way.

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There's so much that Ratchet and Clank gets right: wrangling in the key voice talent from the games rather than going for marquee value, a handful of laughs that really connect, the manic Looney Tunes-inspired animation to a bunch of its characters, and a close collaboration with the brilliant minds at Insomniac Games. It's a love letter to my single favorite gaming franchise of the PlayStation-and-on era. As a movie, though, it's ninetysomeodd minutes worth of missed opportunities, uninspired genre tropes, and (especially if you haven't already played any of the games beforehand) borderline-incoherence. Ratchet and Clank doesn't come close to being as sharp, funny, or exciting as the games that inspired it. If I have this generally mediocre movie to thank for my Game of the Year, then...hey! It's not all bad news. At least I know I'll play the PS4 game again sometime soon. I can't imagine that I'll ever say the same about this adaptation. Rent It.


Video
C'mon, just look at it:

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Ratchet and Clank is razor-sharp and superhumanly detailed from its first frame to the last. The rich sense of texture, the eye-poppingly vivid colors of all the extragalactic backdrops and gaggles of aliens, the sense that you could count each individual strand of hair on that Lombax's head: nothin' but nice things to say. The authoring of this Blu-ray disc is dead-on too, particularly its high bitrate AVC encode that spans both layers of this BD-50 disc.

There's no 3D high-def release of Ratchet and Clank on this side of the Atlantic, but it looks like you can import one from France if you're feeling squirrely (and have a multi-region 3D deck?).


Audio
Geez, even before the movie part of the movie had started, the subwoofer was unleashing one colossal wave of bass after another. I figured that boded well, and...yup! Clarity and fidelity are off-the-charts, and every last element -- from the whirr of buzz blades to entire planets going kaboom -- is perfectly balanced in the mix. Teeming with spacecraft, 'bots, and shrapnel that soar from one speaker to the next, this is a movie that really does scream out to be experienced in 5.1. I'm a sucker for its heavy emphasis on directionality, even when it comes to something as understated as a jingle bell on a hapless schlub's walker. Total sonic ear candy.

Riding shotgun are a Descriptive Video Service track as well as lossy, 24-bit DTS 5.1 dubs (768kbps) in French and Spanish. Subtitles are served up in English (SDH), French, and Spanish.


Extras
Well, this won't take long.

  • Featurettes (12 min.; HD): Director Kevin Munroe is joined by voice actors James Arnold Taylor and Bella Thorne for both of Ratchet and Clank's featurettes.

    "A Hero's Journey" (8 min.) hammers it home that it's important for kids to know what a real hero is. Don't just want to be somebody; celebrate the extraordinary person you already are! Is it really the right thing to do if it's only right for you? I appreciate the sentiment, even though "you can accomplish anything, so be proud of who you are!" is the underlying message of, like, 92% of Western animated movies. There's just something about the "doing it for the kids!" mantra that's repeated over and over here that gets under my skin. "Leveling Up" (4 min.) touches on what makes this long-running video game franchise such a thrill -- and still somewhat of a challenge! -- to adapt for the big screen. They also talk about the dynamic between the franchise's two title characters as well as how cinematic the Ratchet and Clank games already are.

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    There's not much of anything about the making of the flick, the overwhelming majority of the cast is M.I.A., no one from Insomniac Games ever pops up, and...yeah. An awfully thin selection of extras overall. If you skip 'em entirely, you're not missing out on much.

Ratchet and Clank comes packaged in a shiny slipcover, and a DVD and UltraViolet-slash-iTunes digital copy code are both lovingly tucked inside.


The Final Word
You're better off playing Ratchet and Clank instead. Rent It.
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