I’m “biast” (con): never hopeful about based-on-videogame movies
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Ah, so there’s my answer, once again.
I was wondering how that standard movie philosophy still applied to me. You know, that standard movie philosophy that is not only the stuff but the actual stuffing of 99 percent of wish-fulfillment genre fantasy movies for decades now. I approached Ratchet & Clank with great anticipation. Can I do anything? Can I be anything I want to be? Am I destined for greatness, to save the world or even the whole galaxy even if I am a foolhardy, thoughtless, unfocused screwup with almost nothing to my name but maybe some undisciplined smarts and outsized aspirations to grandeur?
And the answer is still No. Not for the likes of me, anyway, because I am female. The 187,943rd iteration of that standard movie philosophy once again reassures me that only boys need apply for Great Destinies. Boys don’t even need to be human boys, as R&C reminds us. You can be a Lombax — a sort of half-fox, half-cat vaguely humanoid alien biped — and still presume you are destined for greatness, all evidence to the contrary, and have your ridiculous presumption confirmed 94 minutes later. Just like the Lombax Ratchet (the voice of James Arnold Taylor), who hails from a PlayStation videogame series that debuted in 2002 and is generally reminiscent of the incredibly popular videogame hero Sonic the Hedgehog, though I’m sure that’s pure coincidence.
And another thing: “Unlikely hero” no longer means what Hollywood thinks it means. The likes of Ratchet are now very likely, very tedious sorts of heroes. Time to change the record.
Oh, and one more other thing: If you are a girl, R&C suggests, you might aspire to be a sidekick for the male hero, as long as you have huge Bratz-doll eyes and a shape that exaggerates secondary female sexual attributes. You cannot be an alien Lombax or even like Ratchet’s robot sidekick, Clank (the voice of David Kaye) — yes, even the machines are gendered, and gendered male. You could perhaps be a mostly human-ish girl with a funny forehead or ears for that exotic Star Trek touch. But you must still be fully fuckable in the eyes of 14-year-old human boys. Know your place, ladies!
Anyway, Ratchet is a mechanic on planet Whatever, where he does things like soup up an elderly Generic Alien’s future space car with mods that are totally uncalled for and recklessly dangerous, because that’s how he rolls, isn’t he awesome? That Ratchet is not actually awesome appears to escape everyone, such as director and cowriter Kevin Munroe. (Munroe’s previous movie and most prominent credit is as director of 2010’s Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, the huge flop reviled by critics and rejected by audiences that might be best known as the movie that killed the film career of Brandon “2006 Superman” Routh. So naturally it makes sense to give him another shot at the big screen. Also one of his coscreenwriters is Gerry Swallow, who wrote dialogue for one of the worst movies ever, Walking with Dinosaurs 3D, so why not give him another job too? Kill me now.) But Ratchet is a boy and the movie is about him, so presumptions of awesome hover around him regardless. And never mind that the test drive of these unrequested mods with the elderly alien — a paying customer, mind, who I hope will refuse to pony up for work he did not ask for — is like a ripoff of the pod-racing sequence from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
I mean, literally, do not mind this: I surmise that this is a feature, not a bug. Because most of the rest of Ratchet’s adventure in becoming heroic and saving the galaxy despite being a juvenile fuckup will be hugely derivative — mostly, but not entirely, visually — of the Star Wars prequels. The first of which, mind, came out just a few years before the videogame that inspired this movie. (I use the word inspired loosely. Actual creative inspiration is not a thing that came anywhere near infecting this movie.) But what a bizarre choice to stick with a visual ethos that, while it may have informed the game, is no longer the best option. For today, a decade and a half later, the geek gamers who must surely constitute this movie’s sole demographic have come to despair of Lucas’s self-indulgent prequels.
Probably there was no real choice in the matter, because if you’re going to make a movie out of the R&C games, what else could you do? Perhaps everyone here identifies a bit too much with Ratchet, and presumes themselves destined for greatness, all evidence to the contrary. Perhaps this movie should never have been made at all.
To be fair, late-90s/early-2000s era Star Wars is not the only far better franchise stolen from here. (And yes, even given the problems with those SW flicks, they are still more entertaining than this.) The big bad villain here — Chairman Drek (the voice of Paul Giamatti [Straight Outta Compton, Love & Mercy], wait, what?) — may look like an underwater-dwelling Gungan from The Phantom Menace, but his planet-destroying weapon is like the Death Star, which is from a totally different series, the original Star Wars trilogy. And the head of the villain-fighting superherogroup that Ratchet wants in on (and which he of course manages to triumph among), known as the Galactic Rangers? Captain Qwark (the voice of Jim Ward: Minions, Inside Out) is stolen from further afield yet: he’s comics, cartoon, and live-action superantihero The Tick crossed with Futurama’s Zapp Brannigan. Toss in some Strauss musical cues meant to invoke 2001: A Space Odyssey, and you have a movie that — and I’m being generous here — might think it’s meta but is never anything greater than meh.
Ratchet & Clank could have been assembled entirely from clips from other movies, and would have been better if it had been. This is a lot of noise and nonsense, colorful idiocy good for nothing more than being an electronic babysitter for especially undemanding toddlers, utterly charmless and unfun. (Disclaimer: Please don’t expose your children to this.) One of the film’s associated production companies, whose logo proudly appears at the beginning of the film, is “Cinema Management Group,” which sounds more like an organization that determines the optimal rate of Bags of Factory-Popped Popcorn-Flavored Snack Per Mean Moviegoer at the Average Multiplex than one that has anything interesting to contribute to a well-told story. And which appears to have been confirmed by the end of the film.