“Ratchet and Clank”: The hour-and-a-half long commercial

Courtesy of Focus Features
Courtesy of Focus Features

This movie is a promotion for the 2016 “Ratchet and Clank” game, and both the movie and 2016 game are loosely based off the plot of the original 2002 3D action-platformer game. Despite enjoying the games, I adjusted my expectations, knowing it’d be catered toward a generation of younger audiences instead of the older fans. But between the constant stream of flat jokes, overabundance of exposition and scarcity of engaging action scenes, I’m doubtful if even kids would be into this movie.

The movie’s plot is generally unfocused due to constant forced humor. The movie opens with primary antagonist Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti) blowing up a planet with a weaponized satellite. In response, a team of space heroes called the Galactic Rangers announce they’re looking for a new member to help them stop Drek. News reaches planet Veldin, home of titular hero Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor), who immediately decides to audition for them since he idolizes their leader, Captain Qwark (Jim Ward). The already lengthy inciting incident gets stretched out far longer than it needs to be by a constant spew of slapstick humor. While funny at first, the hackneyed jokes just didn’t know when to stop, and ultimately waste a lot of screentime.

The “Ratchet and Clank” games are known for their use of dark humor and satire, but that humor was always a secondary component to the games’ plots. It feels as if the movie’s writers took one look at the jokes in the games and somehow decided that they needed to be the main attraction. Almost every scene gets interrupted every few seconds by a character texting, making not-Instagram posts or just spewing needlessly ridiculous dialogue, routinely destroying any sense of cohesiveness the plot may have had.

The biggest source of the constant flat jokes are the Galactic Rangers: Captain Qwark, Brax (Dean Redman) and Cora (Bella Thorne). Brax and Cora are borderline indistinguishable, as both have the personality of absurdly exaggerated fratboy stereotypes, and half the depth. They have no chemistry with the earnestness of Ratchet, the childishness of Qwark or the sensibleness of Clank (David Kaye) and team strategist Elaris (Rosario Dawson). They clash so much that the expositional scenes in which Elaris begs everybody to plan for how they’ll stop Drek end in long-winded bickering. Brax, Qwark and Cora then complain that they’re not out blowing stuff up with all their cool guns. I was in the same boat, as all the endless jokes and talking left me wondering where the action scenes were.

But when the movie’s few action scenes finally arrive, they lack tension and danger. Drek’s assistant, Dr. Nefarious (Armin Shimerman), hypes up his army of robots as specially designed killing machines, able to annihilate the Galactic Rangers in the blink of an eye. Yet their combat skills make your average Stormtrooper look like a serious threat by comparison. They never actually manage to shoot any of the characters, destroy much architecture or even cause any mayhem or panic. Most of the time, they’re just getting blown away effortlessly by each character’s multitude of flashy weapons. In fact, in a later action scene in which Dr. Nefarious’ robots had Brax surrounded, I saw only about half of them even attempting to shoot him. The rest just waited there passively while Brax cooked them with a flamethrower.

I wasn’t expecting a lot from this movie, but I certainly wasn’t expecting the plot or character struggles to be buried by unproductive exposition or stale slapstick. In fact, I thought it’d get buried under action scenes advertising all the guns, gadgets and moves available to the player in the 2016 game. Yet even the weak action scenes were few and far between among the jokes. I’m not knocking the plot itself. I wanted a lot more of it and a lot less of the “humor.” A game can get away with having a weak plot if the gameplay is fun and engaging. But if a movie’s plot is weak, the audience is stuck waiting for it to just end.
Even the intended audience of younger kids is going to be bored by this movie’s forced humor and lack of action. They’ll probably wish they were playing one of the games instead; I know I did. But maybe that was the intent behind this absurdly long commercial.

Rating: 1/5 Stars

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