Ratchet & Clank Blu-ray Review
Animated films are nothing new, neither are films based on video games. What you hope for, when one is released, is that it will bring something new to either genre. Especially when it is based on a compelling and interesting intellectual property like Sony’s RATCHET & CLANK, which released both a game for PS4 earlier this year and a new film (tied to the game) which was recently released on Blu-ray. But what does RATCHET & CLANK actually bring to the world of animation and is it worth watching? Let’s start with the animation…
The animation for RATCHET & CLANK is actually quite good despite not being done by a studio called Disney, Pixar, Laika, Ghibli, or Dreamworks. In fact it’s really good, smooth visuals with a compelling visual world. The problem here is that the world just doesn’t stay interesting. They create an interesting world but they don’t trust the audience to let the characters inhabit the world so most of the scenes of the film, especially those involving crucial dialogue, occur in places with the most drab and boring surroundings possible so you can’t help but look at the characters. Only when the action is occurring do they remind you what the animators did when initially setting up the world, which is a true shame because the world-building is truly breathtaking (at the beginning and from time to time thereafter).
The second part of world-building is storytelling. (Note: Storytelling only comes second for this single review’s purposes. For all other purposes, storytelling is number 1 when it comes to filmmaking and should be the first thing you consider. RATCHET & CLANK literally has over 10 years of story and it’s a crazy fun IP for Sony so I hoped (but didn’t assume) the story would be somewhat pre-cooked. And I guess I was right, it arrived half-baked in exactly that manner – RATCHET & CLANK is a cliché from beginning to end and doesn’t present a single original thought. It doesn’t even copy from itself, though, sadly.
Another piece of the animated filmmaking process is roping in as much talent as possible. RATCHET & CLANK has gobs of folks, from voices you’ll recognize in featured (but kind of small) parts like John Goodman, Rosario Dawson, and Sylvester Stallone, to lead actors you’ve maybe never heard of like James Arnold Taylor (Ratchet), David Kaye (Clank), Jim Ward (Qwark), and even Armin Shimerman. This film was director by co-directors Kevin Munroe and Jericca Cleland. You’ve probably never heard of either but Munroe wrote and directed two underrated films (in my opinion), the TMNT adaptation from 2007 (weird) and the amazing DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (2010) (Note – He’s also writing and directing an upcoming SLY COOPER movie set for 2016). Cleland is primarily a cinematographer and has some experience working with Pixar from back in 2003 and the most impressive resume of the bunch, I wonder if she was brought in to give the film some more credibility?
Regardless, it’s unfair to characterize RATCHET & CLANK against the other animated films out there but those are the movies you’re going to be picking from when you’re trying to make a choice what to rent or buy, right? Well, RATCHET & CLANK plays like a B-level videogame story which is sad because the actual RATCHET & CLANK video games (at least the first three and the newest one released earlier this year to tie in with the film) generally have pretty nice story to tie in with fun game mechanics and humor, another thing almost completely lacking in RATCHET & CLANK.
RATCHET & CLANK is a bit of a hollow shell stuffed with dollar bills (maybe $5s but I’m guessing no $10s or $20s in there) rather than heart. It feels like the result of a corporate machine that demanded synergy in its product lines and assumed and film would be a natural tie in from a successful videogame franchise (since things have worked so well for them the other way around – see THE AMAZING SPIDER-M… uh oh… maybe not).
So why, then, would Sony choose to make RATCHET & CLANK right now? Well, it seems like nobody can go wrong with a well-timed kids movie doesn’t it? Sony just wanted their piece of the pie, and they had a great piece of IP they needed to leverage… but that’s the problem. That’s probably the exact language of the discussion that occurred rather than “we have this great story we want to tell and we have this compelling reason to tell it.” I have no doubt the filmmakers behind the project really wanted to tell a great story but I doubt they had the backing of a studio that really wanted to produce a quality story for kids. Not once it got through the machine. I mean – look at the special features on this Blu-ray and you can see what they really wanted the story to say. It’s a shame the only way to hear it is on a feature most people will never watch.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.39:1) The video quality on the RATCHET & CLANK Blu-ray is really top-notch, it looks several steps better than the video game while still feeling like you just stepped right out of the game.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio on RATCHET & CLANK is very nicely mixed and really sets a nice tone, which makes sense given Sony’s pedigree with video games and sound.
RATCHET & CLANK: A Hero’s Journey (07:32) The cast and crew talk about why they were interested in working on a ‘hero story’ like RATCHET & CLANK and they discuss, more clearly than the movie ever does, the importance of actually doing the right thing rather than doing what is right for YOU and what makes you look good.
RATCHET & CLANK: Levelling Up (04:21) This special feature tries to tie together RATCHET & CLANK and its story that has been carried through the many video games with footage from both.
RATCHET & CLANK is a sparse Blu-ray package but does thankfully feature a Digital HD UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film included with your purchase.