Ratchet & Clank (2016)

If you’d asked me to name the best videogame film adaptation, I probably would have ducked the question by answering Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, which, while an incredible (if silly) film, isn’t actually based on a videogame, just on the whole notion of gaming.

On the whole, most of the ones I’ve seen seem to end up with the same problem, no matter how good they are:  they all bog down somewhere in the middle, trapped in a series of false climaxes.  One could blame the legions of fanboys who want to see every big boss from the game in a movie, but ironically, the same can be said of the three Final Fantasy movies, even though they are, respectively, an all new story, a new continuation of one of their previous games, and the prequel to a new, online game.  While it’s true I’d rate the first Final Fantasy movie as excellent, and the new Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV  as quite good – and only VII as actually poor-  all three of these films bog down towards the end (particularly VII, which starts feeling very long, very early).  I suspect it may be because game designers do tend to tell sprawling, episodic stories, thanks to the need to keep inserting playable segments.

So it seems truly remarkable that this isn’t true of Ratchet & Clank.

Ratchet is an anthropomorphic, fox-like creature who works as a mechanic on a minor world, dreaming of one day becoming one of the Galactic Rangers.  But his dreams are crushed when he tries out for the one open Ranger slot and gets turned down because he is too small.

But when a robot, whom he christens “Clank”, crash-lands nearby, the two set out to save the world from an alien invasion.

However, the sinister Chairman Drek and the even more dangerous mad scientist, Dr. Nefarious, have corrupted one of the Rangers, and it seems like there is little hope of stopping them from destroying the galaxy…

This is an amiable little film that somehow got lost in all the movie hype lately, even though it is better than some of the more visible efforts.  It offers sympathetic heroes, a series of comic but suspenseful battles, a lot of background story, and several quite impressive sequences.  It’s played with some fairly broad humor, but without any of the post-modern posturing – that fundamental winking admission that, “yes, we know this is trash, too” – that ruins so many films aimed at children.

While I’ll concede I’m always more interested in more abstract styles of animation than we’ve seen lately (thanks to the endless supply of Pixar clones), I found the animation here acceptable.  I suspect they were trying to match the look of the games, and they seem to have done that, while adding a depth and detail to the scenes that is rare in a videogame.

Not only did the adults at our home showing enjoy the film, but that far more critical audience – the children – did as well.

Science Fiction rarely seems to appear in animated films these days – at least, in those made for the American market – and this is a welcome addition to the ranks of SF children’s animation.  The Iron Giant is still better, but then, we knew that already.

And trust me, it’s okay.

This one’s good enough.

(Special bonus:  click here to download a ridiculously detailed model of Clank himself, which is supposedly life sized!)

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