Ratchet & Clank (2016)

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Sometimes major critics get it wrong, sometimes they get it right. Sometimes they hit the nail right on the head about whether or not a film is good or bad, and sometimes they are just needlessly mean and just miss the point, and just are simply unfair on a film. A film I feel too many people were far too harsh on was Ratchet & Clank. While it certainly was not a masterpiece, it also was far from being the horrendous film that many people seem to believe it to be. However, there is some truth in the criticisms, and I understand where the disdain comes from – I just think that disdain is a bit unfounded, because there are far worse animated films, and the only reason for the critical hatred of Ratchet & Clank is because it aims to a very niche market – a really small, selective group of people.

It may be the nostalgia talking, but I grew up with Ratchet & Clank – I remember the rainy Saturday mornings, when housework was replaced with blankets and the Playstation 2, where us youngsters were thrust into the faraway worlds of many colorful and unique characters. One such world was inhabited by Ratchet and Clank, and they became icons of the formation of many people of my generation – so you can imagine my surprise that a film about these characters came out now, in 2016. That is precisely the problem – these characters certainly deserved to have a film, and they were well-developed enough to have one. The problem is that this film arrived far too late, and thus most people who would’ve flocked to the theaters and seen this film many times are now much older, and with the dominance of superhero films, Ratchet & Clank, as fond a memory as they are, just don’t inspire the excitement in millennials that a film like this would’ve a decade ago.

There are many attempts to look into our past obsessions and recreate them based on the nostalgia factor – the problem is that a film can’t be built on nostalgia alone – it needs to be timely and fresh, and if a reboot or remake needs to happen, then it can’t depend on the original audience building the buzz for it – it needs to be accessible to new, younger audiences and other people that weren’t a part of the original generation that loved these characters. Ratchet & Clank just simply don’t do that, and that is the downfall of an otherwise enjoyable film.

However, it is not healthy to only look at the negative aspects of a film, and when a film like Ratchet & Clank actually has some amazing merits, it is wrong to not discuss them. First of all, there are two aspects of animation that set them apart from all other films – animation, and voice acting. Hollywood has perfected animation, and frequently go above and beyond what has been previously seen. Unfortunately, there is still a problem with voice acting in many mainstream animated films. Don’t get me wrong, it is wonderful to see some versatile and talented actors being given the chance in animated films, but unfortunately it sees like it is more of a marketing scheme when the current box office draws also find themselves in an animated film – and that just doesn’t work for me, because what many people don’t realize is that there is an entire industry of people that make their careers out of voice acting – and unfortunately, while a huge box office draw will be recognized walking down the street, voice actors have to depend on a very small market of fans who actually know them and adore them. Thankfully, I consider myself someone who is relatively well-versed in all spheres of cinema, and voice-acting is one of my favorite parts of the entertainment industry – these individuals are equally as talented as those that perform stunts or Shakespeare (and sometimes they do both).

What I loved about Ratchet & Clank is that instead of casting big name actors in the titular roles, they did something very risky – they brought back James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye. If these names don’t ring a bell, that is because they are known as the original voices of these characters (amongst a myriad of other games, television shows and films). I found this decision inspired, because if they are going to rely on the nostalgia factor, why not just go all the way and get the voices we remember to play the characters we love? Of course, they had to sell this film somehow, and thus Paul Giamatti and Sylvester Stallone were cast in the villain roles, with Armin Shimerman brought back to play Dr. Nefarious. It is a weird combination of dedicated voice actors and well-known stars, which is quite something to say the least. I am not opposed to it – even Giamatti and Stallone bring their best to the role, and it never feels like they are simply saying the lines, but actually putting some sort of effort into their performances.

Ratchet & Clank is really a fun film – it has animation that might not be groundbreaking, but it is certainly polished enough to keep you captivated. The film does become very slow during the second act, but overall, I thought it was a great film. I do think part of it is driven by nostalgia, but in the end, if this film helps towards a Ratchet & Clank game revival, where younger audiences will be introduced to the wonderful world Sony created, I am all for it.

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