The First Good Video Game Movie is Here

After a long wait, the Ratchet and Clank movie has finally come out.  Video game movies have a long history of being pretty terrible, but after watching the trailer (um…several dozen times), this one looked like it would be the first video game movie to be of quality.  Nevertheless, after its release in theatres, I watched as the ratings went down and down, from a high of 21% on Rotten Tomatoes down to a dismal 17%.  I expect it to drop lower in the coming weeks.  While I found this aggravating, it did not surprise me.  People will never accept such a movie until they accept the medium that inspired it.  Why mobile games like Angry Birds gain such widespread acceptance, while console and PC games continue to thrive only outside the mainstream population, I know not, but alas, that is not the topic of this post.  Suffice it to say, us gamers are a very special group indeed, and it appears we will remain that way.

I knew the reviews would only annoy me, but I skimmed over a few anyway.  Critics complained of an unoriginal storyline and flat characters, among other things.  They even claimed many elements were stolen from more recent movies.  I was baffled because these statements were unfounded.  How can a movie based on a game from 2002 steal elements from movies that came out far after the game’s original release date?  This is not just my opinion; it is logically impossible.  Likewise, the Ratchet and Clank series has a history of fun, but well-developed characters and interesting stories.  I find the characters from this series to be among the best in video games, and how characters I have formed a deep bond with, from the naïve, but intelligent Clank to the arrogant, but well-meaning (after his redemption, anyway) Qwark…how they could be described as flat, well, I’m astounded.  They might as well state Mario is not an icon of gaming or Sonic is not Sega’s most famous character.

Critics on Youtube also had negative things to say, including fans of the series.  They said the movie was not funny and that it was aimed at children rather than the fans.  Some also said the movie became redundant with the release of the game because the game’s cut scenes came from the movie.  Due to this claim, I ended up watching the game movie on Youtube, where people had strung together all of the game’s cut scenes into one long video.  What I saw was pretty good, but lacking.  I know there were scenes from the trailer and the movie’s summary not even hinted at in the game’s cut scenes.  Feeling I had been left out of something, it seemed to me that the movie was still necessary in order to get the full story.  Hmm, what to do?  Well, not everyone had bad things to say about the movie.  Reviews written by the fans on IMDB praised the movie for how good it was (strange how a movie can be dubbed as horrible and amazing at the same time), and I also heard about a scene after the credits that I just needed to see.

It was decided.  I had originally planned to watch the movie when it was released on DVD (if those are still a thing anymore), as movie theatres are just not my thing, but my excitement was too great to resist.  (To give you an idea of just how great my desire to see this movie was, I had no trouble waiting to see the new Star Wars movie.)  I chose to see the movie at my local theatre on Saturday (May 7), but I had to admit, the negative reviews had my faith in the movie rattled, along with my own fears which I had developed whilst watching the trailer.  Let me list them for you so we can have a reference for later to see how well this movie fared against my own concerns.

  1. Top on the list was Drek.  He was the only character, to my knowledge, who did not keep his original voice actor.  And from my viewing of the trailer, his personality seemed to have been altered, as well.  I have not played the first game in years, but I did not recall him being so silly, and I found his appearances in the trailer to be the most unpleasant to watch.
  2. Ratchet’s personality also seemed different to me.  I know people complained originally that he was too crabby in the first game, and by no means do I suggest they return to his original personality.  But once he matured and became a more likable character in subsequent games, he still always had attitude.  The trailer, and the scenes I saw from the game movie, showed a Ratchet that…smiled a bit too much, if that makes sense  I know that’s a weird complaint, but he seemed overly happy, which made his personality seem a bit off as a result.
  3. I also whined to myself about a few other details.  One, the Galactic Rangers are now a group of people rather than the cowardly and incompetent robots we grew to love in Up Your Arsenal (I know I loved them).  I also threw a fit over Tharpods and Fongoids appearing on planets they had no right being.  But that one is just plain nitpicky.  Seriously, though, what are you guys doing here?

After that long intro, I now must say, I saw the movie, and I loved it.  Though I must say, finding the movie theatre empty when I arrived was a rather sad sight indeed (a man and his two, young children arrived after I did, but their ages seemed to suggest they might not have been there as fans, not that I can judge…).  But, yeah, I really, really enjoyed it, and I firmly believe this might possibly be the best video game movie ever made.  Yes, I know that’s not saying much, but I think this movie sets the bar high for any game movies that come out in the future.

Before I give my review, let’s get into the story first.  The movie is a reimagining of the original Ratchet and Clank game from 2002.  In this game, Ratchet and Clank meet for the first time, and their goal is to stop the evil Chairman Drek, who has been destroying entire planets (more like fragmenting, really, but the result is disastrous either way you look at it).  Why destroy planets, you say?  Well, his motivation was not plain, old galactic domination like many other sci-fi villains.  No, far from it.  Rather, Drek wished to gather the pieces from these planets in order to build the perfect new home world for his people, whose original planet was made uninhabitable due to pollution.  The movie, come to think of it, is really more of a remake of the first game and certain details from the third one (namely some of the backstory for Qwark and Nefarious was changed).  Oh, and Dr. Nefarious, the recurring villain of the series, is working for Drek in the movie, despite the fact that he had no relation to the first game.  His addition was very welcome.

I am so happy to say that everything negative people said about the movie did not ring true for my experience.  They stayed very true to the games, which are known for silly humor and crazy weapons and gadgets.  Being a movie, it’s hard to really explore the weapons too thoroughly, though they managed to largely take care of this in one scene dedicated to some of the more memorable weapons in the series (even the RYNO makes an appearance, but much later).  The weapons were there, the characters’ personalities were usually spot-on, and they had cameos and references that will make any fan smile.  I mean, as you’d expect, Ratchet never breaks a single wooden crate in the movie, but the simple fact that they’re in the scenery was just a nice touch.

I don’t know why this movie got such bad reviews.  For one thing, I think it displayed the series’ signature humor quite well.  I thought the movie was very funny, and there were many moments I couldn’t help but laugh (one conversation between Qwark and Nefarious at the end really made me chuckle).  Yeah, I don’t get their sudden obsession with jokes relating to texting (I know that sounds weird, but you’ll know what I mean if you see it), but other than that, it was a funny movie.  It did not seem like it was mainly aimed at children to me, either, and I think there was plenty of humor people of any age group could appreciate.  Actually, to my recollection, there was a decent amount of humor I don’t believe children would have understood, so saying the movie is for 7 year olds doesn’t seem entirely accurate to me.  I also did not have any trouble following the story, either, an issue some people cited.  Maybe that’s because I’m familiar with the original game, but there were changes to certain parts of the plot that I did not expect, and I still had no trouble following along.

I was also relieved to find that the characters were done better than I expected.  I think the scenes chosen for the trailer and the game just didn’t portray certain characters correctly in my eyes.  In the movie, Ratchet was his usual self, and Drek, well, I still felt he may have been too silly at times, but he had enough great moments that these changes worked out pretty well with his character, after all.

I also want to address Nefarious specifically.  In the movie, Nefarious is his organic self rather than the robot we all know from the games, which I think was a great choice.  Some people found this disappointing, but honestly, I loved seeing him in a new light (I was also so happy his design was changed; it’s seriously a huge improvement).  Getting to actually see what Nefarious looked like before his transformation into that maniacal robot we see in the games, well, being a huge Nefarious fan (he is my favorite character of all time, after all), I just…can’t properly describe how happy that makes me.  He is still the very same evil, yet lovable supervillain, that hasn’t changed one bit, but I find it easier to relate to him now as a character when I see him as flesh and bone like you and I rather than cold, lifeless metal.

And if you want to see him as a robot, just wait until the final scene of the movie.  It’s actually not after the credits like I had originally heard, but rather, once the movie ends, it comes after this short bit where they give you the voice actors of all the major characters.  From what I read online, it seems like every fan saw this scene coming, but…you know what, I don’t want to spoil anything.  Just make sure you don’t leave early.  Suffice it to say, the ending was awesome.  Just.  Plain.  Awesome.  I wish I could convince the theatre staff to let me back in just to see the end again.  They probably won’t.

Oh, and before I move on to another topic, any changes to his backstory are also for the best.  This really just relates to why Nefarious hates Qwark so much, and even though it’s just a simple detail, it really is an improvement over the original story line in Up Your Arsenal’s vid comics.  That’s all I’m saying.

Okay, enough ranting about my favorite mad scientist.  Last of all, I wanted to address people’s claims that the movie and the new game are pretty much identical.  Having seen both, I have to say they are not.  A large portion of the movie was not seen in the game’s cut scenes.  I worried I had ruined the movie by first watching the “game movie”, but fortunately, I did not.  Most of the scenes were either entirely new or expanded upon what you see in the game, such as Drek’s actual fate and that awesome ending scene with Nefarious.  I did not feel bored during the movie as if I had already seen it.  At the same time, the game has scenes not seen in the movie, as well, such as extra detours found in the original game, such as visiting Big Al in Metropolis and helping Skidd McMarx (you heard me right, that is his name).  These were cut from the movie for good reason (the movie sticks to the main plot, as it should), and I would have been fine not seeing them.  The only thing I really enjoyed that was exclusive to the game was the final boss, which I will not spoil.  Now that was pretty cool.  I want to play the game just for that.  Not a single second of that is found in the movie, which was a shame.  Oh, and the game also had some extra scenes with Qwark, but yeah.  You get the point.

I really loved the movie, and frankly, I found it more entertaining than the game’s cut scenes.  For me, the movie was a far more fulfilling experience, as I believe it covers certain aspects of the story and characters in greater depth than the game did.  I would recommend any Ratchet and Clank fan see it.  I don’t feel like the game made the movie pointless.  Honestly, I see them as companions to each other rather than clones.  If you’re not a fan of the games, though, I would probably suggest playing the series first.  It is a video game series, after all, and your best bet if you’re not already familiar with it would be to experience Ratchet and Clank the way it was meant to be first.  Like I said, they did an amazing job expanding on the original game, and I love the changes they made (again, I have mixed feelings about Drek, but he was still better than I thought he would be, and I think I’ve developed a new fondness for him that I did not have while playing the original game).  It’s not often a game is tweaked years after its release, and I think the series is all the better for it.  I just knew that, if any series could pull off a good movie, it would definitely be Ratchet and Clank.  Go see it now while it’s still playing!  Go now, the galaxy depends on it!

The Duck, Newest Member of the Galactic Rangers…I Wish

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