Ratchet And Clank Review

With Warcraft and Assassins Creed coming out this year, I think 2016 will be the year when we have a genuinely great video game based film, rather than just something that fans (or in some cases nobody) enjoy. But right now, we have another video game based film to review, Ratchet And Clank.

Ratchet And Clank stars James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Paul Giamatti and Rosario Dawson and is directed by Jericca Cleland and Kevin Munroe. The film follows space mechanic Ratchet (Taylor) and robot Clank (Kaye) as they team up with the Galactic Rangers to stop Chairman Drek (Giamatti) from destroying the universe.

I was a fan on the Ratchet And Clank games and purely as a fan, I got enjoyment out of the fan service in the film. Most of the voice actors for the characters in the games; James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim Ward (Captain Quark) and Armin Shimermann (Doctor Nefarious) appear and add to the sense that this was made with the fans in mind. The film also has jokes linked in with the games, with gags tied in with spiritual sequels Jax and Sly Cooper.

Despite being a 3+ game, the Ratchet And Clank series had some very adult and clever humour. The film has some great moments but sadly falls down a lot. There are jokes aimed at movie fans, with references to other films such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Kubrick’s 2001 and also has jokes riffing on that state of montages and sequel baiting in films. The best are a pair of jokes about the Wilhelm scream and nerd culture. Apart from these flourishes of brilliance though, the humour tries to appeal to the younger demographic with slapstick and low brow jokes for most of the running time, making the large part of the film incredibly boring.

The animation in the film varies in quality immensely. Ratchet is a Lombax, a cat-like creature, and has some good design, but others like Captain Quark just look like plastic models. The animation looks like they seem to skip a couple of frames and reuse sections of it, which speaks to either laziness on the part of the animators or problems with the budget. Maybe they spent all the money on getting Paul Giamatti, John Goodman and Sylvester Stallone to record bit parts in the film. In a year where we’ve had great animation such as Zootropolis or The Jungle Book, you really have to step your game up in terms of quality.

To be honest, the film may be called Ratchet And Clank but a more apt title might be Ratchet: The Movie (Featuring Clank When It Can Be Asked). The dynamic of the film and game is watching these two characters interact, but quite quickly Clank is pushed off to the side with Rosario Dawson’s character Elaris as tech support while Ratchet joins the rest of the Galactic Rangers. It feels rather like a waste of a good starting point and of talent to have these two characters and then do nothing with them.

In the end though, I was just bored with Ratchet And Clank. From the witless script that only had a few great jokes, to the generic story and clichéd side characters, the waste of a good property and the poor animation and design, it’s just a sad finished product. It’s not the worst video game film (which is Silent Hill: Revelations) and isn’t anywhere near the best (which for me is Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life and Silent Hill), instead it’s just average.

Score: 4/10 Might be just one for the fans.

Trumbo Review

I missed Trumbo in its first cinema run, but it luckily was on a late run back home. It was nominated in the 2016 Academy Awards, sadly not winning any though. Now that I’ve seen it, did it deserve the nominations, and should it have won instead?

Trumbo stars Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, John Goodman and Elle Fanning and is directed by Jay Roach. Set during the 1940s, the film follows the real life story of Dalton Trumbo (Cranston), who was blacklisted from writing scripts for Hollywood films. He starts to write under pseudonyms to continue working.

The films performances are alright. Bryan Cranston obviously owns every scene he is in as Dalton Trumbo. I’m not sure if it is worthy of an Academy Award nomination (Cranston was nominated in the Best Actor category) but nevertheless it’s a solid performance. Elle Fanning as Trumbo’s eldest daughter Nikola is also good, and the interactions between her and her on-screen father are great. Helen Mirren and John Goodman are chewing the scenery every time they are on screen, while Diane Lane is the complete opposite, as the quieter side of the Trumbo household.

The film mixes characters made up for the film and the people who were there at the time. Last year’s Suffragette also did this, but here it works a lot better. Suffragette‘s real life encounters sometimes felt quite forced, while here a lot of it blends together well. The casting department did a good job, as a lot of the people they chose look almost identical to the actors they are portraying, such as Dean O’Gorman as Kirk Douglas or Michael Stuhlberg as Edward G. Robinson.

The script has some funny moments but I wish it had a bit more bite. I did laugh through several moments and Dalton Trumbo as a character has a way with words, confusing the authorities and making them look like fools when questioning him, but it leaves the rest of the film quite flat. Things are happening but not a lot of it is engaging. There is lots in the background, the civil rights movement, the Rosenberg’s, McCarthyism, but none of it explored at a much deeper level. I know that the film is focussing on Trumbo and the rest of the writers, but after a while it becomes repetitive just watching the same types of scenes play out over and over again. Trumbo just needed some variety.

The film also is incredibly long for the story it tells. Trumbo is over two hours, but it could easily be cut down to a ninety minute film. As I said before, too many scenes are repeated and some scenes just feel like padding for the sake of it. The film is set over several years as to hit all of Trumbo’s successes and failures, as well as his acceptance speech in 1970 at the WGA’s Laurel Award ceremony, but in between these moments, it falls below par.

Even though I do have problems with the story, it feels like something I should be interested in. As a Film Studies/Creative Writing student the film speaks to two things that I’m passionate about. Sadly, it’s not much more than an average film. If you watched Hail, Caesar! and were put off by the genre silliness of the Coen brothers, or you have a passionate interest in the story of the Hollywood Ten and America during that time, then Trumbo might be a film for you. To everyone else though, especially people who don’t know much about the Blacklist, this is one to miss.

Score: 6/10 Has some good moments and characters, but it’s length smothers it.