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.

Straight Outta Compton Review

Every year there is at least one musical biopic. We’ve already had one in 2015, with The Beach Boys film Love and Mercy. Rappers and rap groups have not been focused on as much though, with only a few exceptions such as 8 Mile, The Notorious B.I.G. and Get Rich Or Die Trying. Does the new rap film, Straight Outta Compton pave the way for more rap biopics?

Straight Outta Compton stars O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and Paul Giamatti and is directed by F. Gary Gray. The film follows the formation of the rap super-group N.W.A., and follows it’s members Ice Cube (Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Hawkins) and Eazy-E (Mitchell) during the 1980s and 90s.

The story starts by introducing our three main protagonists, with a small, handwritten scrawl appearing somewhere on the screen, telling us who they are, along with their alias. The film introduces most of the main characters this way; it’s a nice little feature that gives the film a little bit of personality itself.

The acting by all is well done. Jackson, Hawkins and Mitchell, along with the other members of N.W.A., MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Drown Jr.) all portray their respective characters effectively, each with their own traits and flaws. All should be praised for how they throw themselves into the performances on stage during the first half of the film and then for some emotionally charged scenes near the end of the film.

To go back to the on stage musical performances, I honestly couldn’t tell you whether the actors are rapping themselves or just lip-syncing to the actual tracks, but that doesn’t matter. The actors sell the idea perfectly that these guys are passionate musicians who want to express themselves in the way they know how. This is where the film shines, when we see the passion fuelling Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E to create their next big hit. I found it extremely hard to not get caught up in the beat of the songs shown in a montage of the N.W.A. Tour, making me either constantly tap my foot or mouth the words along to some of the N.W.A. songs that I know.

However, these scenes, of Ice Cube riding the school bus writing down lyrics or Dr. Dre listening to his favourite albums are confined to the first half of the film, with the second half focusing more on the feuding between the different band members and socio-factors that were happening at the time. This divide in the film is the main problem I had with Straight Outta Compton, as the film loses some of the sparkle that the first half had. The constant movement between the sun-drenched pool parties to the studio boardroom arguments back to the pool parties again just isn’t as engaging to watch as the young rappers working together to create some amazing songs.

The film also feels a little disjointed, with some powerful emotional scenes ending and then the main cast returning to a composed state. It might be due to the editing, where these scenes are pushed together to seem like they are happening on the same day, but it just feels a bit off kilter. The length of the film is also a problem. Straight Outta Compton is the better part of two and a half hours, and with that divide I mentioned earlier, it feel a lot longer than it actually was. What seems strange is that there are scenes in the trailer that don’t appear at all in the film. It feels as if the film had been a lot longer before being cut to make it more manageable. This could be the reason why a few of the aforementioned scenes feel disjointed, along with the ending feeling like it abruptly cuts off, instead leaving us with an epilogue of archive footage of the real members of N.W.A. and the artists and rappers that cite them as an influence.

In summary, Straight Outta Compton is a well-made biopic, with a stellar cast and a killer soundtrack. If you’re a fan of rap music then I fully recommend it.

Score: 7/10 A brilliant insight into one of the most influential musical groups of recent time.