The path towards getting Uncharted on the big screen has been a bumpy ride. Multiple filmmakers replaced like broken game controllers, leaked script emails, and COVID halting production charts a doomed picture. An enraged fanbase (because, internet) is ready to tear the film to bits. Their frustration stems from the concept of an Uncharted film existing in the first place. Why make a movie based on a video game that’s designed to be an interactive blockbuster? The high wire acts don’t come close to the thrills you get in the game since you can die in it. Uncharted is sellable but not executable for a film with the interactivity removed. The threat of death is gone when adhering to a narrative film. We know Nate will make that jump to the next crate instead of worrying if we can make it as the player. Nonetheless, how would a nongamer feel about the film?
If I completely divorce myself from the material, I see Uncharted as disposable fun. If that’s what the filmmakers wanted to achieve on the bare minimum level, then mission accomplished. The story is what you’d expect from an Indiana Jones knockoff. Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) is a cocky thief with a million-dollar brain and a heart of gold. While tending the bar, Nate stumbles across Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Whalberg). Victor notices something special in young Nathan, making him the perfect guy for a job. With Nate’s skills Sully can get his hands on a golden cross linked to the Magellan expedition, amassing a vast fortune in hidden gold.
Never have I respected the writing of the game series as much as I do now. Head game writer Amy Hennig’s quips and quirks from the characters translate beautifully on screen. Immediately we understand the type of person Nathan Drake is as he pickpockets strangers while smooth-talking them. Although opportunistic, Nathan’s actions are never selfish. He’s the prototypical action star. Funny and fast on his feet. Victor Sullivan is more of a Han Solo figure. Sully’s a mentor to a wreckless Nathan, yet we don’t know his angle. Does he want to be Nathan’s partner in crime or take all the riches from the gold for himself?
The characters’ essence from the games remain intact in the film. I understand where Nathan Fillon fans are coming from. However, I also understand that the nongamers of the world probably won’t fork money towards an unknown actor. That is, unless they’re in a superhero costume. Bless Tom Holland; he gives the role of Nathan Drake his best try, yet the boyish persona of Mr. Holland has trouble translating to manhood. I’m baby face myself, so I feel you, Tom. The story follows a young Nathan Drake, but how young? Nathan Drake must be the youngest looking bartender I’ve ever seen. How often Nate is climbing on an object or swinging through the air gave me major Spider-Man vibes when it shouldn’t be. Holland’s performance itself doesn’t shine like the dialog from the page does. Is it his fault? No. Sometimes an actor is cast in a role that, despite their efforts, isn’t fitting for how the character should make audiences feel. Furthermore, Mark Wahlberg’s depiction of Victor Sullivan didn’t sway my emotions.
Mark Wahlberg is castable only towards roles that match his persona. Being a porn star or boxer fits the bill for the physical tank that is Mr. Wahlberg. Casting Marky Mark as a professor or astronaut doesn’t match correctly for the actor. I can see why the filmmakers wanted to cast Wahlberg as Victor Sullivan. Sully is a guy who’s slick as a whistle and agile like a ninja. He does what he wants when he wants, all while being so delightful yet gruff. Mark is a darned good looking guy whose tough as nails. His physicality is uncanny. Perfect for action pictures. What Mark has in machoism is lacking in charisma. The coolness of Sully is replaced with fear and intimidation. Not the most alluring image for what’s supposed to be a loveable badass.
The dynamic between Nate and Sully feels more like actors saying lines to one another instead of connecting as characters. There’s a special cameo from Nolan North to reinforce how off everything is from a fan’s perspective. Uncharted feels like the scene you’d see in a movie where the actual Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan purchases tickets to see the Uncharted movie we’re seeing. Sitting in the theater, Sully turns to Nate, “since when did I look and sound so bored?” Nate pivots to Sully, “since when was I a teenager running a bar?” Without batting an eye, Sully quips, “kid, you’ve done a lot of things teenagers haven’t done.” To make matters worse, some of the missing components from Nate’s life in the games are missing in the picture that could have given it some real heart.
Where’s Yelena Fisher? You know, the love of Nathan’s life? Not every film needs a love interest, but this one certainly did since the heart is missing. Aside from the motivating drive for Nate in the film (which I won’t spoil) what is there for us to latch onto emotionally? The answer is not much.
The supporting cast is underutilized. Antonio Banderas’ villainous Santiago Moncada leaves the picture when I’d like to know more about him. The real baddy of the show Tati Gabrielle is fun as heck to watch. Reminiscent of when Nadine Ross kicks Nate’s ass in Uncharted 4, Tati’s “Braddock” has some sweet moves that the film could have shown more often. Regardless, she’s the flick’s real star and a welcome return villain if a sequel is to be made. Speaking of which […]
Have you ever seen The Super Mario Bros movie? Remember the ending when Princess Daisy comes through the door with a massive gun in her hand, announcing there’s a big problem to the Mario Bros? The cue for the sequel missed its mark amongst low box office returns. Will Uncharted suffer the same fate? It sets up for a sequel during a mid-credits sequence that I’m afraid won’t work out.
Although fun on paper, Uncharted doesn’t work on screen the way it does when the player is in control. There’s just nothing that can beat riding between horses while blowing up trucks or busting out from a gulag when you’re doing it yourself. Going from a series meant to replicate blockbusters to a blockbuster attempting to recreate moments from a game, Uncharted sails its boat in a complete creative circle of commercialism that’s mildly entertaining. It’s enough for standard audiences and casual fans of the game to enjoy. For the hardcore fans out there, the course Uncharted takes may be all too familiar.