Video game adaptations have had a hard road in the past. The beginning of video game adaptations saw some awful, atrocious efforts like Super Mario Bros and Double Dragon. We also got arguably the best video game movie in the form of Mortal Kombat –and to a lesser extent its reboot-. What set Mortal Kombat apart was the fact that it took the source material seriously and strived to give fans what they wanted. Fights, known characters, and lines from the game. It completely ripped off Enter the Dragon, but that’s beside the point. It worked.
Uncharted is a movie of two souls. It retains the feeling of the Uncharted games without fully capturing the characters of those games. What we get is a mixed bag, but one that steers more into the positive than the negative.
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Director: Ruben Fleischer
Release Date: February 18, 2022 (Theaters)
Uncharted is the story of Nathan Drake (Tom Holland), a would-be treasure hunter who mainly sticks to slinging drinks as a bartender and lifting expensive jewelry as a pickpocket. He seems to be drifting in this world until a “chance” run-in with Victory Sullivan, aka Sully (Mark Wahlberg), puts him on the path of a treasure his brother had been telling Drake about since they were children. This brings them into competition with Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and his associate, Braddock (Tati Gabrielle). Along the way, Nate and Sully team up with Chloe Frazier (Sophia Ali) in their race to decipher the clues. They must travel the world to unravel and compete for the clues to the greatest treasure never found and see if Magellan’s legacy is all it’s cracked up to be.
Let’s get this out of the way right now. Some parts of this movie were miscast. Mark Wahlberg as Sully. Swing and a miss. I could buy him as Sully’s younger inept brother maybe, but he does not bring any of the gravitas or mentor feeling that the game Sully did. If you want to split hairs, his voice isn’t smooth a velvet either, but that’s neither here nor there.
Tom Holland…isn’t a terrible Nathan Drake. He at least feels like a young Nate at times, especially towards the end, but he never quite captures that devil may care attitude with sincerity. He has nice character moments that I believe Nate would have but there’s just something off about it. That was always going to be the case with this film. Unless you got someone like Nathan Fillion to play Drake, or let’s say Bryan Cranston to play Sully, it wasn’t going to fit the idea of what people who play the games imagined. The characters are so defined by the actors who voiced and motion-captured the characters that it’s hard to see anyone else filling those shoes.
The best thing I can say about Uncharted is that it is a fun adventure film. It has all the hallmarks of multiple locations, puzzles with dumbed-down clues, and big set pieces. It is a fun time at the movies. It just didn’t have to be an Uncharted movie. There is nothing aside from the character names that make this an Uncharted movie. There is the plane sequence (and it is the best action set piece) taken from Uncharted 3, but that’s mostly it from the games.
This script could have benefited from more character moments true to the game’s narrative but so much of the dialogue is groan-worthy. Someone actually says “Well, well, well” when underground and I thought “they better not be in a well.” Shocker: they were. I groaned so hard the person I was seeing the movie with thought I was in distress and asked if I was ok. I wasn’t. My ears had just been murdered by bad dialogue.
The performances ranged from ok to good. I can’t single anyone out for not trying. Tom Holland is clearly a fan but didn’t quite bring enough bravado to the Drake character. I know this is supposed to be a younger Drake who maybe hasn’t come into his own but more winks to the audience would be appreciated. Wahlberg is fine as a foil to Holland but not as Sully. He has some funny moments but you never buy that he’s this double-crossing nave who has burned bridges the world over.
The best performance that mirrored their game character was undertaken by Ali who really felt like Chloe brought to life in film. Banderas was a great original villain too. He hams it up where he needs to and plays it seriously mostly. It pointed out how much I’ve missed seeing him on the big screen. I liked the idea of a family who was essentially the bankers to the old world conflicts (Crusades, etc.) being swindled and going after the fortune lost to them.
The humor and pacing of the movie were all over the place too. Jokes either felt spot-on or left you wondering what was happening. The editing was good aside from one scene where, I didn’t look away but, I swear it cut four times before I realized there was a fight that was occurring on-screen. It’s so hard to replicate the experience of an Uncharted game since they are cinematic by nature. They put you in the driver’s seat of the action and you get to experience it first-hand. An adaptation was always going to struggle in this endeavor so it’s impressive a project like this, that languished in development hell for years, turned out as good as it did.
This movie has so many parts that work and some that don’t. It’s nothing to write home about but it is overall a good movie and accomplishes its goal of capturing the fun of the game. I know I wanted to go play one of them once I got home, but it is a situation of two steps forward one step back. Uncharted captures the fun of the game without capturing much of the characters. It works as a turn your brain off adventure but you shouldn’t expect this to capture the feel of playing an Uncharted game or having the adventure yourself.