By Josh Reilly & George Bate
Uncharted has had a rocky and interesting road to the big screen to say the least. Fifteen years in development, a myriad of directors circling the project, and pandemic-related difficulties and delays have seen fans eagerly wait for this long-awaited video game adaptation. Uncharted follows Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) as he teams up with veteran explorer and scavenger Sully (Mark Wahlberg) in an effort to find Drake’s long lost brother and recover a lost Spanish treasure.
Uncharted is a tricky movie to adapt. The video game is heavily inspired by the Indiana Jones franchise (so much so that Harrison Ford did a nod of the cap to the franchise in a commercial for the game. In translating a franchise to another medium (film to video game), Naughty Dog were able to overcome potential pitfalls with unoriginal storytelling and, eventually, craft one of the best video game franchises of all time. However, with an Uncharted film, we’re dealing, in some ways, with a film to video game to film adaptation. That’s not to minimize the characters, style, humor, puzzles, and everything that the Uncharted games do so brilliantly. It’s just that, unfortunately, this journey to the big screen makes the film feel quite unoriginal. Indeed, viewers who have never played the Uncharted video games are likely to be confused as to what all the fuss was about the source material.
Uncharted plays like a cross between Indiana Jones and National Treasure (which is not necessarily a bad thing). The film has an old fashioned adventure feel to it, with the characters uncovering clue after clue to reach the treasure. It’s not anything we haven’t seen before, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. Fans of the video game will enjoy the puzzles Drake and the others solve along the way, although these fall short of being immersive experiences for the audience. The action is intense, but ultimately serviceable. However, a set piece involving the characters falling from an airplane was very impressive.
Carrying us along this adventure are Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. The two actors really anchor the film and they have great chemistry from start to finish, often mimicking the relationship of Drake and Sully from the games. That being said, Holland and Wahlberg are ultimately just Holland and Wahlberg in this film. This is nothing we haven’t seen from Mark Wahlberg in a handful of other movies in the past. The same can be said for Tom Holland, who was initially a questionable choice for the role of Drake when announced. Holland does what he can with the writing at hand, but it’s difficult not to imagine what this film would have looked like had it been led by an actor more akin to Drake in the games. As far as villains go, Antonio Banderas is certainly a presence on screen, but unfortunately doesn’t amount to much as the big bad. Sophia Ali and Tati Gabrielle though are terrific as other treasure hunters.
Uncharted is a serviceable action movie, but, unfortunately, not much more. It’s certainly an entertaining watch, with charismatic leads, an easy-going treasure hunting story line, decent action set pieces, and some twists and turns. The film, however, is sorely lacking in originality and, as a video game adaptation, fans may be slightly underwhelmed.
Images courtesy of Sony Pictures