Uncharted has been in development for years, with directors entering and exiting the project in various stages. Mark Wahlberg was even cast as Nathan Drake in the early 2010s before settling on Victor “Sully” Sullivan.
After many years, director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Venom) has made his version of the adventurous video game property with Tom Holland as the famous Nathan Drake.
Much like The Last of Us, adapting this property into a television show or movie is a giant hill to climb. Especially since the games themselves are already cinematic in their own right.
Is Uncharted a worthy video game-to-movie adaptation? Here are our full thoughts on the film.
The film begins swiftly, throwing us into the beginnings of Drake as a youth with his brother Sam in an orphanage and the events surrounding their separation. Soon after, we are introduced to Holland’s portrayal of an older Drake who is now a loner bartender at a fancy restaurant. We get the sense that Nathan Drake makes it a habit of finding patrons that deserve to be stolen from as he smoothly steals jewelry off a rude consumer.
A man oversees the thievery and confronts Nathan about the stolen bracelet. Not to get Nathan in trouble but to compliment his skill. And that man turns out to be Victor Sullivan (or as he is known in the game, Sully). Wahlberg, as Sully, communicates to Nathan that he knew his brother Sam, and they were on the hunt for a treasure left behind by the Magellan expedition. But when they came close to a discovery, Sam “ghosted” Sully and never spoke to him again.
And well, he wishes to recruit Nathan because Sam always talked about him.
After accepting the mission, Nathan and Sully are faced with opposition from Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) and his team of henchmen. This is one of the weaknesses with Uncharted, as every bad guy in this movie is a copy and paste villain from a thousand other adventure movies. They have no dimension or purpose except to say silly one-liners, move the plot along, or simply be an empty obstacle.
The dialogue is somewhat silly at times as well. It has that villain that purposely says way too much when they have the upper hand and conveniently allows the hero to escape because… words.
The film expands into IMAX in various sequences, including that one from the trailer involving a cargo plane. Admittedly, some of these scenes were immersive in the format, but the CGI is distracting in that hefty presentation because it was not done practically.
But here is the point in the review where a twist occurs. Despite all the cliches, bad villains, and ridiculous dialogue, the movie Uncharted is surprisingly fun.
The movie had zero chance of living up to the games. With a video game, it is interactive, and the camera can be placed pretty much anywhere to heighten the action. In some ways, one might argue video games can be more action-packed than a movie will ever be. For this reason, the Uncharted video games are never going to have a worthy adaptation because they are perfect movies already.
If one approaches Uncharted on its own terms, it can be fun mindless entertainment. For one reason, Wahlberg and Holland have unexpected chemistry that improves many of the film’s setbacks. Not a single person will see Wahlberg as Sully (even when he grows the mustache), but the two actors undeniably make the film work better than it should.
The action felt disappointing at first because, for a moment, it seemed as if the best setpiece of the whole film was spoiled by the trailers. However, the final action sequence placed the film from subpar to entertaining romp. The grand finish sees two carrier choppers flying with historical ships–and a battle commences between both vessels in mid-air. It is ludicrous, shatters the suspension-of-disbelief metric, and is downright stupid fun.
Ruben Fleischer did the same with Venom, where he made an absolute bonkers mess of a film, but once it reached the finish line, he somehow pulled it off. But also, just like that movie, a lot of credit is owed to the lead actors.
Uncharted: Should you see it in theaters?
Uncharted is not going to win over hardcore fans of the games. Just like The Last of Us, the video games are perfect movies on their own.
The complaints from other critics are absolutely valid, and it is easy to see why Uncharted might fall short of expectations. The villains are two-dimensional, the one-liners are cheesy, the action is insanely absurd, like a Fast and Furious movie. All of these are valid reasons to dislike the film.
But it makes up for it by having two leads with great chemistry and a director who is willing to embrace the insanity of his setpieces.
Truthfully, it is difficult to see how someone can embrace the Fast and Furious films and call Uncharted poorly scripted and far-fetched. But if someone were to say this movie was in the same universe as Dominic Toretto, it would be of no shock to the listener.
All this to say, Uncharted has enough accomplished to improve upon itself if they decide to make a sequel. Let’s just hope for a better screenwriter in round two.
Uncharted will hit theaters everywhere starting tomorrow.