Basically: An adaptation of a popular PlayStation game series that does action movies better than action movies (this included).
After many long years we finally have the redundant Uncharted movie. Tom Holland stars as the lead character Nathan Drake alongside Mark Wahlberg as Sully, Nathan’s mentor and companion. It’s worth noting that, when this project first started, Wahlberg was supposed to play Nathan Drake but it seems the film took so long to be made that he aged out of the role.
Uncharted is one of Sony PlayStation’s prize jewels with sales in the tens of millions. The franchise helped set off a trend of third person, action-adventure, heavily narrative-focused, big-budget games. I remember playing the first game fifteen years ago and thinking, “Wow this is good, it really achieves the feel of a big action movie.” Ever since the movie adaptation was first announced, I wondered if it would match the work done in the games.
The film version of Uncharted is a remix of the games, it has a need to feature references that feel familiar to the game players. I can’t help but wonder who this film was made for, since it feels like it never decided on an audience: those who know Uncharted or those who don’t.
We first meet a young Nathan (Tiernan Jones)—who is always called Nate—and his older brother Sam (Rudy Pankow). They get split up when they are caught breaking into a museum to steal a map of Magellan’s trip around the world. We then fast-forward to meet a grown-up Nathan (Holland) who’s living in New York City, working as a bartender and using that job to grift. It’s here Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Wahlberg) introduces himself and recruits Nathan to help find the lost treasure of Magellan’s journey. Nate agrees to go since it could lead him to his brother. They are joined on their quest by Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali), another stalwart of the game series. While I do like Sophia Ali—she has charisma on screen—she didn’t really feel like Chloe for me and didn’t have the level of confidence that I’d expect.
After this point in the story, director Ruben Fleischer kind of goes through the motions. It doesn’t feel much different to other treasure hunting movies. However, Antonio Banderas does a wonderful job of hamming it up as Santiago Moncada, the rich bad guy racing against them to find the treasure. Tati Gabrielle is also fun as hell as the big heavy. She has a great threatening presence you see in the Bond films.
At times, Uncharted suffers from too much focus on Wahlberg’s Sully. Having Wahlberg holds the film back a bit. In the game, Sully is usually older looking, not in amazing shape, but completely fits the mentor sidekick role. Wahlberg ain’t that. While it would usually make sense for the veteran star to take the lead, as the younger guy comes into his own, that format doesn’t work because Holland is playing Nathan Drake. Much like Spidey, Drake is the character you see the movie for.
I’m not going to lie, it’s still hard for me to see Holland as a capital “A” adult in movies. I know Uncharted is supposed to be Nathan Drake’s origin of sorts but the character works best as a man in his 30s. Drake was created to be a modern Indiana Jones with a bit more jokes. I also can’t believe that Sully is played as a peer to Nathan and the others instead of a teacher or authority figure. It feels like he isn’t old enough and neither are they.
Sadly, all the action-game touches the film added—so Holland could climb and swing around similar to the video game’s big set pieces—telegraphed so easily that they left me cold. So I might not be the audience for this, I have too much history with gaming. But it did make me want to turn on the PS5, which may make this film worth it.
Uncharted might not be a good movie, and par for the course for video game adaptations, but it might be one of the best long commercials for a video game series. Which could be Sony’s plan all along.
In the End: Uncharted is a barely serviceable video game adaptation but an alright enough action movie. Just go play the games, you’ll have a better time.