Video game adaptations have been hit or miss throughout the years of cinema, with atrocities like the film Super Mario Bros and Street Fighter and more beloved films such as Sonic The Hedgehog and 2021’s Mortal Kombat. So when it was announced that an adaptation of the adventure game Uncharted was in the works, it was safe to say skepticism was high; even with star power with the likes of Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg leading the projects. Even with this film's shortcomings, there are still moments of enjoyment to have in the film.
Nathan Drake (played by Tom Holland) is a bartender and pickpocket in New York when he is approached about a legendary historical treasure hunt by Victor “Sully” Sullivan (played by Mark Wahlberg). Nathan knows the story of this treasure hunt well, as he and his older brother Sam have dreamt and followed clues about the lost treasure for fun. When Sully admits to Nathan that he knew Sam but is now missing, Nathan gets in on the treasure hunt in order to try and find his brother and the treasure they dreamt of for years. But they are not the only ones looking, as billionaire Santiago Moncada (played by Antonio Banderas) is also hot on the trail of the mythic fortune.
I’m not a gamer so I can’t say for certain if this film is a faithful adaptation of the games, but I have done research on the games to prepare for the movie and from what I can tell, it certainly captures the game’s adventurous spirit. The adventure and puzzles are quite fun to watch as they use general smarts to figure out the next clue for the trip. Even a couple of the puzzles act feel like they are ripped straight from an Indiana Jones film. Plus, some of the set pieces actually pay homage to the video games such as Nathan Drake running on cargo hanging out the back of the plane.
While I thought that Tom did a much better job acting wise in Spider-Man: No Way Home, I can’t deny that one of the major highlights of the film was Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg’s chemistry. They feel like true partners in crime (no pun intended) through and through and whatever scenes the two share are immediately made engaging. Wahlberg's Sully acts as both a partner and pseudo-mentor figure to Holland’s Drake, and if there’s one thing I’m looking forward to in the possible sequel, it’s more of their friendship.
Despite the engaging duo that is Nathan Drake and Sully, many characters were either left sidelined or were flat out uninteresting. One character that comes to mind is Sam Drake. Sam is presented as Nathan Drake’s only remaining family and serves as Nathan’s motivation for joining Sully to find the gold. However, he just isn’t that interesting. We as the audience don’t get to spend time with his character and he disappears way too early in the film. When we find out what happened to him, we don’t feel much for his character because we didn’t get to really know him.
Speaking of Nathan Drake, I still think that Tom Holland was miscast as the legendary treasure hunter. Nathan from the Uncharted games has a very chiseled and square face, while Tom is too baby-faced. While he did try to carry himself in a more mature and masculine manner, I couldn’t see him as anything else besides Peter Parker. My biggest question is why did they feel the need to make an Uncharted movie? The games themselves were cinematic enough as they were. Additionally, while the film’s action set pieces were both intriguing and inventive, they did drag on for a bit too long for my taste and I even began glancing at my phone to check the time!
A particularly big issue this film has is plot convenience, which is mostly used to move the story from one destination to the next at the expense of crucial character motivation and development. The biggest offender is when Nathan Drake finds the ships and the lost treasure himself and then all of the sudden, Sully appears out of nowhere. While it is explained away with a tracking app it feels forced and too convenient for it to make any natural sense, plus Drake swam through an underwater cavern and was still damp when looking for the gold, Sully was completely dry. Another issue with the conveniences the film takes is how easy it is for any character to steal an item off another character. Like seriously, it turns unrealistically easy and the only two confirmed pick pockets that we knew about were Sully and Nathan. Then they keep getting their shit stolen every 5 minutes, it got annoying after a while. I was not expecting this to be a character study on the human nature of greed or brotherly love, but try to at least not treat your audience like 4 year olds most of the time.
Without a doubt, Uncharted is a simple case of “what you see is what you get” and that is about it. Some scenes are fun to watch and are probably worth the price of admission alone, but it feels extremely 1 dimensional in terms of story and characters. They also disappointed us with cutting out several characters too soon and exposing their fates through clunky exposition instead of organically weaving past and present characters together for a more concise narrative. Now, Uncharted is no Citizen Kane, but I do believe the film captures the video games’ adventurous spirit and fantastic chemistry between our two leads to give us a fun popcorn flick and a new blossoming onscreen bromance.
Co-Written by: Michael Li