Uncharted is based on the popular video game series developed by Naughty Dog. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, the movie reimagines treasure hunter Nathan Drake in all his sarcastic glory as he begins his adventurous career.
The story follows Nathan in his twenties, working as a bartender while side-hustling through some petty theft. Showing a deep interest in history’s most famous explorers, Nathan is picked up by a veteran crook, Victor Sullivan, who needs his help to find the lost gold of Ferdinand Magellan.
As someone who has extensively played the Uncharted games, I was sceptical about a movie being made for it. Given the horrendous track record of video game movies, it seemed unnecessary to produce a movie about a game that is already gorgeously cinematic—and I was right.
Uncharted is a flat movie that plays it safe around every corner. Its boring dialogue, forgetful sequences, and expendable characters undercut the treasure-hunting joy that inspired the movie’s foundations.
The film suffers greatly in pacing itself throughout its 2-hour duration. The story jumps from one scene to the next without considering the character development of our brave heroes. Although the plot itself moves swiftly, it feels like most of the characters have learned nothing by the end of the movie.
Pacing isn’t helped by the context of the movie either. With Nathan Drake so early in his treasure-hunting career, it feels like the characters have nothing to lose. By not having any stakes or lives on the line, the movie simply exists as another cash-grab movie to set up a sequel.
Dialogue remains choppy at best, with corny jokes about bubble gum and Sully’s having too many apps on his phone. Jokes are recklessly thrown into scenes where emotions are high. Want to find out what happened to Nathan’s long-lost brother? Well, too bad. Here’s another cliché joke that comes with every movie featuring Mark Wahlberg.
Fans of the games will be incredibly disappointed to see the movie betray its foundations. Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal of Sully fails to live up to the source material, depicting the old-timer as a rogue materialist rather than a paternal figure for Nathan.
Tom Holland proved to be a mediocre casting choice for Nathan Drake, despite his witty charm and prowess. Due to his overtly young appearance, Holland is stuck having to prove himself by using cheap jokes between acrobatic leaps and action-packed combat.
Wahlberg’s casting is also questionable given the fact that the movie doesn’t know how to deal with his age. Early on, Sully complains about his knees troubling him. And then in the next, Wahlberg is punching, kicking, and throwing villains off a 500-year-old ship in the sky.
Chloe Frazer’s character is unfortunately made expendable in the movie. Performed by Sophia Taylor Ali, Frazer’s relationship with Nathan deviates a lot from the video games, removing the flirtatious and witty elements from their interactions.
Although Tom Holland does a good job of portraying a young Nathan Drake, the script infantilizes him. By treating Nathan as completely gullible, much of his character arc revolves around his trivial mistakes of trusting thieves in the industry.
To drive this point further, it seems that Uncharted is lost in the message it wishes to make. Is it about the trials and tribulations of a young naïve treasure hunter, or is it a Fast & Furious rip-off where the message is family above fortune?
The villains are also completely forgetful in this movie. Antonio Bonderas’ talent went to waste as he played the corrupt billionaire Santiago Moncado. Although the video games are known to have some filler-type villains, it’s a shame to see the menacing Moncado restrained to only a few scenes.
Uncharted feels like one big checklist as it tries to satisfy gamers and new audiences alike. But in doing so, gamers feel disconnected from their heroes, and the greater audience feels like they’ve watched another lacklustre adventure movie that is highly dependent on CGI.
This is not to say that the movie is an utter disaster. Uncharted does shine when it actively reflects what made the games popular in the first place. Nathan’s insightful problem-solving demonstrates his niche, applying his Catholic and historical knowledge to weave around lethal dart traps and escape flooding mechanisms.
The action sequences stay true to the games, epitomising the explosive and completely overdramatic nature that Uncharted is known for. Each collision and “he should have died there” moment makes your spine scream in agony watching it. And no scene better describes that than one clearly inspired by Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. It is just a pity that there weren’t more scenes like it.
The Uncharted series is all about fortune favouring the bold, but the long-awaited movie fails to put its message into practice. The script plays it safe, adhering to the basic formula of serializing a well-known franchise and abandoning what made the games so special.
For fans of the games, Uncharted is a disappointment. For the regular viewer, the movie is okay at best. With the director already teasing a sequel, I can only hope that the Uncharted movies can make a turn for the better.