February 26, 2022 Uncharted (Movie Review)
Uncharted! It was the reason to fork out $599 on a PS3 back in 2007. Then Naughty Dog’s game got sequels that generally improved on its formula of pirate-shooting, treasure-grabbing and tomb raiding. Its cinematic set pieces, direction and often charming writing made it a Sony mainstay against the FPS’s on Microsoft’s Xbox series, and Mario’s odysseys at Nintendo.
There was talk of an Uncharted movie as early as 2008, with producer Avi Arad (Spider-Man 2002. Elektra 2005) being the most vocal. Various directors were attached to the project, from David O. Russell to Seth Gordon, with a script written as early as 2009. But the closest Uncharted’s hero Nathan Drake got to the big screen was a short fan-film featuring Nathan Fillion (Serenity 2006. Castle series) in the role.
Fillion had wanted the full role, but fell to the wayside with fellow contenders Chris Pratt (Wanted 2009, Guardians of the Galaxy 2014) and Mark Wahlberg (The Italian Job 2003, The Departed 2006). But by 2017, Wahlberg had come back as Drake’s mentor Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan, and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming 2017, Avengers: Infinity War 2019) was cast as Drake himself.
Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland 2009, Gangster Squad 2013) made it as director, with a script by Rafe Lee Judkins (Survivor: Guatemala series, Agents of Shield series), Matt Holloway and Art Marcum (Iron Man 2008, Men in Black: International 2019). Despite delaying the original November release, Uncharted made its debut in Spain on February 8th, 2022, before reaching the US via Sony Pictures Releasing on February 18th.
The film follows Nathan Drake (Holland), a wily trickster who catches the eye of a treasure hunter, Victor Sullivan (Wahlberg). He asks Drake to join him on the haul of a lifetime; to grab Ferdinand Magellan’s vast treasure that was lost by the House of Moncada centuries ago.
It would be simple enough if the Moncada did not have a descendant, Santiago (Antonio Banderas: Desperado 1995. Shrek 2 2004), eager to reclaim the lost fortune. Not to mention he has the help of Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle: The 100 series, The Emoji Movie 2017) and her mercenaries. Can Drake and Sully get to it before them?
In the past, screenwriters had to use a little creative license with videogame licenses, since they did not have much to work with beyond “save the princess” or “beat up M. Bison.” Here, they have stitched together segments from the games to make an original story. Fans of the games can spot little Easter eggs here and there, though the inspiration from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End in particular stands out loud and proud.
Lets get some positives settled. Sophia Ali (Grey’s Anatomy series, The Walking Deceased 2015) as Chloe Frazer does quite well in the role. She comes off as a strong rival than an eventual love interest, which is a break from the norm. Her Australian accent also sounds more spot on than her original game equivalent, who sounded more English by comparison. The film also does a good job at recreating locations and action scenes from the games.
Holland and Wahlberg turn in fine performances too, with some nice, entertaining banter that shows them gradually warming to each other. Holland’s Drake had a clever-dick charm tempered by some tender moments. While Wahlberg’s Sullivan has a slippery nature that leaves one wondering if he is all that he seems. The two spark well together, albeit not as strongly as their game counterparts.
The fights, explosions, crypt-crawling, and even costumes have the games’ spirit at any rate. If only the writing had as much dedication. The villains are especially lackluster, as Gabrielle’s Braddock has little to work with beyond looking scary, twiddling with a little curved dagger, and hinting at a past with Sullivan that goes nowhere beyond quips.
What about Banderas? His character has a personal connection to the treasure. Surely he is a big deal, right? Sadly, he ends up being a damp squib. The set piece setups, Indiana Jones references (“Why does it got to be nuns?”), and bubblegum (seriously) seemed to matter more than giving Banderas or Gabrielle comparable characters to the good guys. Without that drama to back it up, the film has no wind in its sails.
Thus, Uncharted nails the look and bombast of the video games, while failing to live up to its comparatively more solid plots. Even without knowledge of the games, the film is an average at best adventure film held up by Holland and Wahlberg’s charm, and Ali’s spirited performance. There is a sequel teaser at the end. If the film gets one, the script will need to be much better than this offering. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Uncharted 2.5 out of 5 stars.