I thought about playing the Uncharted video games before seeing the movie but decided against it. After all, this isn’t a franchise with some heavy lore akin to Warcraft or Resident Evil. It’s an adventure game series and would seem to be the most serviceable of genres for the film.
The keyword is serviceable. Uncharted is one of those games where you look at it and can imagine it as a movie. Not a good movie but a movie all the same.
Perhaps someone thought it would make a good movie but not when compared to the other adventure movies of this crowded genre. In this arena, Uncharted comes off like a typical adventure picture. It doesn’t make it terrible but it does make for a film that is certainly not going to be a highlight among the likes of Indiana Jones or National Treasure.
The Young Adventurer
Fans of the games will no doubt cite the failures of such a picture lie within the choices. Exhibit A would most likely be casting Tom Holland in the role of Nathan Drake. Given that Holland doesn’t look as tall or gruff, it’s a bit hard to buy him in the role.
In fact, Holland’s physique becomes a running gag of the picture. Whether it’s someone commenting on his height or failing to land a kick, the filmmakers seem keenly aware that Holland is not a rough-and-tumble adventurer. He also can’t muster much of a New Yorker accent that he struggles to adopt but the film really wants us to believe he can pull it off.
Anyway, Nathan is established as someone who grew up loving history and artifacts. As an adult, he becomes a bartender who specializes in stealing from people. So it’s only a matter of time to become a fortune seeker.
The Experienced Adventurer
Taking note of Nathan’s talents are Sully (Mark Wahlberg), a man who has been swiping valuable artifacts for quite some time. Nathan isn’t interested in his offer for a globe-trotting treasure hunt until Sully reveals he’s looking for the Magellan expedition ships. Since that’s someone his brother was originally looking for, Nathan takes on this adventure.
The two become mismatched buddy duo who venture around the globe. Or at least that’s what the film wants us to believe. The truth is that Holland and Wahlberg just don’t have much of a dynamic charm. They try to have some comradery in their banter but their charm is just dead in the water. The flat jokes between them are incredibly awkward.
There are some supporting characters but they do little more than snugly fit the adventure format tropes and little more. Antonio Banderas is our greedy villain who feels he’s entitled to the treasure. Not a whole lot more to his character than that and Banderas is so used to these villain roles I doubt he had to prepare much for such a performance.
Sophia Ali plays the deceiving love interest for Sully who will happily betray him if there’s a fortune for herself. That deception may be twisty but not when her character’s traits become so paint-by-numbers. Her performance also feels rather standard but is at least more physical.
But the most physical of all performances and best performances are overall is from Tati Gabrielle. She plays the mercenary Jo Braddock and she’s a lot of fun as the villain. Whether it’s because she never cracks lackluster one-liners or because she’s fierce in her fights, she’s a highlight.
Where Uncharted fails in its characters, it almost makes up for with fast-paced action sequences. During the scene in Barcelona, there’s a moment where Nathan has to infiltrate an underground bar. He does so by showcasing his impressive bar skills while also combatting the competition.
The many fight scenes get quite thrilling with Wahlberg smashing into glass and Holland dangling from light fixtures on high ceilings. Even the climax is pretty pleasing to the eyes with old ships dangling in the sky, crashing into each other. If only that sequence wasn’t ruined by Holland trying to crack some lukewarm pirate jokes.
What perplexed me about such a picture is the inclusion of the cameo by Nolan North. Fans of the game will know him as the voice of Nathan Drake. But do the filmmakers expect general audiences to catch the reference?
And, yes, you do need to know this to get the joke. The film stops so North can hear about Holland’s plane stunt and amid “I think that happened to me once.” Fans may smirk but most audiences will be raising eyebrows, asking who this is and why he is in this picture.
Maybe it’s just because I’m not all that big a fan of the games, but Uncharted is just passive and forgettable rather than being a travesty of a picture. As an adventure film, is it’s okay. The action sequences are big and exciting but the crucial buddy dynamic is mostly dead in the water.
There’s just not a lot here to either praise or punish, existing in this mediocre white space of movies that deliver on the barebones of the genre and make for a numb experience. To channel the quotation of Bison from the Street Fighter movie, to fans, this movie probably seemed like the worst video game movie ever made for tarnishing such a franchise. But to me, it was just another adventure film.
Did you see Uncharted in theaters? Was it faithful to the games? How does it stack up next to other video game movies? Is it better than Jungle Cruise as an adventure picture? Let us know in the comments below.
A lukewarm adventure film for the popular video game franchise.
- Strong action sequences.
- Decent special effects and stunts.
- Lacking in character chemistry.
- Archetypes too standard.
- Humor that falls flat.