Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writers: Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Jon Hanley Rosenberg, and Mark D. Walker
Starring: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, and Antonio Banderas
Review: Ok. Let’s do a bit of table setting before we get into this review. I’m not going to claim to be much of a gamer. However, I have played all four main Uncharted games. Nathan Drake and I have been through a lot. Basically, what I’m saying is that I am an Uncharted fan. And, as a fan, I have conflicting thoughts on this movie. So, I’m going to try to be as fair as possible. I’m going to look at this work from two different angles. One, is it a good movie? And, two, is it a good adaptation? Because, while not on completely different ends of the spectrum, my answers to these questions are a bit different.
First of all, let’s pretend that someone went into this movie completely blind to the concept of Uncharted. I am certain that they would, at the very least, enjoy themselves. Because this is a generally likable movie. Honestly, its two-hour runtime kind of flies by. The characters are funny and charming. There’s constantly something entertaining happening on screen. And, it plays like a decent enough treasure-hunting movie. There’s nothing revolutionary here though. Most of the plot is stuff we’ve seen before. A lot of the acting is just ok. And, well, the action scenes are so blandly shot and filled with CGI that nothing ever feels real. However, if you’re just looking for a way to turn your brain off and enjoy something for two hours, it’ll meet those criteria.
But, as an Uncharted fan, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed. First of all, despite being a big fan of his, Tom Holland was never a good pick to play Nathan Drake. I thought that maybe I’d buy into it when I saw the movie but I just can’t. Nothing with him in the lead is ever going to feel like Uncharted to me. I’m sorry. Nathan Drake is a 6’2″, bulky, mid-30s, man’s man. He’s Captain America, not early-in-his-career Spider-Man. Literally, any of the other Avengers actors would’ve been a better fit for this role. Likewise, Sully is everybody’s young grandpa or older uncle. He’s a slimmer John Goodman with a graveling voice and mustache. Basically, not at all Mark Wahlberg. I know that sometimes size, age, and appearance aren’t everything when it comes to casting. If they were, I’d have written off Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine decades ago. But, again, no matter how enjoyable the movie, I just can’t buy this as Uncharted with these two in the leads.
As lackluster as the casting is, I’m not entirely sure that fixing that would’ve suddenly made the movie feel like the games though. Like I said, I’ve been through a lot with Nathan Drake. Each of his games consists of about 20-25 levels. In those levels, just about everything that can happen happens. Nathan is constantly climbing mountain after mountain, statue after statue. He’s swinging from ledge to ledge. He’s almost falling to his death. He’s dodging booby traps. He’s solving a different puzzle or riddle every other breath. And, he’s mowing down hundreds, if not thousands, of men who are trying to kill him. Basically, by the time Nathan Drake reaches the treasure, you feel as if he’s earned it. There’s this intense sense of accomplishment because you knew how much effort it took to get to that point. If the video game Nathan went on the same quest the movie Nathan did, it’d be the easiest adventure of his career, as the movie only really has four adventure sequences. One heist. One treasure hunting scene. And then two, very Uncharted feeling, over-the-top action scenes. Now, you might argue that this is due to the change in medium. And, I get that but I also have to rebuttals. One, if you don’t feel like you can properly adapt the scale of the source material, don’t even try it. We don’t NEED an Uncharted movie. The games were more than enough. And, perhaps more importantly, two, why does Indiana Jones not have that same problem? Indy’s adventures feel epic. Those movies are set piece after set piece. And almost every single one is iconic. By the time the credits roll, you feel as if you’ve been on this grand, important adventure with Indiana Jones. So, why does Uncharted feel so easy and breezy by comparison with almost the exact same runtime? It’s gotta be in the storytelling at that point. I’m not saying that every movie can be Raiders of the Lost Ark. I know that’s not doable. There’s a reason that’s a classic that even its sequels couldn’t quite live up to. However, I do believe that Raiders discredits anyone’s “well, it’s a shorter runtime than the game, so it’s only natural it’d feel less epic” argument. The simple fact is they could’ve and should’ve done better. End of story.
Overall, as you can tell, I have very mixed feelings about Uncharted. I think it more or less works as its own adventure movie, but it definitely falls flat as an adaptation. I just can’t help but think of the amazing take that we’re missing out on. Throw Nathan Fillion in there with someone like Spielberg, Cameron, or Scott directing and you could really have something special. Heck, even give it to the Russos or one of the Fast & Furious directors. Who knows? Maybe someday we will get a proper adaptation. Or, maybe the sequel, which I’m sure will be greenlit by the end of the week, will at least FEEL more like Uncharted, even if we’re still stuck with this cast. I hope so, because, like I keep saying, I’m a big fan of this franchise. I want to love an Uncharted movie. But, this one just doesn’t feel like an Uncharted movie worth loving.
TL;DR: If you’ve never played the games, odds are you’ll find Uncharted to be a pleasant enough adventure flick. But, if you’re a fan of the franchise, it leaves quite a bit to be desired.
Score: 5.5/10 (5 if you compare it to the games, 6 if you don’t, average to 5.5)