Contains: Small spoilers
Uncharted is safe yet incredibly stunning, highly entertaining and a worthy introduction to treasure hunter Nathan Drake.
Universally acclaimed, ‘Uncharted’, is considered to be one of the highest grossing video game franchises of all time, so why not bring it to the big screen? After being in development for over a decade with recastings, scrapped scripts, scheduling conflicts and replacing numerous directors and writers, the film was finally released. The movie is a pretty solid adaptation of the beloved Playstation game franchise from Naughty Dog studios. Fans of the games will definitely notice some major changes and sequences pulled directly from multiple games combined to create a new origin story as the film took some creative liberties. Surprisingly, the film did a good job of bringing a young Nathan Drake to life as he begins his high-octane adrenaline-filled lifestyle as an adventurer.
The film jumps right in explaining Nathan’s backstory as we see his early childhood adventures with his brother Sam essentially starting his life of thievery. The movie doesn’t dwell too much on his childhood or provide any unnecessary exposition which gives viewers just enough background. Flash forward 15 years and a cocky street-smart Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) is recruited by veteran treasure hunter, Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) to join on a mission to recover a fortune gathered by Ferdinand Magellan, lost 500 years ago by the House of Moncada. Sully tells Nathan how he got close to uncovering one of the most famous lost treasures in history with Sam. They use the diary of the famous explorer Juan Sebastian Elcano to guide them to the treasure which was hidden by the Magellan expedition.
The movie stars Holland – coming in hot after the box-office smash Spider-Man: No Way Home, as he plays a younger version of the beloved Nathan Drake. Initially fans weren’t too happy with the casting choices for Nathan and Sully. Hardcore fans were apprehensive with the casting news of such a young actor to portray Nathan; described as a “deep-sea salvage expert and action-pro.” Ultimately Holland does a solid job and looks the part as he sports Drake’s classic cargo pants and henley shirt combo with matching pistol holders. Holland’s Drake is young, naive and ambitious, but he has Nathan’s drive, charisma, sarcasm and sharp instincts. He successfully shows courage, growth and that he has the knowledge and expertise of someone who studies history, geography and maps. He can solve puzzles and put up a fight. I actually like the direction they were going for casting a young Nathan, as you can essentially create a film franchise for years to come.
Drake is a professional treasure hunter who travels the globe to uncover mysteries; he’s also the alleged descendant of Sir Francis Drake.
What works well, is the casting of the film’s leads. Although the antagonists were poorly executed, Holland and Wahlberg had fantastic chemistry on screen including some very good emotional scenes.
Wahlberg, plays “Sully” the wise-cracking mentor to Drake who is searching for one last run to set him up for life. Wahlberg is not only missing the iconic Sully stash (that is for now at least) but also his dark tone of voice. However, viewers can get past that, as his charming yet snarky charisma works so well on screen. The two work really well together as they bicker and play a game of cat and mouse with an old colleague of Sully’s in Barcelona named Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali).
They cross paths with Santiago Moncado (Antonio Banderas), an heir to the family that funded the original expedition. Santiago is also a treasure hunter, who is trying to get his hands on the treasure before Sully and Nathan. Banderas is painted as the main villain but he is severely underused and outshined by his associate Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle). Both characters were not in the games and were created specifically for the film. Braddock is a mercenary working alongside Santiago but she is essentially the main villain of the film, although she doesn’t have a direct video game counterpart. Gabrielle overall plays a badass but her character is still kind of one-dimensional. She is ultimately incredibly stylish for no apparent reason and we never find out how someone so young has massive amounts of resources and artillery. Her character is pretty inconsistent and kind of unnecessary, but Tati still proves herself to be a total badass and is still fun to watch.
A more prominent relationship is the brewing attraction between Nathan and Chloe. Chloe Frazer who is also a treasure hunter and adventurer, was an associate of Sully’s who has major trust issues. Chloe, portrayed by Sophia Ali, aids them both on their quest to find the golden artifacts, but she always puts her own interests first. Similar to the games she is an early love interest of Nathans before he meets his future wife Elena. Also similar to her video game counterpart Chloe is tough and totally opposite of Nathan in personality in that she will risk the mission to come out on top. Ali was perfectly cast as Frazer, as she embodies the character. She is unpredictable, self-sufficient and has great on-screen chemistry with Holland. She gives the film a much-needed fun and illustrious energy.
The trio constantly try to outsmart each other, and get tangled in all sorts of chase scenes and booby traps as they try to collect clues and solve puzzles in order to find the treasure. Even though the film took drastic creative liberties, it ultimately felt so much like cutscenes straight out of Uncharted. The Uncharted games are so well-received because of their extraordinary cinematic and character-driven storytelling. Director Ruben Fleischer, and Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung definitely capture the cinematic experience, with absolutely mesmerizing shots of Barcelona and the Philippines from caves to jungles, and architecture reminiscent of game sets.
The games focus on a web of side characters moving the story forward as you play as Nathan in a 3rd person- format. The gameplay combines action-adventure, third person shooting, and solving puzzles. As Nathan you can swim, shoot, jump, climb, swing and grab ledges. The film captures the overall adventurous and dangerous aesthetic as Nathan clings for his life. Holland does embody someone under pressure, using melee, stealth and combat with speed and some kind of climbing expertise. One of the best scenes in the movie is the pirate ship shootout. The characters are essentially shouting out one-liners while being attacked by henchmen, literally like a cut scene. Holland is running, and jumping, evading gunshots and just barely escaping death (without even remotely looking like Spider-Man).
Ultimately, Holland does a good job in portraying the reckless and charming treasure hunter. Yes, the movie changed some timelines and characters interactions a bit, basically dividing fans. Many criticisms of the timeline are simply nitpicking, as he clearly is not the version of Nathan that marries Elena just yet, as he is just beginning his journey. While the villains were one-dimensional, let’s also remember the ultimate villain was always “greediness” which is definitely present throughout the entire film. Many fans are calling it one of the best video game adaptations, and a fun new “Indiana Jones” for this generation, while others are bashing it. Ironically, the same arguments can be made for the Tomb raider films, yet those were still considered enjoyable. Either way, you can definitely tell Naughty Dog had a say in the movie, and if Nolan North (Drake voice actor) approves, I approve.
Uncharted is a worthy adaptation of the popular Playstation action-adventure video game series and a pretty solid introduction to adventurer Nathan Drake for fans of the games and new fans alike.
The film is a non-stop thrill ride that ultimately captures the essence of the games and will surely surprise fans. While, It plays it safe, and doesn’t offer anything original and is pale in comparison to the video games, it is still definitely hands down one of the best video game live-action film adaptations. It does a pretty solid job of taking a 10- hour experience and turning it into a wildly entertaining 2 hour experience. The movie takes us on an adrenaline filled journey featuring absolutely jaw dropping scenery, a charming cast and is full of crazy stunts and action sequences worthy of the IMAX Experience.
Essentially we love the Uncharted games for its masterful cinematic storytelling which makes gamers feel like they are in a movie. The movie successfully embodies this.