In 2007, Naughty Dog released the hit videogame Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and kickstarted a global phenomenon. Now more than a decade later, Sony’s adaptation Uncharted attempts to bring the adventure games to the big screen in an all-new globetrotting action movie full of treasure hunters, one-liners, and big-budget special effects.
With A-list actors Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg leading the helm, plenty of detailed fighting sequences, and impressive set pieces, there are a handful of promising elements in this movie, and as a feel-good action fest, Uncharted in theory should be a home run. However, when you take a step back and look past all the CGI splendour and fast-paced chase scenes, you can’t help but notice that the latest attempt from Hollywood to adapt a videogame seems to fall into the age-old trap – style over substance.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer, whose past credits include the likes of Zombieland and Venom, Uncharted sticks to the typical beats seen in any solid adventure movie. Throughout its two hour runtime, we are made to follow a clever and athletic protagonist who is searching to uncover a mystery as well as fill their pockets with priceless treasure. But, with a predictable plot, rudimentary puzzles, and strawman characters, Uncharted never manages to find its narrative bearings.
Tom Holland, of Spider-Man fame, takes on the role of Nathan Drake, an expert pickpocket who dreams of reuniting with his lost brother Sam, as well as embarking on a life of adventure. One day he is approached and recruited by a mysterious associate of his estranged brother, the seasoned treasure hunter Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan (Wahlberg). Together the two set out to uncover a 500-year-old fortune, and face off against the forces of the ruthless billionaire Moncada (Antonio Banderas) in the deadly race to capture the missing gold.
As the film unfolds, we are thrust into a heist-like story filled with big imagery that captures the imagination. From underground Spanish vaults and flying pirate ships, to countless cases of double-crossing Uncharted at surface level has it all. But, that being said, impressive visuals aside, there is something about this thriller movie that feels unfinished and as if we are watching mundane NPC’s as opposed to real people.
As much as I love Holland, here we see the actor essentially playing the same character he portrays in the MCU – repackaged for franchise purposes. Similarly, all his co-stars are void of strong personalities, as they try to uncover fortune detailed in the plot, and struggle to form any meaningful relationships.
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Written by Rafe lee Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway, Uncharted had the potential to be a fast-paced and stupidly fun film. With multiple Indiana Jones references, it’s easy to see that the script was on the tipping point of embracing that fast-paced tomb raider style of movies that we all know and love from the ’80s.
However, Uncharted’s plot is strangely stuck in the city and lacking in adventuring and exploration generally. Problems are solved too quickly, and we never truly get to know our main protagonist enough to root and love him as we did with good old Indy – or like we did for Nathan Drake in the videogames.
It’s a pity that Uncharted’s writing gets in its own way since there are a few scenes where Holland’s acting talent shines through despite the script. Although he isn’t the Nathan we all know from the game series (sorry), there are a handful of engaging emotional breakthroughs in his performance that make you want to like him as a protagonist. Similarly, his on-screen banter with Wahlberg lands a handful of jokes and feels oddly charming, making these moments stand out as some of the most enjoyable in the movie.
It is easy to see the actors’ effort in their performances as they try to push past the dull characters they have been given. It is also easy to see the editors’ extraordinary work in post-production for this film. I mean, come on, no one can deny that flying pirate ships are just cool. You have to give credit where credit is due, right?
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So to sum it all up, Uncharted looks great; its action scenes are exciting and fun. However, as much as it pains me to admit it, heart racing cinematography can only go so far, and unfortunately, this videogame adaptation just gets left in the dust. While it is full of promise and has the building blocks to be a solid feel-good action movie, Uncharted just misses the mark and couldn’t find the cinematic coordinates to land safely ashore.
Uncharted hits theatres on February 11 in the UK, and on February 18 in the US.
Uncharted has plenty of great action scenes but ultimately misses the mark, and fails to find its narrative bearings.