Uncharted Brings Nathan Drake and the Beloved Game Series to the Big Screen
Uncharted screening provided by Sony Pictures
“…Uncharted finishes with a convincing second half that sets the stage for future, and hopefully rowdier, sequels”
From Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), Mortal Kombat (2021), Monster Hunter (2020), Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City (2021) and now Uncharted (2022) — the last couple of years have seen a myriad of video game franchises and their titles be adapted for the big screen. These adaptations have not only given video game culture a greater stage to showcase its various characters and worlds, but they’ve also proven that there is an audience beyond that of the games who are willing to give these films a go.
Adapted from the video game title of the same name, Uncharted sees Nathan Drake hit the big screen courtesy of Tom Holland who plays the iconic fictional treasure hunter. Fans of the games will immediately realise that Ruben Fleischer’s Uncharted is a much more Hollywoodised action adventure film that understandably focuses on the banter between its two leads, comedy in dire situations, and extravagant set pieces — staples of Fleischer’s filmmaking from and since, Zombieland (2009). Ultimately, this is a step away from the more contained and nurtured approach taken in the video games where ample time is given to understanding the character at its core and the escapades he takes.
In Ruben Fleischer’s adaptation, the film opens with a moment from the third act that sees Nathan Drake battling to stay on a cargo aircraft as bullets are fired and items are dropped in mid-air. It’s a sequence that really sets the tone for the sort of action induced 115 or so minutes that await, before using a clever match-cut to cutaway to an even younger Nathan Drake and eventually take you through all the events leading up to that moment.
Those events see Victor “Sully” Sullivan (played by the ever wisecracking and witty Mark Wahlberg) seek out Nathan Drake in the years since Drake’s youth and the disappearance of his brother, Sam Drake. The two decide to join forces to track down a long lost treasure, while also trying to find Sam through a series of clues he left behind. Standing in their way are two other treasure hunters in Chloe Frazer (Sophia Taylor Ali) and Santiago Moncada (played by the ever enticing Antonio Banderas) with his troupe of assailants who also have an interest for the long lost treasure.
For fans of the Uncharted video games, this isn’t the same Nathan Drake from those games, especially given the age disparity between Holland and Drake as well as the more rugged and gritty exterior that the character has in the games. For what it’s worth, Holland’s performance is sound, if not very similar to that of his web-slinging Marvel hero, Spider-Man.
Mark Wahlberg & Tom Holland in Uncharted
For some, this might be quite jarring given that Holland’s star persona is so associated with Spider-Man that at times the boisterous ride that Uncharted offers feels like your watching a Spider-Man film that’s just coated in brownish/greenish textures in more exotic locations (Barcelona, the Philippines etc.). Sure, it can be difficult to separate the Drake from the Parker in it all, but the film keeps you guessing enough to not dwell on that aspect of performance for too long.
It’s through the films larger-than-life set-pieces that the real enjoyment from Uncharted comes from. The opening sequence teases what is to come after all of the groundwork for character and story have been laid, and it really isn’t until the films second half that most of the action that is associated with films like this begins to unravel. The airplane scene from the films opening sequence plays out to its extent with multiple different angles, and it’s a nicely crafted, action-packed scene that is shot quite well even with some smidges of obvious CGI seeping through.
The best sequence in the film, however, is that of two helicopters carrying two large pirate ships in the sky while the protagonists battle it out in a Pirates of the Caribbean-esque duel on deck. It’s a gripping and quite frankly outlandish sequence, but it works because of its audacity to raise the stakes (literally) and might actually be the first time pirate ships have been carried by helicopters in a film while characters fight on deck — something that Tom Cruise has probably scribbled down somewhere.
Unfortunately these sorts of moments are too few and far between and don’t do enough to make up for the quite bland, throwaway dialogue for a majority of the film. The actual treasure hunting itself has also been handled better in films like the National Treasure series for starters and obviously in the benchmark for the sub-genre, the Indiana Jones series. Most of the intrigue behind the treasure hunting is almost robbed from you as a viewer in a similar fashion to Netflix’s horrid Red Notice (2021) where there is too much exposition and not enough that is left unsaid to challenge you as a viewer.
It goes without saying that the Indiana Jones series is really the cream of the crop when it comes to action-adventure films built around archaeological discoveries. Uncharted pays homage to the series both verbally and through the very nature of the films plot, but it lacks the awe that came with something like Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) which found the perfect balance between practicality, intrigue, and storytelling — something that is yet to be felt with similar films. Even still, when compared to something like the aforementioned Red Notice, Uncharted finishes with a convincing second half that sets the stage for future, and hopefully rowdier, sequels.
Uncharted opens nationally from today, the 17th of February 2022.
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