Uncharted Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
A treasure, some puzzles, a likeable scoundrel & a lot of bad guys chasing him. Sony’s action-adventure game finally made it to the big screen.
Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Steven Waddington, Pingi Moli, Tiernan Jones, Rudy Pankow & Antonio Banderas.
Run Time: 116 min.
US Release: 18 February 2022
UK Release: 11 February 2022
German Release: 17 February 2022
After years of planning, development and setbacks, we finally obtained a live-action adaptation of Naughty Dog’s action-adventure video game series Uncharted. By now, pretty much a lot of people should know how I feel about the silver-screen conversion of gaming franchises, especially ones that I am extremely fond of, like this one. I went into the screening room with mixed feelings, unsure what to expect, leaving slightly disappointed but happy the franchise wasn’t pulled through the mud. So, let’s get into my review.
Nathan Drake is recruited by the seasoned treasure hunter Victor Sullivan, to recover a fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan, lost around 500 years ago by the House of Moncada. Starting as an easy heist job for the duo, it quickly becomes a globe-trotting, adventurous race to reach the prize before ruthless Santiago Moncada gets his hands on it.
The story is pretty much an amalgamation of the fourth game, the introductory segment of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, as well as sprinkles of Among Thieves. It is supposed to be a prequel to the gaming series, explaining how a young Nathan Drake, in his mid-twenties, met Sully. It also introduces the character of Chloe Frazer, in what is supposed to be their first adventure together. A lot of tropes in the film reminded of the adaptation of the 2018 Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander.
The screenplay stays overall true to its source material, however, it is not a carbon print copy, taking a few liberties to set it apart from the video-game series. It was smart to create a prequel, showing audiences how the two main characters met for the first time while soft-rebooting the franchise for cinema. It immediately becomes clear that the writers are familiar with the source material. The treasure-hunting element is also well implemented.
Sadly, the concept also comes with a bunch of complications and issues. Firstly, taking the plot from A Thief's End and modifying it slightly, did not stop audiences from comparing it to the much more engaging narrative of the game, as it has a larger playtime in which to flesh out the characters. Cramming a lot of the franchise’s story into a two-hour plot, made for pacing issues in which specific character arcs, as well as backstories, are rushed or wholly dropped. Then there is the action-adventure component, which was lacking during the first act, then suddenly gets overly ridiculous by the third act.
I guess what I am trying to say is that, while the writing team knew what they were doing, this sadly does not feel like Uncharted at all. It is as if watching a watered-down version, whereas the fifteen-minute fan film made, with Nathan Fillion, is feels more like the games than this does!
The casting was a complete misfire, especially when it comes to the two main characters! Tom Holland, who I really like as an actor, is sadly not Nathan Drake - not even a younger, inexperienced version of him. Holland doesn’t seem to understand his character, who in the games is a likeable scoundrel. He plays him too nice, gullible, even looks too boyish for Nathan, leading to the fact that he is not believable in his role. That said, the biggest compliment I can give Holland, are the great parkour stunts, which he did himself!
Absolutely miscast is Mark Wahlberg as Victor “Sully” Sullivan, who is Nathan’s sidekick in the games. The persona is just like the lead, a cheeky bugger with a heart of gold, maybe a little more morally ambiguous than Drake himself. Wahlberg, however, didn’t make any effort to get to know the character, doing what he always does, which is playing himself. He depicts the character as a mean, untrustworthy scumbag, with no likeability and totally unbearable. He is the weakest link in the cast, having no chemistry with Holland whatsoever.
Antonio Banderas plays the villainous counterpart Santiago Moncada, capturing the essence of a typical Uncharted baddie, yet is not based on any previous gaming character. I enjoyed his performance, until an unexpected scene during the aeroplane sequence, which ruined that arc. He also employs mercenary Jo Braddock, played by Tati Gabrielle, who is a cheap version of the game villain Nadine Ross.
Rounding up the cast is Sophia Ali, who I thought gave a good depiction of Chloe Frazer, an on/off again partner working with Nate during his fortune-hunting adventures.
The cinematography is a mixed bag as well. While the parkour, climbing plus jumping sequences are beautifully captured in full, long shots, the action-filled fighting scenes are pretty chopped-up. It also doesn’t help that the action gets so over-the-top, that green-screen and CGI effects become glaringly obvious. Then there is the overuse of neon lights during nighttime shots, which looks good in itself, combined with the overly bright daytime sequences, using overly saturated colours, especially along the third act.
The music, composed by Ramin Djawadi, changes between big orchestral sounds and more percussion-based tunes, all evoking a feeling of action-based adventure.
Verdict: In an era, where videogames have feature-length cutscenes, as well as fleshed-out dialogues embedded in the gaming experience, there is no real need for a silver-screen adaptation anymore, since they essentially fulfil that need themselves. While the writing and directing are alright, the biggest flaw the screenplay has is that it feels like a standard action adventure, though not like Naughty Dog’s game series! Then there is the absolute failure of casting Mark Wahlberg as Sully. While Tom Holland is no Nathan Drake, I can overlook that aspect for the sake of enjoying the film, however, Mark Wahlberg with all his mannerisms and unlikeability is NOT Sully! Finally, there is the cinematography, which relies way too much on CGI in its later half. Uncharted isn’t bad but it ain’t great either, it’s a mediocre video-game adaptation, not obtaining more than a 5.5 out of 10.
Have you seen Uncharted yet? What did you think? Are you a fan of the games? Leave a comment below & let me know!