(this is a non-spoiler review)
THERE ARE PLACES OUT THERE YOU CAN’T FIND ON ANY MAP
Over a decade has passed since the Uncharted movie was announced. Feeling as cursed as some of the artifacts within its world, the film suffered numerous setbacks over the years. Complications in production lead to changes in direction, cast, and the writing team and lead many to wonder if we would ever see Nathan Drake on the big screen.
Finally, Sony navigated its way through troubled waters and landed its production team for the eventual release. Venom director, Ruben Fleischer helms the project that sees Tom Holland star as a young Nathan Drake. Uncharted follows the street-smart Drake as he is recruited by seasoned treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg). The pair then embark on a globe-trotting adventure to find the lost treasure of Ferdinand Magellan. Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, and Antonio Banderas play their trusted allies and villainous threats along the way.
Adapting the beloved Naughty Dog game of the same name into a feature film was a difficult job. Video game movies have often fallen short of the source material and Uncharted fans have never shied away from expressing their passion. The majority of the fandom had a clear vision for what they wanted but Sony took a different direction.
THE BIGGEST TREASURE THAT’S NEVER BEEN FOUND
Tom Holland proved a divisive choice for the leading role but the Spider-Man actor rises to the challenge. Without a doubt, the best part of the movie, Holland exudes the charisma needed for the part. Holland does a good job in bringing his talent to the table, delivering a cocky, brash, and vulnerable version of the character. Although this isn’t the Drake we know from the games, Holland perfectly embodies the characteristics that make him so memorable.
Another controversial casting choice was Mark Wahlberg as Victor Sullivan. Sully, as he is better known, is one of the game’s pivotal characters. To his credit, Wahlberg plays the role well but is massively let down by the script. The writing for his character lacks any of the charm that made him so likable in the games. For the most part, Sully is portrayed as an uncaring, out for himself thief who will do anything to get what he wants – no matter the cost to those around him. While his morality eventually comes to the surface, this version of Sully is a far cry from his gaming depiction.
That isn’t to say Holland and Wahlberg don’t have chemistry together. The back and forth between the pair does work in moments but the dynamic between them falls way short of what is crafted in the games.
FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD
Rounding off the cast are Sophia Ali as Chloe Frazer, Antonio Banderas as Santiago Moncada, and Tati Gabrielle as Braddock. Frazer provides Drake with another relationship to navigate and the pair enjoy good chemistry throughout. Banderas’ Santiago delivers an underwhelming threat that feels like a wasted opportunity, while Tati Gabrielle also feels underutilized and isn’t afforded much time to flex her action chops.
As is the case with many games these days, Uncharted has a rich level of cinematic scope and the film brings this to life in an eye-catching way. Whether it be in the urban streets of New York, the gothic architecture of Barcelona, or the exotic lands beyond the oceans, there is much to like. The production design makes for a very pleasing viewing experience that enhances time spent in this world and brings with it that Uncharted vibe.
Each stunning location allows the film to explore different facets of the franchise. Alongside its central mythology comes an abundance of anxiety-inducing action. While the film doesn’t take from one game specifically, it recreates iconic sequences from the franchise in an audacious fashion. Drake’s iconic freefall from a cargo plane and a shipwrecked vessel transported through the air are two eye-popping moments in the film. This gives off a Fast and Furious meets Indiana Jones vibe which works as we aren’t here for grounded real-world moments. That being said, more time spent with the puzzle-cracking elements would have been nice.
While Uncharted’s big-screen debut won’t sit well with everyone, it does enough to provide an enjoyable entry. Tom Holland excels in the leading role and does justice to this version of Nathan Drake. Stunning locations provide a great backdrop for some impressive action and allow for some nice escapism. However, the film falls victim to questionable writing at times and has the same issues its predecessors had. Trying to capture vast world-building elements from such a well-crafted game is rarely successful. I can’t help but feel franchises like this and Tomb Raider would work so much better in a series format.
Uncharted is showing in UK cinemas now and will debut in the US on February 18th.