Naughty Dog are some of the best storytellers in gaming, and the Uncharted series has often been referred to as films on rails because their games are so cinematic. The gameplay is great too, but it’s the story and presentation that sets them in a class of their own. The Uncharted film is anything but that. The action adventure film is perfectly content with recreating various moments from the games but lacks most of character and charm they have. It’s a soulless clone that lands with little impact. Why watch the film when you’re better of playing, or even just watching, the games themselves.
Uncharted tells the origins of the adventures of Nathan Drake and Victor “Sully” Sullivan, played by Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. Sully is a treasure hunter and is looking for the biggest score of his life. He enlists the help of a young Nate, whose proclivity for history and pick-pocketing make him a suitable partner. Together they will scour globe in search of Magellan’s expedition that is rumored to hold $5 billion in gold on it. They’re not the only ones looking for it, however, as Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) is hot on the trail too and will go to any means to get it. It’s a race to discover the clues left behind by the famed explorer and be the first to discover the treasure.
The first and biggest thing wrong with Uncharted is how terribly miscast both Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg are as Nate and Sully. Both of them are fine actors and action heroes, but they just do not fit their roles. Uncharted has been in development for more than 10 years and has gone through multiple changes in that time, with Wahlberg even set to star as Nate at one point before ultimately decided to do an origin story of sorts and skew everyone younger so a franchise can be built off Tom Holland. By doing that, they eliminate all of the chemistry and core relationships that make the games so fantastic.
In the games, Nate and Sully are longtime partners who have been through thick and thin together but always manage to escape no matter how dire the situation might be. Sully’s intelligence and level-headedness pairs perfectly with Nate’s gung-ho attitude. The film forgoes all of this entirely, showcasing a more combative dynamic where nobody can trust anyone except for themselves. It makes a little sense given that this is their introduction, but it’s not Uncharted except in name. Tom Holland can quip and joke all his wants, but he never truly captures the bravado and charisma of Nathan Drake.
They all put on a decent enough performance for an Indiana Jones or Goonies clone but they never manage to escape from being just another generic copy. And yes, the Uncharted games started out as a clone of Indiana Jones, but it was able to carve out its own place in the adventure genre. There’s nothing about the film that sets it apart, however. Audiences unfamiliar with the source material may get a kick out of some fun action sequences and a few humorous quips, but fans of the franchise will ultimately be let down.
It’s unfortunate because the film has all the building blocks of the games; the history lessons, the artifacts and clues, the generic bad guys who are always one step behind the heroes. There are even action sequences that are pulled directly from them as well. The iconic cargo moment from Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is recreated beautifully, as is the daring auction encounter for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. These scenes all look fantastic, but they carry no weight to them. Uncharted is merely a compilation of some of Nathan Drake’s most exciting moments stitched together haphazardly with little attention given to actually exploring who Drake and Sully are.
It says something about Uncharted when some of the most enjoyment I got out of it was when it was referencing the game, like when it shows a Naughty Dog sticker on a suitcase or when Nolan North, Drake’s voice actor in the video games, makes a cameo appearance. Uncharted falls of the rails the games so-easily set up. It’s possible that potential sequels could catch up to the games and deliver the dynamic expected of the franchise, but after suck a lackluster debut on the big screen, I’m not entirely sure it’s worth the wait.
Naughty Dog are some of the best storytellers in gaming, and the Uncharted series has often been referred to as films on rails because their games are so cinematic. The gameplay is great too, but it’s the story and presentation that sets them in a class of their own. The Uncharted film is anything but that. The action adventure film is perfectly content with recreating various moments from the games, but lacks most of character and charm they have. It’s a soulless clone that lands with little impact. Why watch the film when you’re better of playing, or even just watching, the games themselves.