" Its strengths are as noticeable as its weaknesses..."
THE "IMDB" PREMISE:
"Street-smart Nathan Drake is recruited by seasoned treasure hunter Victor "Sully" Sullivan to recover a fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan, and lost 500 years ago by the House of Moncada."
OUR [TO THE POINT] REVIEW:
The feature film adaptation of beloved video game franchises has been an effort pursued by Hollywood for decades now. More often than not, these movies have been the centre of much discourse between both fans of the source material and the casual movie-goers just looking for a good time, and not necessarily in a positive way. It’s when you discover that up until the release of 2021s Werewolves Within, the highest-rated video-game based film on Rotten Tomatoes was The Angry Birds Movie 2, that it’s no stretch to say video-game-movies aren’t always winners for critics or gaming fans. But, the ones that slip through the cracks and manage to be enjoyed by the crowd looking for some mindless entertainment always seem to make the big bucks at the box office. The latest game-to-film adaptation to hit the silver screen, Uncharted, feels like it’s going has followed the blueprint to a tee in being the exact sort of movie I just described.
Personally, this is the first time I’ve really had a solid grasp of the source material before going to see the film. Having played four of the award-winning and critically acclaimed games in the action-adventure-shooter Uncharted series, the idea of seeing this already incredibly cinematic video game portrayed at the cinema had me optimistically curious to see it pulled off.
Serving as a prequel to the game series, Uncharted follows Nathan Drake (Tom Holland), a smart-alec, pick-pocketing and historically intelligent adventurer who is propositioned by Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), a smooth-talking trouble maker to team up in the pursuit of a long-lost pirate treasure, billions of dollars worth of gold. As they search for a hidden key that is the… key… to unlocking the secrets to the treasure, a formidable opponent also after the same treasure, which just so happens to be a family keepsake, reveals himself in the form of Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas). The hunt for the gold becomes a race against the clock, as both sides go on a journey full of insane action, exciting set pieces, a few decent laughs and ultimately, an enjoyable adventure. However, is Uncharted a decent adaptation of the video games it’s based on?
Short answer… not really. While Uncharted embraces its adventure film cliches in a fun way, its failed to capture a lot of the charm and nuance of its source material. This is felt mostly in the performances of Holland and Wahlberg. Holland has embraced the physicality of Nathan Drake by adding a few extra pounds of muscle and performing a lot of his own stunts. But, there is a charisma of the mid-30s video-game Drake that hasn’t meshed with the natural charisma of Holland himself. There’s an element of disbelief that this 20-something kid has the personality of a 30 year old, established treasure hunter. On top of that, Wahlberg is so severely miscast as Sully. There’s been no attempt to hone in on the nuances of Sully as a character, rather Wahlberg just playing the usual ‘every man’ he plays in most of his films. As a fan of the games, it’s noticeably bad, and I would assume even as a movie-goer, it feels uninspired.
Another aspect the movie has taken liberties with is the games supernatural elements. Most of the games, whose stories deal with pirates, ancient curses and thousands of years old mysterious, are bound to engage in some creepy, supernatural themes, a part of the games that has made them unique. Uncharted unfortunately decides to ditch these elements for a more grounded approach to the treasure hunting adventure. And while this isn’t necessarily something that detracts from the movie itself, it leaves a little more desire in the fan service area.
What Uncharted does do well however, both as an adaptation and just as a fun movie in general, is to go to the next level of insanity with its action set pieces. Blending elements of Indiana Jones with The Fast and the Furious, Uncharted is at its most entertaining when Drake is climbing up detached plane cargo 30,000 feet in the air, or when he is parkouring across the rooftops of Barcelona. Director Ruben Fleischer’s kinetic visual style creates really engaging and tense moments throughout the film.
Uncharted will undoubtedly be a film that critics will call generic, video game fans will call a disappointment, and movie-goers will call a fun adventure film. And to be totally honest, this movie is exactly all three of those things. Its strengths are as noticeable as its weaknesses, but there is no denying that on the surface level, this is an exciting adventure to go on if you don’t mind a bit of mindless fun.