How can a film based on a video game be more soulless than the game itself? The criticism that gaming lacks a human element has been around for decades, but Ruben Fleischer’s “Uncharted” appears emptier than the award-winning franchise on which it is based. “Uncharted,” which is dominated by green screen special effects and thin treasure-hunting intrigue, doesn’t have nearly as much adventure as previous entries in the Sony series.
While the games’ worlds, characters, and narratives have more of a movie feel to them than the film itself, what’s most startling is how much they resemble actual movies in terms of world building, character development, and narrative.
It’s not quite as bad as some video game adaptations, and it’s at least light enough on its feet to never insult the intelligence of its fans like so many of these pictures are prone to do. However, “Uncharted” appears to be more interested in riding on the success of Nathan Drake’s video game adventures than developing any new content; it takes no chances and feels like a minimum effort in terms of storytelling. Video games can never be art, according to legend. The ones on which this film is based are unquestionably far more artistic.
Nathan Drake was created as a throwback to Indiana Jones and the serial adventure films that influenced him. He should be a slick-talking treasure hunter who operates in an ambiguous moral gray zone, allowing him to justify stealing priceless items because no one else could truly appreciate them like Nathan. Holland has the agility, but he lacks the weight and world-weariness necessary for a character like Drake, who grew up in an orphanage and is willing to steal to make ends meet.
If Indiana was the most intelligent person in a room, then Drake must be the one with the keenest insights, someone who understands history’s mysteries from a position of knowledge and bravery. Holland is an excellent actor, but he’s simply wrong here, always appearing like a child impersonating his favorite video game character.
After working as a bartender at a bar, Drake is approached by Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), who informs him that he was within striking distance of one of the world’s most legendary lost riches, with Nathan’s brother Sam. They gained access to the diary of Juan Sebastian Elcano, an 18th century Spanish explorer and aviator credited for discovering a route through the South Pacific Ocean.
The prequel starts with the adventurers exploring the lost city of gold in South America, where they come across a massive chamber that contains not only riches but also eggs. These hatch into creatures known as “kappa.” They meet Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas, left unutilized so that one must believe half his part was cut), the heir to the family who funded the first expedition. The boys are reunited with an old colleague of Sully’s in Barcelona named Chloe Frazier (Sophia Ali, who completely steals the film) after Moncada’s will is enforced by Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle).
“Uncharted” serves as a backdrop for these characters to bounce off of one another on a trip to Spain and the Philippines, but it has no substance. It’s green screen performance that disregards how much setting may impact a movie like this. Whether Nathan or Chloe is crawling through a nondescript tunnel to discovered treasure or Sully is entering one of the only actual Papa John’s fights in recent memory, design never feels important.
“Uncharted” needs to transport people. We need to be taken on a journey, not simply observe actors pretend to jump out of planes. The “Uncharted” games take players all over the world. During this chilly, distanced adventure film, you’ll never get that sensation again.
Anything can save “Uncharted” from the ranks of the worst video game adaptations, and it’s the cast’s relative charm. Though he may be miscast, Dutch actor Jake Gyllenhaal is simply a really likeable movie star, and I hope he can find parts that better utilize his abilities. Wahlberg provides a nice balance between his charisma and the weary tone of a treasure hunter who has seen and done everything he wants; all he wants now is that final contract that will set him up for life.
Despite the fact that Banderas is dull and Gabrielle is in an odd mood, Ali is perhaps the one actor who gets that “Uncharted” should be enjoyable. When she’s onscreen, she adds some much-needed life and unpredictability to the movie.
Another one of those projects that has gone through so many potential production teams over the years that it no longer has a personality is “Uncharted.” There have been reports dating back to 2008 about various filmmakers attempting to get this film made, including David O. Russell, Neil Burger, Joe Carnahan, Shawn Levy, Dan Trachtenberg, and Travis Knight.
When a project goes through many numerous versions over the years, it’s all too easy for it to end in a final film that feels like a compromise: a diluted version that took the most popular, most basic elements of everything that had been suggested throughout the years.
“Uncharted” checks off boxes for both fans and neophytes, but it does so in a predictable way that lacks any excitement or zest. I’ve played through every “Uncharted” game at least once, sometimes multiple hours each time. It may only take two to see it, but I’ll probably never watch this film again.
Now available in theaters and on movie apps like Cinema HD v2
Tom Holland as Nathan Drake
Mark Wahlberg as Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan
Antonio Banderas as Santiago Moncada
Sophia Ali as Chloe Frazer
Tati Gabrielle as Braddock
Steven Waddington as The Scotsman
Pingi Moli as Hugo
Jon Hanley Rosenberg
Mark D. Walker
Movie Rating: 2.5/5