Is a movie based on a video game less soulful than the game it is based on? The criticism that gaming lacks a human element has been leveled at the world of video games for many years, but Ruben Fleischer’s “Uncharted” is even more hollow than the award-winning franchise on which it is based. “Uncharted” is largely defined by green screen special effects and thin treasure-hunt storytelling, and it lacks the sense of adventure that made Sony games some of the most popular of all time. What’s most remarkable is how much the games seem to take advantage of 3D than the actual movie. It isn’t quite as bad as some video game adaptations, and it’s at least nimble enough to never insult its fan base, as many of these films tend to do. However, “Uncharted” appears to be more interested in riding on the goodwill of Nathan Drake’s video game escapades than developing its own; it takes no chances and bears a resemblance to a half-hearted effort. In an interview with The Guardian, legendary director Roger said that video games can never be considered art. These films are, without a doubt, more artistic.
Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) was created as a throwback to Indiana Jones and the serial adventure movies that inspired him. He should be a smooth-talking treasure hunter who lurks in a gray ethical area, stealing priceless items because no one else can truly appreciate them like Nathan Drake. Holland has the agility but lacks the weight and world-weariness essential for a character like Nathan Drake, who grew up in an orphanage and is willing to steal to make ends meet. Drake must be the one with the keenest perceptions, someone who sees history’s riddles from a position of knowledge and bravery. Holland is a capable actor, but he comes across as immature in this scene because he always looks like he’s playing his favorite video game character.
Drake is approached by Victor Sullivan, also known as Sully (Mark Wahlberg), who informs him that he was close to one of the world’s most renowned lost treasures with Nathan’s brother Sam. They stole Juan Sebastian Elcano’s diary, which will lead them to a treasure hidden by Magellan’s expedition. They bump into Santiago Moncada, the heir to the family that financed the original trek (an Antonio Banderas underutilized that one must believe half of his role was cut), and together they depart for Peru. Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) enforces Moncada’s will, and Sully, Timmy, Joe, and Suge reunite with an old buddy of theirs in Barcelona named Chloe Frazier (Sophia Ali).
On their journey to Spain and the Philippines, “Uncharted” bounces these characters off of one another, but nothing has any weight. It’s green screen acting that doesn’t take into account how crucial location may be in a film like this. Design is never once given importance, whether Nathan and Chloe are crawling through a gray tunnel for hidden treasure or Sully is entering one of the few fights in an actual Papa John’s restaurant. “Uncharted” is a good example of a film that needs to transport audiences. We need to go on the journey, not just watch actors pretend to fall out of planes; we must experience it firsthand. The “Uncharted” games take players all around the world. You will never get this sense of adventure during this chilly, distant escapade movie.
The cast may be the saving grace for “Uncharted,” which might otherwise go down as one of the worst video game adaptations. Holland may be miscast, but he’s a really likeable movie star, and I’m hoping he can find parts that utilize his talents effectively. Wahlberg creates a nice balance between his charisma and the tired tone of a treasure hunter who has seen and done enough just wants that last job that will set him up for life. Ali, on the other hand, is the one performer in the film who believes that “Uncharted” should be enjoyable. When she’s onscreen, she provides the picture much-needed energy and unpredictability.
“Uncharted” is another film that has gone through so many potential production teams over the years that it no longer has an identity. There have been reports of numerous filmmakers attempting to make this movie since 2008, including David O. Russell, Neil Burger, Joe Carnahan, Shawn Levy, Dan Trachtenberg, and Travis Knight. When a project goes through so many iterations over the years, it’s easy for it to wind up feeling like a compromise, a watered-down version that took the most frequent, most basic elements of everything that has been proposed throughout the years. “Uncharted” caters to both fans and newcomers, but it does so in a predictable manner that lacks any excitement or intrigue. I’ve played through many of the “Uncharted” games from beginning to end more than once, which is a several-hour commitment. It might only take two hours to watch it, but I’ll probably never see this film again.
Now playing on Cinema HD.
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Story by: Rafe Lee Judkins, Jon Hanley Rosenberg, Mark D. Walker
Based on: Uncharted by Naughty Dog
Starring: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Antonio Banderas
Release dates: February 18, 2022 (United States)
Running time: 116 minutes
Country: United States