12 Feb 2022
Rafe Judkin, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Amy Hennig, Jon Hanley Rosenberg, Mark D. Walker
Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali
What do you get if you start a new videogame IP inspired by Indiana Jones and then reverse engineer that game series into a film? Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie. Twenty years later, (or one Tomb Raider sequel, one Tomb Raider reboot and one actual Indiana Jones film we don’t talk about later) we arrive at the Uncharted film. All joking aside Uncharted has established itself as its own exciting narrative adventure series. Unfortunately, this film, the first released under the new PlayStation Productions banner, does little to entertain fans of the games, nor does it offer anything unique to the average moviegoer.
Opening in true Uncharted fashion we start with an action set-piece prologue, a glimpse at roughly the midpoint of the film to establish the kind of peril our hero Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) will face. He recovers consciousness, his foot is trapped in the binding of a string of cargo crates hanging out of the back of a freighter plane high above the ocean. He mantles the crates and leaps his way up to the back of a plane before a scarlet gullwing Mercedes hurtles toward him and sends him plummeting. Then, before we can cut to ‘Now, New York’, we enter into a second prologue. A tedious look at a young Drake and his relationship with his brother Sam. The need for a second prologue is a sign of shaky things to come. Then, at last, we can get started on an adventure, kind of, Nate has to meet and bond with his partner/mentor Sully (Mark Wahlberg). The pair can finally go hunting for the lost treasure of Magellan in a race against Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), a ruthless heir to a fortune built on blood money.
We are now at the stage where there should be a word for a film that tries harder to determine itself as the launching point of a franchise than it tries to be an entertaining film.
The Uncharted series has managed to differentiate itself through the crafting of lovable characters, such as the vaguely principled rough and tumble duo of Nathan Drake and Sully. Drake has a charm due to his clumsy nature as a man in his 30s managing to just scrape his way out of every encounter, relying more on luck than judgement. Sully is a moustachioed, gruff, older man who prefers cigars to hard work. In this adaptation, Nathan Drake is a Tom-Holland-type character and Sully is a Mark-Wahlberg-type character. These pair portray the characters in name alone.
There are glimpses of fun on Drake’s adventure but it is hard to sustain when the core duo are so devoid of character. The last set-piece, in particular, is a rather grand spectacle, but it lacks the third act twist of the games which often unveil a supernatural element. This instead feels more like something out of a latter-day Fast and Furious outing. For fans there are a few easter eggs including (VERY MINOR SPOILERS) a glimpse at a Naughty Dog sticker and a cameo from Nathan Drake voice actor Nolan North.
Uncharted does little for fans of the series, nor much for newcomers. It didn’t even make this reviewer want to rush back to the games, a crime in itself. Ironically, Uncharted feels like a Sunday morning stroll down a well-trodden path.