There are some cool set pieces, especially the expeditions they go on searching for lost treasure, which remind me of the Uncharted games. Tom Holland does his best as well, but ultimately, none of these performances do the characters justice, and the story doesn’t feel like it’s honoring the game series due to poor writing.
Let’s get right to it, shall we? Personally, the Uncharted video game series is one of the greatest in the action-adventure genre. Naughty Dog is known for consistently delivering quality gaming experiences, and the Uncharted series is widely considered some of its best work. The entries that stand out the most are Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and it’s mostly because of the narratives and stories these games tell. I’m one of the few who is hopeful about video game film and television adaptations since I do feel, in the last couple of years, they have been getting better, and there are some potentially fantastic projects in the works if they’re done correctly. Unfortunately, the Uncharted film isn’t one of those. I’m not saying it’s terrible. In fact, in some cases, it’s quite watchable, especially for the casual audience who has no prior knowledge of the actual games it’s based on. But, as a fan who has played all the games, it does very little to honor it.
I think the film’s biggest problem is how it uses the Uncharted name to get the fans of the series to come watch it, but doesn’t really use anything else to show the fans it’s a proper Uncharted adaptation. As far as I’m concerned, it’s another generic treasure hunting adventure that borrows your typical tropes from movies, and even games, that have already done it better, such as the Indiana Jones series, the Tomb Raider series, and so on. I won’t say there aren’t some scenes and moments that do feel a bit like the series, but for the majority of the film, I felt I was watching something entirely new, not the Uncharted I love and was hoping to experience.
The most glaring issue is the writing. Most of the dialogue is borderline uninteresting and the attempts at humor or comedic relief almost never land. I had some chuckles here and there, but most of it is dead on arrival. These characters are almost nothing like the main characters in the series, those being Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan, better known as Sully. I’m not saying both Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg aren’t charismatic or talented. There are many examples proving otherwise. However, it isn’t reaching to say they were terribly miscast in these roles. For the most part, it seems Holland is trying his best not to be Peter Parker and is taking the role far too seriously. The reality is, Nate never takes himself seriously and is incredibly sarcastic and reckless in mostly everything he does. This iteration of Nate gives off completely different vibes and is a character I never really recognized. At times, it almost feels Nate is doing certain things out of obligation or it being a chore rather than truly wanting to do what he loves. In the games, his love for finding treasure, discovering new secrets, and solving puzzles is very obvious. You can feel the fun he’s having and the literal excitement when he’s traversing all of these uncharted territories (no pun intended). The film doesn’t always do this. Holland’s action and parkour scenes as Nate are fun to look at, but the character himself was rarely any fun or memorable. Again, this isn’t all entirely his fault either. At the end of the day, he can only do so much with what he’s given, and it’s obvious he wasn’t given anything of quality to work with.
My biggest critique of Wahlberg throughout his career is he’s usually playing the same one-note character. He does have some standout roles throughout his tenure, but most of them are far and in-between. His portrayal of Sully is yet another example which only solidifies my claim. In the games, Sully is also charismatic and a bit reckless at times, but he’s also incredibly loyal and sort of plays the role of a father figure to Nate. In the film, however, he comes off as overwhelmingly obnoxious and selfish, and I never thought of Sully that way. I mean, sure, he’s a thief, and I’m more than positive he’s double-crossed plenty of people he’s crossed paths with, but I don’t recall him ever being like this with Nate. This isn’t the Sully I grew to love interacting with in the games, and once again, I don’t think it’s entirely Wahlberg’s fault either. Ultimately, the two main characters are simply not the ones I was hoping for and the writers got them both entirely wrong. It seems these writers never played the games, if I’m being honest.
The only character the film seems to get somewhat right is Chloe Frazer, played by Sophia Ali. Her introduction in the game feels similar to her introduction in the movie, which is someone you can’t really trust, but also a person with a particular set of skills you can use. As for every other character, I didn’t really care for them. Nate’s brother, Sam, who’s barely in the movie to begin with, doesn’t get much screen time. I’m more than sure there will be a bigger emphasis on his character in a sequel, but I’m not all too excited about it. It’s a bit weird how they introduced him so early on, considering there are plans to make multiple films. If you look at the games, although his existence is alluded to, Sam doesn’t appear until the very last game in the series. I don’t have a huge problem with how they decided to structure the story, but it’s more with how it’s done. Tati Gabrielle as Jo Braddock is your stereotypical antagonist who doesn’t feel special or even menacing, for that matter. Antonio Banderas is completely wasted, at the end of the day. Yeah, you won’t remember any of these characters 30 minutes after watching this movie.
The film did get some of the expeditions right, and I found myself enjoying these portions of the film the most. I guess because it’s the only parts I found familiar in comparison with the games. Even then, with all the big-scale action sequences and adventuring also came some wonky CGI. There were some scenes where the special effects were laughably mediocre. I’m still hopeful a sequel will capitalize on this, while literally revamping everything else from the ground up. It needs a new director and some new screenwriters, for example. Ruben Fleischer has done good work with both Zombieland films, but everything else has mostly been forgettable misfires. I enjoy Venom for what it is, especially the character itself, but it’s a lower tier comic book film. I don’t think Fleischer was the right man for the job with Uncharted. I would’ve much preferred the original man attached to this project, Travis Knight, who has proven he can craft a creatively interesting movie with likable characters. If Uncharted sequels are to succeed, it desperately needs some new faces behind the scenes. Similarly to how Neil Druckmann is involved in the HBO series adaptation of The Last of Us, why couldn’t he be involved with this film? I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I long for an Uncharted film to be more than average, especially when you consider the phenomenal stories the games tell.
It can be fun for the casual viewer who doesn’t care much for well-written characters and plot developments. But, for the Uncharted fan who’s played the games extensively, I think you’ll agree with me when I say the film rarely feels like the games we’ve played throughout the years. I still think Holland can grow into this role if he’s given the right material, and the same can be said about Wahlberg. I hate to be negative, but I don’t think it’ll happen. The movie has already been a surprise success at the box office and will probably make even more money, meaning the studio doesn’t care about how we feel about the movies, as long as it’s bringing in the paper. Again, to reiterate, I didn’t find it terrible or completely unwatchable, I’m just disappointed since it could’ve been so much more. I guess I’ll have to stick to the fan-made Uncharted film with Nathan Fillion, which is fantastic.