Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Written by Alexander Reams
Video game movies are constantly the butt of jokes in Hollywood. In the past, most of them have gone after IPs that don’t have enough to fill a feature runtime anyways (“Super Mario Bros.”, “Street Fighter”, “Resident Evil”, for example). Properties that didn’t have enough substance to warrant a film, but did warrant another entry in the franchise in the video game medium. Since 2016, when audiences got a double dose of video game movies in the form of the underrated “Warcraft” and the lackluster “Assassins Creed”. There has been a resurgence in demand and popularity with these films, and while the lack of substance was the issue before, now the pendulum has swung the other direction and there is simply too much content in video games to warrant a film adaptation. Why? Because while it would be possibly fruitful to adapt a popular video game, a standard campaign can run for over 30 hours, or if you’re “The Witcher 3” you go for the 50+ hours of campaign content, there is just too much to cram into a 2-hour film, even if you want to cover the game over a series of films then studios are backed into a corner and either leave the story incomplete, or waste money on a franchise that isn’t turning a profit, and we all know which option they’ll choose.
Perhaps the best bet was the one that took the longest, Sony’s “Uncharted” franchise has elements of classic cinema, most notably swashbuckling action, a gruff hero, and going all over the globe with the adventure. In short, Nathan Drake (originally voiced by Nolan North, now played by a Tom Holland that can apparently buy alcohol… seems suspicious) is the modern-day Indiana Jones. This modern-day Indy has been long awaiting a film adaptation, and while taking any of the games and making a movie out of them would be so expensive that no amount of invisible PS5s that Sony sells would even begin to make it worth it to make, so it made sense that they made the “creative” decision to make the film a prequel. Have no fear, despite the prequel-ness and the limited ($120 million, a lot, but still limited when you look at similar films of the genre) budget, there is still a glimmer of the spirit that made the “Uncharted” games an iconic part of video game history.
Emphasis on “a glimmer”. That has been the motto of Director Ruben Fleischer’s career since his surprise hit “Zombieland” back in 2009. Bouncing around with minor hits here and there until the massive shock that was “Venom” which showed his value as a director and his capability for handling bigger productions. This led to his hiring by Sony to helm their long-awaited adaptation of their “Uncharted” franchise. As a fan of Fleischer’s work, I was admittedly excited to see his take on a franchise I have long loved, throughout the film though, there was this sense that something was off, and until the credits rolled and his name popped up on the screen; Mark Wahlberg. I enjoy a lot of Wahlberg’s work, and he does a serviceable job here but writers Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway failed in their attempt to adapt Nathan Drake’s gold-loving partner Victor “Sully” Sullivan. Reducing him to the jokey caricature that continually took away from the movie.
And the apple doesn’t fall far from the father-figure tree, Tom Holland as Nathan Drake, even a young Nathan Drake, is questionable casting, to say the least. His demeanor is very much like the other iconic character Holland is known for, Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Now that works well, some would say very well, in the MCU, but in a role that is supposed to have a level of grit to it and Holland is sorely lacking that. This never needed to be balls to the wall bloody splatter-fest, but it also shouldn’t have been a plastic caricature of a franchise that is etched into society for its iconic action, characters that are truly unforgettable, and stories that remind us of old school adventure stories.
Fleischer asks very little of the audience. Only to suspend belief on a level that makes “Fast & Furious” look like a documentary. This woefully continues into a third act that can only be described as a “CGI cut scene”, that is populated by unnecessary and boring secondary villains, Jo Braddock (portrayed by Tati Gabrielle) who is only there to look annoyed or menacing, Steven Waddington, who is credited as, and only personality trait is The Scotsman. When setting out to make a video game movie, maybe doing the thrift store version of the game isn’t the smartest idea, even if the action is surprisingly well done, and there are brief, but cool moments to feast your eyes on. Expecting the film to be on the same level as the video game is just unrealistic, but a decent attempt would be nice.
“Uncharted” is in wide theatrical release.