A film hamstrung by both fan expectation and the difference between the interactivity of the game series and this film, Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg and Antonio Banderas can’t save this predictably generic action-adventure film from mediocrity.
This film’s been in a bit of development hell for a while now. Since it was rumoured to be in development in 2008 and then confirmed in 2009, there had been a seemingly revolving door of actors, writers and directors until production started around 2020.
The announcement of Tom Holland as Nathan Drake and Mark Wahlberg as Victor Sullivan drew some ire from fans on the departure from the established look of the characters from the video games. Wahlberg himself was even teed up to be Nathan Drake at one point, which makes me imagine what versions of the film alternate timelines would have gotten.
This timeline’s film follows Nathan Drake as he joins treasure hunter Victor Sullivan and Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali) as they search for the long-lost treasure once belonging to the crew helmed by Ferdinand Magellan.
However, like many adventure films, they’re not the only ones looking for the treasure. The latest of the Moncada line, Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) is looking to restore his family fortune and he’s got mercenaries led by Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) to help him find it.
If you’ve read that last paragraph and eye-rolled so hard you could stand-in for a slot machine, then you’re pretty much in the same position I was in the cinema watching this. The plot continues its groundbreaking tradition of adhering to established film tropes by having the three protagonists team up to solve back-of-the-cereal-box puzzles to reach the treasure.
Except uh-oh spaghetti o, surprising no one it turns out the treasure isn’t actually in the place they first thought it was and surprising no one again, Chloe ends up betraying Nate and Sully to help Moncada.
From that point onwards, the film seems to devolve into action set pieces ripped straight from the games and other adventure films with not a whole lot of plot connecting them despite coincidence and happenstance.
There’s nothing too exciting or innovative the film has to offer besides the flying pirate ships at the end as the final setpiece but at this point, the film had lulled me into a bit of a trance.
Even the parts of the film that were meant to be surprising or unexpected felt like a ploy to get some reaction out of the audience. A prominent example of this is the murder of Moncada by Braddock. It’s not a good surprise because it didn’t make sense for Braddock’s character and kills off one of the film’s more potentially interesting characters for cheap shock tactics.
So, the plot strikes out, let’s see how the world does. Having this set in the real world and being an adventure film, we do get to see some stunning vistas during the film. From New York to Barcelona and a local Papa John’s the film makes the most of their cinematography and I enjoyed the settings in this film. Nothing much else to discuss on that front, so let’s move on to the characters.
A lot of people seemed to take issue with Mark Wahlberg as a younger Victor Sullivan. I enjoyed watching him in this film and didn’t mind him. It’s not a compliment you’re going to see on the Blu-ray cover, but he does the job.
I had much more of a problem with Tom Holland as Nathan Drake. I just couldn’t disassociate him from Spiderman and Peter Parker, and he didn’t sell me that he was a younger version of this character that I’d spent so much time with over four games.
The other characters are fine, Sophie Ali does an alright job as Chloe, but the film literally sends her off on a wild goose chase so it’s just Nathan and Victor all alone for the final act. The thing is, that relationship between the two just isn’t there. They do the typical main characters fight before the third act thing because Victor lied to Nathan about what happened to his brother Sam, but I didn’t care about them.
On the subject of Sam, what’s the point of him being in the film besides giving Nathan his signature ring, helping him figure out where the treasure is and setting up a sequel? It makes him seem more like a goal than a character, something just to get Nathan to the final act. Take him out and give Nathan a better motivation and I’d enjoy this movie so much more.
Action scenes are at the heart of the Uncharted game series and on that front, this film does alright. The action’s certainly not bad – the fight between Sully and Braddock was one point in the film I really did enjoy even though it had a bunch of unnecessary cuts.
However, as Drew Lewis from Couch Soup mentioned in his article when the second film trailer was released online, they’re enjoyable action set pieces but we’ve seen it all already in the games.
That’s the sort of underlying problem with this film in my opinion. We’ve seen these characters in similar scenarios four times already, the action and the plot are just so more interesting and engaging for me playing those games.
Do you know why?
Because I was playing the game, I was interacting directly with the characters and my choices affected the game. I was Nathan Drake swinging from vines and firing guns and discovering amazing treasures. I wasn’t a little man in the sky watching all that stuff happen like I am with this film.
That disassociation between the games and this film is just from the movie industry not understanding the fundamental difference in how audiences interact with the different mediums. It’s not just this film, it’s a problem with all video game films.
Overall, I enjoyed this film more than Tomb Raider (2018) which is pretty much thanks to the goodwill I’ve had from playing the game series, not from the film itself. Do yourself a favour and just watch the Uncharted fan film a couple of times and you’ll save yourself some time and get better performances.
(c) Allan Ungar (2018). Provided via Youtube.
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