The Uncharted movie in many ways reminds me of last year’s Disney movie ‘Jungle cruise’. A decent homage to the classic Indiana Jones-style adventure flicks with well-done action scenes and stock one-liners. It’s a good popcorn movie for when you don’t want to think too hard and just enjoy the spectacle.
The problem stems from when you start to remember that this is an adaption of a beloved Playstation video game franchise that, while also indulging in the tropes of the adventure genre, also surpassed them to offer something more. The Uncharted movie is ultimately harmless but really doesn’t capture what makes the games special.
The Golden Abyss
Uncharted stars Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) a bartender dreaming of traveling the world and looking for adventure, maybe even finding his long-lost brother Sam. He eventually meets thief and treasure hunter Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan (Mark Whalberg) and convinces him to join him on a job searching for the lost treasure of the Magellan expedition.
The film follows very tried and true beats for an Indiana Jones-style adventure movie. It starts with a quick action scene before flashing back to Drake’s mellow dramatic childhood. He’s an orphan, his older brother left him and disappeared, then it jumps to the modern-day for different rounds of fighting, chasing and more talks about dreams and trust to hammer in the message.
On the surface, it does have the general marks on an Uncharted game. globe-trotting, hidden passageways in old monasteries, and about 3 different factions trying to backstab each other for the buried treasure but it feels like it’s going through the motions, following the steps of movies like Indiana Jones without really doing anything truly remarkable.
I do however like that the movie is very well-paced. It smoothly gets from scene to scene in a predictable but efficient manner, never dragging out longer than it has to and always keeping your attention. This alone made the film a fun watch as nothing ever felt dragged out and it moved between dialogue-heavy scenes and hard action scenes pretty seamlessly.
Tom Holland and Mark Whalberg are both great actors, and I truly believe they did their best with the material they were given. The problem is that when watching the movie, you don’t see Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan, you just see Tom Holland and Mark Walhberg.
Between this and films like 2021’s ‘Cherry’, Tom Holland seems to be really trying to diversify and play more adult characters, likely to prove that he can do more than play Spiderman. It’s an admiral effort but he still feels miscast as Nathan Drake. Nate in this movie is implied to be in his early twenties at least but Holland’s Drake still feels like a teenager trying to act like an adult. He lacks the sly confidence of the game Drake in favor of being more naive and idealist.
There’s a scene right at the beginning of the movie where he knocks a guy off a plane and awkwardly shouts out “oh, sorry!”, which feels like something that would come straight out of Peter Parker. And I like Holland’s Peter Parker, but he’s not Nathan Drake.
Mark Whalberg’s Sully doesn’t fare much better. Not only does he lacks the imagery of the character without the mustache and Hawaiian shirt but doesn’t really have the overall personality of Sully. He’s just kind of your typical slightly shady mentor figure that you could find in any movie.
Sully and Nate’s relationship also isn’t really developed. The two spend most of the time exchanging cheesy quips at each other and eventually learn a lesson about trust however it lacks that deeper bond of their game counterparts. The father and son dynamic that underpins their game relation, the knowledge that these two would travel the ends of the Earth for each other even if they’d never say it, that’s just not here. As a result, they just feel like generic adventure movie protagonists.
The other character all do a good job with what they’re given but likewise, the writing just has them filling out their respective roles. Sophia Ali does well as the love interest Chloe Frazer, and Tati Gabrielle does fine as the villain, but that’s really all they are, the love interest and the villain. They’re well-acted and even have some funny moments but you’re not going to see them as anything more than that.
And if you’re here for Antonio Banderas, don’t, he’s barely in the movie.
The Fight for Fortune
One thing I can say in Uncharted’s favor is that the actions scenes were great.
The fights have good choreography as well as variety. We go from hand-to-hand combat in a restaurant, trying to steal from a high-tech auction to some very satisfying chase scenes. The movie does a good job making each scene feel unique from the last and creates a sense of excitement you’d want out of an adventure movie.
I also enjoyed the use of the sets. The fight across the cargo hanging off the plane was a delightfully dynamic recreation of the Uncharted 3 chapter. The wholly original fight during the climax with two ships flying over the ocean suspended on Hellacopters was likewise pure spectacle at its best. Larger life action scenes incorporating ancient relics and modern-day tech. I’d love to play this scene in an actual Uncharted game and it was fun watching it play out in the movie.
The only problem I have with the fights is for a game where you spend at least 50 percent of your time shooting mooks in the face, Drake never actually fires a gun. They let him have a few PG kills like knocking guys out of planes and he even holds a gun at one point but he never shoots anyone with it. Sony really didn’t want to take any risks with this movie.
A Thief’s End
The best way I can describe this movie is that it’s a very Disney-fied version of Uncharted. Big-name actors, big special effects to bring in general audiences but held back by a strict need to be as safe and inoffensive as possible.
Our two leads are well-acted but they lack the charm and character of their game counterparts. Honestly, if you removed all the Uncharted references and instead called it “Spiderman and Marky-Mark’s Bizzare Adventure” not much would change. It would still be an entertaining but unremarkable, by-the-numbers adventure movie. The fact that it is called Uncharted however just reminds you of the story it could be.
The Uncharted Movie is a good little popcorn film, but it fails to make the jump to greater heights.
|The movie is well-paced and keeps you entertained||The plot is unremarkable and takes no risks|
|Action scenes are dynamic and make good use of the sets||The two leads don’t feel like the characters they’re supposed to be|