Uncharted Review – (Partial) Greatness from Small Beginnings

Uncharted

Full disclaimer, I consider Uncharted one of the best video game franchises ever made. So, my expectations for the movie are that of fear and excitement. Because, as we all know, good video game adaptations are incredibly rare. Not to mention, Uncharted has been in development hell for several years now—back when David O. Russell was going to direct Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake. How does this movie fare to the eyes of this fan with tempered expectations?

Surprisingly, Uncharted was enjoyable. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a big, dumb adventure caper that’s reminiscent of Jon Turteltaub’s National Treasure. As a whole, Uncharted is the kind of escapist entertainment where you grab the popcorn, kick your feet up, and have a blast with it.

Uncharted follows Nathan Drake (Tom Holland), a street-smart thief recruited by treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan to recover Ferdinand Magellan’s lost treasure. To get to the treasure first, they must go against Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), who believes that Magellan’s treasure is his birthright.

As you already know from the trailer, Uncharted was going to be a world-traveling adventure akin to that of Indiana Jones. Yet, like the games it’s based on, it’s more of a detective caper than an homage to Indiana Jones. The script utilizes a series of elaborate puzzle pieces that are generally clever. Although no one with any extensive historical knowledge could ever hope to solve some of these riddles, the film wants us to accept the information and become immersed in all of the globe-trotting mischiefs as a result. Credit goes to Ruben Fleischer, who fuels the film with a constant rush of adrenaline that seldom forgets to deliver a satisfactory payoff. 

Like the character Nathan Drake is based on, Holland’s Drake is a history expert with a taste for adventure. Yet Tom Holland plays this character as a mixture between his depiction of Peter Parker and Han Solo. There are times when he channels his inner Nolan North and has this swagger that we know of Nathan Drake. Then there are times when he speaks or yells, and all you can hear is Tom Holland as Spider-Man. The same can be said of Mark Wahlberg as well. As he speaks, you never think that he’s Victor Sullivan. Instead, you think that’s Mark Wahlberg playing the role of Victor Sullivan. 


Uncharted is still a fun-filled ride that should entertain non-players of the game. Those who have played the game may find it difficult to let go of North and McGonagle. If you have played the previous games, keep this in mind and come in with an open mind.


Let’s make one thing perfectly clear here. No one can reach the level that Nolan North and Richard McGonagle set in the video games. Like Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark or Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf, you cannot see anyone else in those roles but them. Nevertheless, Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg get the most important thing right in their performances: They embody the characters that we have grown to love in the four games that Naughty Dog has released. They may never get lost in the roles, but their body language and personas are Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan.

There’s no better example than the chemistry between Holland and Wahlberg. For one thing, Wahlberg isn’t his usual wooden self in these big tentpole projects (see: Transformers). It’s clear that he had a blast playing a sly con artist with a very hidden heart of gold. At the same time, Holland holds his own as a young and naive Nathan Drake. 

Overall, Uncharted is the kind of video game adaptation that other future adaptations should follow. It doesn’t rehash the events of the past games, and it also doesn’t give us a Hollywood interpretation of the material. As Tony Stark said in Spider-Man: Homecoming, “there’s a little gray area in there, and that’s where you operate.” In a way, that gray area is where Uncharted operates. Be that as it may, the film isn’t perfect. There are glaring issues with the depth of the villains and the overcomplexity of the treasure hunt. However, it’s still a fun-filled ride that should entertain non-players of the game. Those who have played the game may find it difficult to let go of North and McGonagle. If you have played the previous games, keep this in mind and come in with an open mind.

Rating: 3.5/5. atoms

Uncharted hits theaters on February 18th.

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