The Uncharted franchise has had tremendous success in video games with its incredible action and characters that can be replicated as a Hollywood film in the vein of Indiana Jones or National Treasure. Sony seems to be banking on that as it brings PlayStation’s beloved series into a feature starring Tom Holland, who’s just riding on the success of Spider-Man as he jumps into another well-known character in pop culture as globe-trotting adventurer Nathan Drake. Joined by Mark Wahlberg as mentor Sully, Uncharted seems to be ripe for another starring vehicle for the young Holland as the film gets introduced to audiences who are either fans of the games or unfamiliar with the source material. So does it live up to expectations as a blockbuster film that matches the games while being entertaining?
Just like the games, the film adaptation centers on our heroes Nathan and Sully as they team up to find the hidden treasure of the Magellan expedition. We get some background on Nathan and his love for history and exploration with his brother Sam. A couple of years later, we find Nathan working at a bar while also using his skills as a thief, which catches the eye of Sully. Having a history with Sam, Sully approaches Nathan with an opportunity to locate the famed treasure while also uncovering the whereabouts of Sam after disappearing all these years. What follows is a grand adventure between these two men as they fight off enemies, making uneasy allies and some puzzle-solving.
What works really well is the casting of our two leads that help transition these iconic characters from the games. Tom’s take on Nathan as he makes the character his own while instilling all the amazing qualities that fans love about the character. Tom comes off as a wise-ass and charismatic in his portrayal of the famed treasure hunter. Wahlberg puts on the act of being a seasoned veteran in the game showing Nathan the ropes while also keeping some things hidden from him to benefit his own needs. The chemistry between them is incredible to see on screen as we see these two bickers off at one another on their quest.
The way that the film is shot is also well-done thanks to director Ruben Fleischer and cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung. The two of them reunite after having worked previously on Zombieland: Double Tap. The great shots of Barcelona and the rich locales of the Philippines are mesmerizing. Even the set pieces reminisce how the games used to be, taking some cues from the first three games of the franchise. However, it does seem like different ideas were thrown into the film as it put in the story, characters, action, and the puzzle-solving elements that were great to play in the game but doesn’t translate as well on screen.
The action sequences were entertaining to watch on screen, but it does remind the audience that these scenarios are impractical and pretty much throws logic out the window. One of the biggest scenes takes place on a plane, a sequence that is very reminiscent of the third Uncharted game. It is very fun to see Nathan clinging to life in the game as a player living through it. When it is shown in a film, you don’t actually get that same feeling. Perhaps it’s because most of it is done on a green screen and some CGI. Even some of the villains aren’t as compelling since we don’t see much of their motivations and much backstabbing that can often feel overused so quickly. It seems like everyone other than Nathan isn’t trustworthy, to begin with, which may be true since there’s no honor among thieves but it can get old too fast when it repeatedly happens.
Uncharted takes the safe route and doesn’t offer anything original that we’ve seen in past movies of this caliber. The film does offer some entertainment value thanks to Tom and Mark’s chemistry even though we don’t get to replicate that same interaction as the games. Most video games do well to mirror a cinematic experience once the player is involved, but as a film, you can easily miss that quality and it can take you out of it. In the end, Uncharted is a film that may not be original, but it’s a good time well spent. It should also open the door for those who aren’t familiar with the games to get an introduction to Nathan Drake and his adventures.
Uncharted releases in theaters on February 18.