Sunday, May 26, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Uncharted’ Never Lives Up To Its Videogame Counterpart

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Writers: Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway

Stars: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, and Antonio Banderas 

Synopsis: Street-smart Nathan Drake is recruited by seasoned treasure hunter, Victor “Sully” Sullivan, to recover a fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan, and lost 500 years ago by the House of Moncada.

The genre of video game movie adaptations has always carried a negative connotation. We have witnessed this trend growing within the past decade, and it feels like the number of films based on video games is increasing by the year (for better or for worse). As an avid gamer, I have seen multiple video game properties succeed in the hands of Hollywood such as Sonic The Hedgehog, Detective Pikachu, and Pokemon The First Movie. Unfortunately, there are around 40 video game properties that have recently failed in the eyes of video game fans. These would include Mortal Kombat (2021), Monster Hunter (2020), and Tomb Raider. However, the disappointment doesn’t stop there. I will be adding Uncharted (2022) to the pile of unsatisfying video game movie adaptations. 

For those who aren’t aware, the Uncharted video game franchise is a marvel in video game storytelling. Naughty Dog (the studio behind the Uncharted franchise) has carefully built this wondrous world to give its audience a sense of adventure, much like Lucas Film has succeeded with the Indiana Jones franchise. The Uncharted series is oozing with phenomenal character development, plots, historical figures, and exotic locations. But it pains me to say that its film counterpart is bland, flavorless, and doesn’t feel like an Uncharted adventure at all. In a way, it doesn’t feel like the movie that gamers and non-gamers alike deserve. As I mentioned before, Naughty Dog is considered to be one of the best single-player story-driven studios working today. And somehow, Sony Pictures found a way to make this film feel less cinematic in comparison to its video game counterpart.

Let me start by saying that I think this is a perfect family movie that people will enjoy. You do get a sliver of history lessons throughout the journey and some of them are cool facts you can impress your friends with and you’ll leave the theater thinking you can be a bartender just like Tom Holland who plays the main character of Nathan Drake. The action in the film can be very entertaining at times. Much like the video games, you’ll see Nathan Drake (get into a few scuffs that he barely seems to make his way out of and is saved by a random stroke of luck. Nevertheless it felt like the stakes weren’t as urgent as they could have been. Every time Nathan Drake was in one of his traditional brawls it felt like the movie was borrowing quips and one liners from the Spider-Man movie franchise, especially with Tom Holland in a starring role.. It felt more like they wrote dialogue for the wrong franchise instead of researching Nathan Drake’s persona and mannerisms. 

Tom Holland was the star of the show putting his heart and soul into every role he plays, as usual. And I do think he was a great casting choice to start as a young Nathan Drake. We don’t get to see much of young Nathan in the games until the latter half and I think having a story dedicated to a young Nathan is a great idea. The film is not based on the video game franchise, but at times the story of this movie feels more like a collage of greatest action scenes torn from each game. This makes the pacing of the story extremely fast and it never gives the characters time to breathe or develop. Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) and Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali)are extremely miscast. I felt as though there was no chemistry between them and the dialogue interactions were extremely basic. There are emotional beats in this story that could have been taken to new heights but they never reach the level of feeling empathy for the characters. Even though this is a younger version of Victor Sullivan aka Sully, I never once thought that he was the father figure that Nathan is supposed to turn to when things get sticky. Sullivan felt more like a long lost brother to Nathan than his brother Sam Drake did in the film due his mysterious disappearance. Chloe Frazer felt more like a stand in than a character. She’s supposed to be a clever Australian thief for hire but instead she feels more like a forced obstacle. Much like in the games, Chloe loves to play devil’s advocate and you’ll see that side of her in the movie even if it’s not properly executed. It would have been nice to see Elena Fisher instead, who is the main love interest of Nathan in the video game series. 

It doesn’t bring me joy to say this but Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) was a horrible antagonist. I thought he did a great job with what he was given, but his persona of the villain felt short and his motives seemed somewhat justified due to the plot of the story. Unfortunately, he’s barely in the movie and doesn’t serve much purpose other than being the generic obstacle for the protagonist. For the majority of the film, I felt like Tati Gabrielle served as a better villain. She serves as Santiago Moncada’s right hand man in the film but isn’t given much character growth. I wish I could say more about her but her character is as generic as the rest of the Moncada’s crew. As with every villainous crew there’s always a hidden motive to take control of the operation and you’ll see that sequence play out in an abrupt course of action.

Uncharted is another unfortunate stereotype of a lackluster video game movie adaptation. I understand that it can be hard to adapt the pacing of a 9 hour game into a 2 hour movie,  but outside of Tom Holland, no amount of care was given to this film. This franchise would have done well as a series as opposed to a movie. I think the resources of the game were widely available for director Ruben Fleischer to use but it doesn’t seem like the final product mirrored what the video games have done so well. There is a clear cinematic disconnect that wasn’t met to show the audience what Uncharted is all about, a sense for adventure. If this movie has taught me anything it’s that video game movie adaptations will never be a sustainable avenue for Hollywood.


Grade: D+

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