It’s not an easy task when filmmakers set to recreate a story from an existing medium or source material. We have seen our fair share of highs and lows when it comes to adaptations of storylines from books, games, anime, comics, and even musicals. It’s harder when the existing source material is already as good as it is and all the more when it has a huge fan base and following. One of the harder mediums for recreation into a live-action film due to the critical perceptions of fans is that of video games. It doesn’t happen that quite often that a live adaptation film of a video has been given the justice that would leave fans satisfied with. The most recent contender which hopes to change all that comes from Naughty Dog and Sony with the live-action film version of the popular Playstation game, Uncharted.
Uncharted as mentioned is based on the Playstation video game franchise. In totality, there are four games under the main Nathan Drake story arc: Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves, Drake’s Deception, and A Thief’s End. There is also a prequel entitled Golden Abyss and a card game entitled Fight for Fortune on the Playstation Vita, and a standalone spin-off entitled The Lost Legacy. The game series has been remastered several times as it was first released on the PS3 and then eventually made its way to the PS4 and now the PS5 as well. The success of the games has birthed a huge following from gamers due to its exceptional storytelling, immersive gameplay, and outstanding graphics.
The film has spared no room for sub-par excellence either, with Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) on the director’s chair and big stars such as Tom Holland as the main character Nathan Drake, Mark Wahlberg as Victor “Sully” Sullivan, together with Sophia Ali, Tati Gabriel, and Antonio Banderas. The film follows the central plot of the games with the thief and treasure hunter Nathan as he solves puzzles and unearths clues to various treasures that are centered on a historical truth that has been clearly fictionalized. Furthermore, the film is set to tackle the origin story of Nathan Drake and is therefore loosely based on some of the storylines from the last installment, A Thief’s End.
Now, I personally don’t consider myself to be a gamer. I dabble from time to time with familiar titles on my Playstation but I rarely explore with the unfamiliar. I stumbled on Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End by chance and I was immediately hooked and blown away by it. I was so engrossed by the story and gameplay that I had to play the entire game franchise. When I learned about the film version, it was the very first time that I felt some reservations about its release. I was still excited don’t get me wrong but I also had high hopes for the film. I, therefore, decided to place all my reservations aside in order to give this film a fighting chance.
Uncharted Review Spoiler Warnings
This review will be spoiler-free for the most part but will however tackle some of the disparities that it has with the games to level expectations for those who are aiming to watch it still. I will also discuss the overall atmosphere that this movie delivers alongside some of the casting choices and overall direction in the story.
Film vs. Game Comparison
One of the first things that you must know heading into Uncharted is the overall direction of the story in relation to the video games. The film features an entirely unique plot based on a very different but relatable historical event that has again been fictionalized for the purposes of this movie. Relatable? Yes! You read that word right, the plot of the Uncharted story hits a little close to home for us Filipinos because the treasure hunt centers on Magellan’s expedition. It’s all the more exciting when the film creates several references to the Philippines which in all honesty helps in boosting that Pinoy pride. The point is however that this isn’t a typical Nathan Drake story — at least nothing that has ever been done into a game version. Uncharted therefore isn’t a direct play-by-play of an existing storyline. It actually creates a very new and different one — an origin story if you will. Understanding this is actually very important as to not expect an existing characterization or story that the game already gives us and which in all honesty explains the casting choices (more on this later).
Comparisons with the film and game however cannot be helped. It’s but natural to pin-point the differences and have some expectations which sadly in some instances and aspects were not entirely met. The grandeur that the game provides was simultaneously over the top at times and underwhelming at the same time in this film. There were instances that some scenes delivered on the excitement and thrills that fans of the game have come to know but at times they were also bordering on the insane and therefore was a bad bit too much. There were however scenes that also under-delivered with the spectacle of grand set pieces and the beauty of natural landscapes that the game franchise has often been known for. It was very limited in all honesty as a whole but again it could point to the fact that this is still an entirely different story altogether.
This is where the film could have gotten away with it in terms of being a bit more restrained. It could pass the excuse that this is one an origins story type of film and secondly that it is an entirely different storyline. One of the things I couldn’t wrap my head on however was the lack of stunts and action. Uncharted is known for being a shooter game and the film totally missed out on the opportunity to showcase this. Add the fact that the Nathan Drake parkour stunts were also lacking from this adaptation which has caused it to divert from the unique atmosphere that the Uncharted games have already provided. These missing elements in my opinion, as someone who has played the game, are crucial to the DNA of Uncharted and that of Nathan Drake.
True to the Game Characters?
One of the hesitations that fans had with this film came in the form of casting choices. Fans of the games had a specific person in mind to play Nathan Drake which was actor Nathan Fillion. This was due to the resemblances that the actor has with the physique, age, and facial features of the character. Therefore when a younger actor was cast in the form of Tom Holland, fans took to social media platforms to voice their disdain for the choices made. To a certain degree I have to agree but not because Holland wasn’t a fit for the character because he honestly did a pretty okay job with the role. I found it to be again a play to the origin story’s angle and therefore the film could still get away with an actor who can embody youthfulness and inexperience. I also believe that this was a decision still to engage fans of the actor and entice a younger audience for the sake of profit. Holland was again able to perform pretty decently in this movie given the context of the story.
One of the areas of concern that I have however with the acting of Holland is the similarities with his portrayal in Spider-Man. During some moments in the film, I felt like Holland didn’t entirely step out of his comfort zone and usual style of acting. It felt like a by-the-book performance from the young actor. This is room for concern because I have seen his other works and I understand that he has versatility in his acting styles and can step in and out of humorous roles but it wasn’t seen in this one. There wasn’t anything new that was brought to the table and this poses a concern for Holland as to not fall into such a per-defined box as to who he is as an actor.
One of the highlights in the casting choices however is the pure fun that is brought out from the perfect chemistry between Holland and Wahlberg. The portrayal of Drake and Sully is just fun to witness and is one of the elements in the film that really brings it all together. Without it, the film would just be a bland mess but the interactions between the two actors just make sense. They build on a very unique and somewhat weird to pin-point relationship. They fall in and out of being a mentor-mentee relationship but ultimately was brings it all together is the perfectly-timed humor. It’s not really a serious type of relationship that is focused between Holland and Wahlberg but it’s a focal point that spices up the film and makes it a bit more engaging and entertaining to witness.
A Forced Mixture Of Different Influences
Sad to say, Uncharted is somewhat a confusing film altogether. It’s an unnecessary blend of different films that in turn create a very confused and forced direction. Uncharted tried to squeeze elements of blockbuster film franchises such as Indiana Jone, National Treasure, Fast and the Furious, and even Pirates of the Caribbean. It, therefore, lacks a solid identity of its own. Whether or not it was intentional for the film’s producers to create the film in this manner, it suffered immensely from diverting away from the opportunity to create a uniquely Uncharted type of film.
These film influences in turn also caused the movie to deliver a somewhat underwhelming story. It was admittedly nice to see the integration of the Magellan story and to witness a plot that was far from the games. However, the direction was too straightforward and a tad bit on the bland side. It didn’t really deliver anything new to the table as an adventure and treasure hunt films are concerned. The so-called twists in the film were very predictable and didn’t deliver any awe-striking moments.
Uncharted Review Final Verdict
Uncharted as a whole is a victim to the whole “the source material is better” debacle. It’s a film that doesn’t try to replicate the games which have yielded both positive and negative results. It boasts a unique story and characterization of Drake that has its high moments. The chemistry between Wahlberg and Holland is what ties the film together. Despite being confusing at times in its direction, Uncharted is still a decent watch once you look past the differences from the game and some of the predictability that it offers. We give Uncharted a score of 6 on our Hype Meter because despite the flaws it still has enough promise.
Despite an okay start for the franchise, the future for Uncharted still looks bright, and here’s hoping for a better direction and story in its future installments.
For more movie reviews:
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- The King’s Man Review: A Unique Installment With Historical Roots
- Death on the Nile Review: A Worthy Sequel?
- The Batman Spoiler-Free Review: Stepping Out Of The Typical Superhero Tropes
- West Side Story Review: How Can It Get Any Better?