Uncharted is an exciting adventure film that departs slightly from the computer games but stays true to its essence, visual style, and themes.
Though I never would have cast Tom Holland playing Nathan Drake, in his younger incarnation as the treasure hunter we’ve developed a fondness for in Naughty Dog’s PlayStation exclusives, Holland does a fine job.
The film adaptation deviates significantly from the videogames, but it borrows in all the right places.
The plane, the sunken pirates ship, the Catholic orphanage, Nathan’s long-lost brother Sam, and the mystery behind Sam’s disappearance are all back, along with the rest of the beloved cast.
So, That’s Really Good, Huh?
In spite of the fact that Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal of Victor “Sully” Sullivan deviates significantly from the computer game version, I found myself genuinely enjoying his turn in the film.
Wahlberg and Holland are a good double act, resembling a “young Drake” and “young Sully,” respectively. It’s more about the “spirit of the games” than the outfit this time.
Neither Holland nor Wahlberg have the physical characteristics that would make them good choices for their roles, but they manage to bring Nathan Drake and Sully to life.
This isn’t about how they’ve been pals for decades like in the games; it’s about how they became partners.
Several members of the cast also made an impression on me. Both Tati Gabrielle as Jo Braddock and Sophia Ali comme Chloe Frazer are strong selections for their roles, but Braddock never develops into more than a yet another monster.
The rest of the film fits comfortably within the same “huge cinematic action-adventure-treasure-heist” genre as the Uncharted video games. The plot isn’t very remarkable, but it does its job and is enjoyable enough. Double-dealing, nonstop action, and hilarious moments are plentiful in this story.
The film excels, in my opinion, in capturing the adventurous spirit of the Uncharted video game series, which is recognised for its emphasis on solving puzzles and exploring ancient tombs. This is a spot-on depiction of the various ludicrous puzzles we face in the games.
What that kind of pirate hides their loot and then sets up elaborate puzzles and booby traps so that only the map can be found? It’s ridiculous, but in an entertaining way, like the games themselves, which are based on Indiana Jones and The Goonies and other adventure stories that I really enjoy.
Uncharted is the first installment in what I hope will become a new movie franchise, although I’m not sure I’d put it in the same league as Indiana Jones or The Goonies.
The film seems to have been designed with a sequels in mind, and I’m able to easily see it maturing into its own. Any credible critic also needs to keep in mind that the high regard in which we hold cinematic classics is largely supported by sentimentality.
Holland’s Uncharted could become a childhood classic for a future generation, much like The Last Crusade is for me (though it’s hard to top Harrison Ford and Sean Connery as Indiana and his father).
It’s not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination; there were a few times when I felt like the CGI was overused, and the villains were laughably awful at what they were supposed to do.
Furthermore, it outperformed the games in two ways: There was less soaring and firing. In another essay, I hope to elaborate on this further.
There’s No Way The Naysayers Could Be Right
I notice that I am in that minority among critics on this one, but I am in the vast majority of audience members. This, too, is a considerable discrepancy.
Although 90% of audiences found Uncharted enjoyable, just 40% of reviews gave it a passing rating. CinemaScore gave the film a “B+,” which isn’t as great as a “A,” but is still much better than the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes rating would have us believe.
For example, the action-disaster picture Moonfall garnered a 38% critic rating on RT, a 70% audience score, and a C+ Movie Score (which polls viewers directly as they exit theatres).
Although audiences are often more enthusiastic than critics, they are not as pleased with that particular movie as they were with Uncharted. Still, it has received nearly the same critical response as Uncharted.
Truth be told, there isn’t much to report on in terms of the reasoning behind the negative reception this picture has received from critics.
They thought it was boring or uninteresting. Fans of something like the game that reviewed it were disappointed, and that’s fair. But, adapting a video game is incredibly difficult, and I believe this adaptation stays truer to the subject matter than others. Some have referred to it as a “Indiana Jones rip-off,” which, well, that’s the purpose.
Yet, the Pedro Pascal-led thriller won’t have quite as many jokes or shenanigans. Occasionally, the lights will go out in Uncharted, yet The Last of Us remains constantly in the dark.