“Uncharted” was directed by Ruben Fleischer and is based on the immensely popular video game franchise by the same name. It stars Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg as young versions of Nathan Drake and Sully, respectively.
This film is exactly what I expected it to be. It’s a generic, forgettable studio movie intended to kickstart a franchise from a known property. When judged on its own merits as a movie and not as an adaptation, “Uncharted” is fine. It’s disposable entertainment that’s just another blu-ray to be added to the $5 bin at Walmart.
Normally I could accept that in other movies. For example, 2019’s “Hobbs and Shaw” was incredibly unoriginal but it was exceedingly exciting due to a terrific cast and fun setpieces. However, I can’t give that pass to “Uncharted.” I’m a huge fan of the games and Nathan Drake is one of my favorite video game characters of all time. Therefore, when Sony cast Tom Holland in the role, I instantly knew that this film wasn’t made for the fans. There is no love for the franchise from the filmmakers or actors, and the only aspects of the film successfully adapted from the game were setpieces, vistas, and certain clothing items.
What made the games so special even more than the cinematic value was its protagonist. Drake is such an inherently likeable character. He’s funny, witty, passionate about what he does, unpretentious, dedicated, scruffy, inelegant, and just an overall nice guy. He’s also in his thirties. Contrast this with Tom Holland, a 25-year-old who looks 19 that doesn’t at all sell what makes Drake such a likeable presence. To be fair, it’s a nearly impossible job, as Nolan North is so strictly tied to the character that it’s like having someone other than Harrison Ford play Han Solo. In both cases, it doesn’t work. Plus, a young Nathan Drake is far less interesting. He’s a lot more compelling as an experienced adventurer who’s been on a ton of exciting adventures, some of which we probably don’t even know about. Basically, casting Spider-Man to play Nathan Drake is like casting the Terminator as Mr. Freeze.
Speaking of poor casting, there’s Mark Wahlberg as Sully. Admittedly, Wahlberg is better in his role than Tom Holland, but he’s still almost nothing like the Sully from the games. The most obvious difference is the age; Sully should be an old man. This film’s version of Sully is using “kid” to refer to Drake in every other sentence as if he’s Clint Eastwood from “Gran Torino,” when Wahlberg wasn’t even 50 when they were filming. The wise old mentor has to be noticeably older than the apprentice. Then there’s Sophia Ali as Chloe Frazer, who was nothing like her character as well. She didn’t have the catwoman-esque sensuality, charisma, cunning, or suaveness of Chloe from the games. She was just playing “adventure person.”
There’s also a sort of Spielbergian optimist charm in the Uncharted games which was missing from the film. The movie is so corporate and soulless that it never allows for fans to get the same feeling on the big screen. Overall, as an adaptation to the games, it couldn’t get any more passionless than this.
To give the film an objective review outside of my gripes as a fan of the games, it does have some qualities — both good and bad — which stand out. One of the good aspects was the phenomenal, epic action sequence at the end which was surprisingly memorable. The movie also has good pacing due to it being about 2 hours long rather than 2-and-a-half hours like most other blockbusters today. The actors also seem to be having fun for the most part and there’s clear chemistry between Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg.
The worst part of this film on an objective level was easily the villain. The movie markets Antonio Banderas as being the intimidating antagonist, but the villain is actually Sully’s ex-girlfriend Braddock. Ugh.
Not only did the actress for Braddock have as much charisma and acting chops as a light switch, but the writing for her was horrific as well. [Spoiler Warning]: Basically, she murders her wealthy boss (played by Antonio Banderas) just because he gave her a demotion for failing at her mission, and then somehow is accepted as the new leader of the villain group. It’s never explained why no one is mad at her or how she’s somehow able to take over all the operations seamlessly. It just happens.
Overall, “Uncharted” needs to be judged in two separate ways: as a film and as an adaptation. As a film, it’s forgettable, inoffensive entertainment that some people might enjoy. But as an adaptation, “Uncharted” doesn’t even try to be faithful. It’s such a lazy, bland film. If you’re looking for a way to entertain yourself for 2 hours and you don’t care about the games, then by all means see the film. But if you’re not like that, “Uncharted” isn’t worth your time or money.
Grade as a Film: C+ | Grade as a Video Game Adaptation: D-