“Uncharted”: A Bumpy Ride Through Charted Waters


Source: IMBD

Will Teare

Director: Ruben Fleischer 

Starring: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Taylor Ali, with Tati Gabrielle and Antonio Banderas

Release Date: February 18, 2021

Rating: 1.5/5 

After being in development since 2009, being passed by 7 different directors, and following an insurmountable amount of rewrites… Uncharted falls into the hands of Ruben Fleischer. Based on the hit video game franchise of the same name, this story is about Nathan Drake (Tom Holland), a wisecracking history nut/thief with a heart of gold. After being approached by ladies man, semi-professional tomb raider Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), Nate is taken into a swashbuckling adventure across the globe to find the lost treasure of famed adventurer Ferdinand Magellan. 

I love the Uncharted video games. Nathan, Elena, Sully, Chloe, and Sam mean a lot to me. Some of my favorite moments in the Uncharted games are during a cutscene where I put the controller down and watch some incredibly talented voice actors just talk. No shooting or running; just talking. Seeing Nate and Elena talk about who’s turn it is to do the dishes, Nate and Sully shooting wisecracks back and forth while solving a puzzle, Nate and Sam talking about the past, Chloe and Elena meeting each other. These tender, dramatic or funny moments are just as good as when I’m actually playing the game. That makes it so much more painful when I’m watching the film, and there’s an attempt at a conflict between “friends” when there is genuinely so little chemistry. That goes beyond me being an Uncharted fan and becomes an issue on a level of basic storytelling.

Ok, but action, I mean, after all, this is about an action/adventure video game! Not only that but the Uncharted video games have been marketed off the pitch of “Indiana Jones: The Video Game,” so it has to have some great action! To add to that, I was told before and after the film that this movie is “one of those movies where if you turn your brain off for a bit and then you’ll like it” in other words, a “popcorn movie” so we can’t go wrong here, right? Well, apparently, we can.

See, what makes Uncharted (the game) and Indiana Jones great is that Nathan Drake and Indiana Jones are not superheroes; they’re normal history nerds with a knack for getting in way over their heads. More importantly, Nate and Indy take punches as much as they give them. There are always these great big set pieces the two have where I genuinely have no clue how they’re getting out of this one. Of course, they’ll live…but how? That’s what keeps audiences and players engaged time and time again.

Source: Cineworld

In the movie Uncharted, Ruben Fleischer once again disappoints in the action department. Like one of his previous films, Venom, I have absolutely no clue who’s winning. In Venom, it’s two CG black blobs fighting each other with the only backdrop being a pitch-black night sky, and you have absolutely no clue who’s winning. Now we have Tom Holland flipping bottles (he thought bartending was important for Nate’s character?) and hitting people over the head with a shaky-cam and 30 cuts every ten seconds. Action is difficult. It really is. But if you have a Sony-funded 120 million dollar movie with Tom Holland, a talented dancer who would be more than willing to put in the hours, do it, full stop. Crazy stuff happened, but Nate was never in a minute of peril and was simply on top of every situation. No back and forth, no drama, no tension, and therefore, simply no action. 

I’ve been told that this movie is better if you forget it’s an Uncharted adaptation. Forget the fact that Elena isn’t here and that this movie is just horribly miscast. I have tried that. Didn’t take. Bad storytelling and direction are bad no matter how you spin it. The one puzzle they have isn’t fun or interesting. We go from place to place with an absolute zero sense of setting. Marky Mark is continuing to be entirely uninteresting unless it’s Boogie Nights or The Departed. If the “hero is only as good as the villain,” then it’s too bad Antonio Banderas constantly looks genuinely confused on what movie he’s in. That’s not a hit at Banderas, as he always understands the assignment. That’s a hit on the director, who should’ve helped a clearly uncomfortable Antonio Banderas.  

I will (try to) commend the film on a few things. First, the story/execution is bad, but the plotting is fine. There is genuinely a basis of a good movie here that at some point appeared on the whiteboard of the Sony Executive office in the last 11 years that made it into the final product. But the chances of that ideal movie coming to theaters are ruined by the writers, destroyed in production, and completely annihilated in the editing room. Second, I really like Tom. Despite some of the projects he chooses, I really root for the guy. He’s clearly not Peter Parker here and is playing a distinct character. He can really deliver as a viable action star in the hands of a better director, writer, and overall film. There are some moments where Tom shines just enough to get me through to the next scene, and for that, I am thankful he put his heart into it. I’m happy that I can very easily see him in an action movie where he’s not swinging through Midtown. I’m also happy that Nathan Drake’s theme made an appearance at a certain (deserving) point in the film that made me pretty happy. However, I hope they use it as an actual theme in the eventual sequel. That and the final set piece was wacky but actually entertaining in parts.  

After all this talk, if the only part of this movie I’d actually rewatch is the Playstation Productions studio intro, we have problems.