A review of the film, a dissection of the games, and an inquiry at the baffling decisions made by the filmmakers.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is what got me back into video games. In my young adult life I didn’t really have much time for video games. Yet when I finally picked up the Uncharted Series I encountered that which has now become a common experience amongst many who have enjoyed these games as they’ve released - and since - of feeling as if I was playing a movie. Now only was I wholly enthralled by the story and the characters during cutscenes, but there were times where my exasperated remarks would be echoed by Nathan Drake himself, as we both climbed, swung, dodged, and fell through ever escalating encounters during our swashbuckling treasure hunting adventure. Basically, for every “oh crap!” I uttered, it felt like Drake was right beside me, echoing my frustration, and it changed everything I ever wanted from video games from that point onward.
When the movie was first announced, I probably wasn’t as hopeful as others. Mostly this was due to the fact that Uncharted, as a video game, was designed specifically to make you feel like you were in a blockbuster film. It took it’s inspirations - bombastic set pieces, globetrotting scenarios, and macguffin driven stories - and did something movies couldn’t do: place you inside the adventure. Creating a film, based off a series of video games, that were inspired by these exact films, felt like a reversion. What could the film give us that the video games hadn’t? Would this just be a re-hash of Drake’s Fortune? How could you even distill ~30 hours of gameplay into two-ish hours?
Moreover, there was only one person in the entire world, at the time, that people could accept as a live action Nathan Drake, and it was NOT Mark Wahlberg. You know who I’m talking about.
Still, I didn’t care. This felt like a cash-grab. I never truly had faith in any adaptation, and I certainly wasn’t a fan of David O’ Russel (controversial opinion, I’m sure, but please don’t @ me.) Color me not surprised when the film bounced around for the better part of a decade under different iterations of directors, writers, and even actors involved. There was a moment where I gained a mere bit of hope, and that was when 10 Cloverfield Lane director - and former Totally Rad Show host - was attached to the project. Not only was this a guy who understood video games after talking about them for a living, but he was a prolific filmmaker who brought to life adaptations of his own (Portal, Warframe) and has directed some of the best episodes of genre television (Black Mirror, The Boys). Alas, the project would eventually move on without him, along with my now diminished hopes.
But then came along Sony’s shining savior, and apparently only face that they’ll plaster on billboards now and in the near future: Tom Holland, and with him came the answer to at least one of our questions. It seemed that we would be going with a younger Nathan Drake, maybe not so much an origin story, but at least a story that didn’t so much interfere with the video game timelines...or so we thought.
Of course, all of this is ancient history. You know the rest of the story. Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) gets attached to direct. Mark Wahlberg has now aged out of, and is instead relegated to, Nathan Drake’s colleague and sometimes wise, albeit flawed, mentor, Victor “Sully” Sullivan, sans mustache. And with the success of Tom Holland’s recent spandex inspired visual effects outings, we were finally off to the races.
All told, it’s been about 14 years - and four more games - between initial announcements and the final release (2008-2022), but we did, finally, get to see Nathan Drake, in cargo pants and a henley, on that big silver screen, and it was...well...a movie. I’ll give them that.
...for every “oh crap!” I uttered, it felt like Drake was right beside me, echoing my frustration, and it changed everything I ever wanted from video games from that point onward.
So why all the pre-amble for this review? Well, firstly, I don’t know that I’d call this a review. I’m not normally qualified to critique films. You enjoy what you enjoy. You don’t what you don’t. I don’t have any qualms with that. Secondly, I bring all this up because after over a decade of (not)-waiting for a mediocre film, one would assume that someone involved might have at least attempted to elevate the material in some form. Is that telling? True, I didn’t like the film, but it’s not because it wasn’t fun or enjoyable. In fact, there’s a lot to love about Tom Holland, even if his character is kind of non-existent (we’ll get to that), and I actually didn’t mind the dynamic between him and Mark Wahlberg, who works as a guy who has “been around the block” a time or two; considering his many forays into this genre and as an action star in general. There’s even some serviceable set pieces and choreography happening that - I’m sure - kept some stunt people up at night wondering how they were going to pull it off. However, the biggest sin this film makes: not justifying its own existence.
As with most adaptations of beloved franchises I watch on the big screen, I had moments where where I actually wasn’t hating what I was seeing, which was often post-ceded by the thought, “But why did it have to be Uncharted?” Beyond the name recognition, whose influences are arguably the only reason this film even rises above mediocrity, there’s no reason presented why they couldn’t have cast Tom Holland and Marky Mark in a swashbuckling treasure hunting movie with similar stakes. The decisions made in the apparent making of this film are, to put it frankly, baffling to me, and that’s before you take into consideration that this film is supposed to take most of its inspiration from the fourth game in the series, A Thief’s End, which it bears almost no resemblance.
Take, for instance, the introduction of young Nathan with his older brother Sam, one of the only things (beyond the heavily distilled auction heist) to be brought over from A Thief’s End, in the prologue of the film (I’m not counting the trope of starting the film near the end before a flash-back.) In the game, our introduction to Sam is a bit of a shock, because up till this point, and after three entire games, we didn’t even know he existed. Not only do the flashbacks act to re-acquaint us to the game mechanics, but we’re learning new things about Nathan. Plus we set up the mystery of “Where has Sam been this entire time?” Which the game does answer pretty early on. More importantly, we see a Nathan that wasn’t always the wise-cracking, orphaned street rat we thought we already understood, and through repeated visits to these earlier times in his life with Sam, we learn the sad truth as to why they took the surname of Drake (after sir Francis Drake) in the first place. Over the course of the game, these scenes are there to underly the themes that Naughty Dog wants to convey in this installment, that of brotherhood, growing up, and letting-go, among others. When Sam (spoiler alert) -
Re-enters the story as an adult -
We utilize these flashbacks to show the bond and connection these two brothers have had since childhood, and how it hasn’t gone away even after all these years.
In the movie, this flashback is just a cheap attempt at backstory. It’s there to show the audience that Nathan has (had?) a brother, said brother had to leave, and that’s basically the jist. Even the map they’re after is all about some mythological treasure; whereas in the games their earliest exploits were about getting some old journals that used to belong to their mother. It’s personal. They didn’t care about some treasure. They just wanted to know where they came from. When Sam leaves, it’s also of his own volition, and because he has some possible job opportunities that could change their fortunes, as it were. He doesn’t just leave and never return because of some trouble with the cops, as he does in the film, and it makes me wonder why the filmmakers chose to include him in the first place, considering he has barely any impact at all on the story.
Sam wrote a few postcards, as it turns out, that are not-so-integral to the plot, and he maybe once had an adventure with this version of Sully, which is why Nate decided to go on this adventure in the first place, I guess? It all seems a little bit shoved in because no one really cares and - I repeat - we don’t even learn anything about Sam nor see him again in the entire film.
That’s just how it starts.
We all know the first rule of storytelling. I don’t have to say it.
It’s not that I can’t forgive the film of attempting to give us some sort of personal motivation for our main character to go on this journey, even if it does come off in a very “scriptwriting for dummies” sorta way, but my problems come down to how fundamentally lackluster these scenes turned out. No real shade at Fleischer, I’m sure he did the best with a film that was obviously written by AI and majorly finished in a VFX production house, but every scene that wasn’t action or a set piece could have used a bit of - dare I say it - direction.
Early on there’s a scene where we’re introduced to Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali, doing an amazing job, given the circumstances) where our main three protagonists stand around in broad daylight and talk about not trusting each other. I think. I honestly can’t remember. Suddenly she decides she’s dropping out of the whole adventure and leaves, but wouldn’t you know it, she managed to steal a major plot point out of Tom Holland’s backpack despite never getting within two feet of him.
Now, suspension of disbelief and all, since we’re supposed to be talking about a bunch of master thieves in a fun film, informs the audience that we’re just supposed to believe it happened, because the point of the exchange is that it leads to a foot chase, Tom gets tossed in water for the first out of four times in this movie, and we reveal how crafty sneaky this girl is supposed to be.
However, as a filmmaker myself, I’m flabbergasted and sheer lack of direction happening during this scene, like they didn’t care about it whatsoever. It’s mostly told in a series of over the shoulder and medium-wide shots, where you always have eyes on all three characters and their relationship to one another; yet it wouldn’t have taken much to ask oneself, “What’s the point of this scene? Where do we want it to end? Therefore, where do we want it to start?” We know that Chloe is immediately distrusting of Nate, and she keeps asking, in that quippy the-screenwriters-thought-this-repitition-would-be-funny sort of way, Where did Sully find him and why is he here? Would it have been that hard for her to examine Nathan’s clothing? Tossle his hair? Push her way past him or around him because she’s choosing to ignore him? Hell, couldn’t she have asked for proof of the cross? How does she even know it’s in his backpack? Could we have set the scene anywhere believable where her line of questioning is just a mis-direction while she, in close proximity to the bags or other material, could have believably snatched the cross without them noticing?
We don’t have to see her take it, but as a director, I don’t see why we couldn’t have some fun with the scene, beyond just talking at each other in a triangle formation, until we can get to the, quote-unquote, action. Give me a moment at all where I could have thought, “Oh yeah, I think that’s when she snagged it” instead of just telling me that she did in a wholly unbelievable way. We all know the first rule of storytelling. I don’t have to say it.
And it’s scenes like this that kept my right eyebrow fully raised so much that I could probably rival The Rock in a competition for new peoples eyebrow; albeit in confusion. Over and over again, if there wasn't an action scene or fun set piece, it seemed like the director was too bored to even get involved. For all we know, anything that has people talking in a room (which is the majority of the film), Ruben handed off the reins to the second unit director because he couldn’t be bothered. The whole scene could have been shot in front of a green screen, or on a sound stage, for how unassuming it was. I can understand the frustration with having to get through the “talky-talky” bits (my words not his...probably...) but I feel bad for anyone who has a clear aversion towards the simple art of giving-a-shit, or at the very least - trying. No one likes these scenes. Can we at least have fun with it?
There’s also just so much exposition to fill a book. This is bound to happen in this genre, it's inescapable, but so many moments bordered on a Chris & Jack Sketch that I almost thought the screenwriters had never seen a movie before, much less played an Uncharted game; which doles out it’s exposition along with character beats, amazing vistas, or mystery unraveling and history building. Did the filmmakers even pay attention to everything the video games did right? Or were they just interested in slapping on a label and calling it a day?
And that’s the question that brings me to the entire point of this article, over 2000 words later, which I don’t think the writers, director, or producers bothered to ask in over 10 years: What do we want in an Uncharted film? What makes an Uncharted Game and HOW do we translate those elements to film? Who is Nathan Drake? What story do we want to tell?
These all seem like basic questions, and probably leads to a longer discussion about adaptations, the state of the film industry, and what theatre goers want from their movie excursions. Unfortunately, we're not getting into that here. What I want to do instead is attempt to answer these questions myself, as if I were going to direct this film, and put up my own answers in contrast to how this current film handled the same questions - IF they asked them - which I don’t think they did.
LET’S START WITH THE CHARACTERS
WHO IS NATHAN DRAKE?
Nathan is your typical charming, affable, ruggedly handsome protagonist we’ve all become used to with these sorts of adventures. He’s been stealing to survive for a long time, but something tells us up front that he's not always successful. He isn't exactly living a life of luxury from his exploits. Probably because he gets himself involved with a bunch of seedy characters and - as we’ll often find out - things tend to sort of explode in his face, literally and figuratively. Nate is NOT a good guy. He may be charming, but he’s selfish, has a bit of a childish mentality, and honestly has a LOT of trouble keeping to his word. He probably lies more than he steals in the games. Now, he does grow on you despite his flaws, otherwise he wouldn’t be the protagonist we learn to love. He’s a giant geek about history. Book smart. He cares about his friends and those whom he loves - to the point that he would do anything NOT to lose them. And, you know, when put up against an egomaniac terrorist super-soldier who wants power, everlasting life, and to take over whole continents, Nate looks better by comparison. Though it should be noted: Saving his skin probably comes first before saving the world.
Overall - he does overcome a lot of his flaws and grows a lot throughout the evolution of the game franchise. That’s the point, and like a lot of Thief with a heart of gold characters, we tend to forget that he’s usually doing a bunch of illegal stuff when the fun adventure takes over, and - as the creators like to remind us - he’s never as bad as ‘these other guys’! [points to man with obvious villainous facial scars]
Nate Drake, or movie Nathan...well...he’s Tom Holland. I tried really hard to figure out who the Nate of the Uncharted Cinematic Universe was, but I was left with so many inconsistencies and question marks.
For instance, when we’re first introduced to Tom’s Nate, he’s...a bartender? Late for work? Fine. I get it. People gotta job for a living, but when I first saw these scenes in the trailer, my assumptions were Nate was under-cover, staking out a potential treasure, waiting for the right time to strike. But...no...it’s literally his job. I guess he often steals from his high end clients, Ala the typical sleight of hand thievery, but I’m just confused as to...what...his motivations are? Great, he's not a good person, and we establish that, but stealing a bracelet is honestly the last time he does anything REMOTELY bad in the entirety of the film.
When put up against an egomaniac terrorist super-soldier who wants power, everlasting life, and to take over whole continents, Nate looks better by comparison.
Later in the movie there’s a moment where he says,
“I was supposed to do this with my brother, NOT you”
while speaking with Sully. Alluding to the fact that the treasure has been a dream of his for a while. I think this happens multiple times in the film, actually, where he makes it a point to mention how long he’s been searching for this treasure. This makes sense, if it were VG Nate, but here, with Bartender Nate, I’m just unsure of what he’s been doing the past...I dunno...5-6 years; much less searching for any gold.
There are no drawings, articles, or pictures on the wall of his fancy, New York, typical warehouse loft of an apartment, indicating that he’s been searching for this a while. There’s no passport or journal or small treasures littering his desk to indicate he’s been on multiple adventures like this. He doesn’t even visit a goddamn museum or library in search of clues. He’s simply: Bartending. Content with ripping off “trust fund children” with “Daddy’s money” to pay for his extravagant loft, but he still...takes the subway? And...can’t afford a suit?
Motivations get super blurred from there. Sully finds him because the writers said so. He steals keys from the doorman even though he had an open invitation, and the address, to simply knock on Sully’s door to get what he wanted. He...sees a map...and now he’s a treasure hunter?
Nathan Drake, when he’s first introduced to us in Drake’s Fortune, is a lived in, not his first rodeo, kind of character. We never get the sense that he’s good at what he does, though he has some skills in certain areas that help him achieve a certain notoriety, albeit with a heaping helping of luck, but at least we know why he’s doing it. In this film, we get shots of Nate climbing a rope in the middle of his - again - very lofty apartment to show us that he’s...Tom Holland climbing a rope.
Tom "Drake" Holland is a pickpocket who is out of his element, who often has to be reminded what’s happening and how to react because he’s sorta new to this -forgive him - and who never fully understands the gravity of the situation he put himself in (almost literally) to the point where everything feels like a joke. It’s a very different character - which isn’t a bad thing - but he’s also not very fleshed out. If there was ever a Mary Sue - or Gary Stu - on screen, I’d have to say this fits the bill. There’s nothing to indicate he has any experience in this world, doing what he eventually does. There are no characters that arrive and say “Well if it isn’t Nathan Drake” - a fun trope that I actually love to see - and there’s never even any moment of feigned confidence in the vein of “Trust me, I got this under control” which at least tells us that he THINKS he has things under control when he really doesn’t - another fun trope that is very prevalent in the games.
There is a moment where the director tries to imbue a character choice into the film - a moment of brevity between our main trio - where they are sitting around drinking and prepping for the next day. It’s a good chance to learn about the characters. I don’t have to tell you that we learn nothing about Nate, but there is a curious moment where Tom chugs some wine, and not only that, he finds another bottle and keeps drinking himself out cold. I keep wondering about that moment. What were they trying to tell us about Nate? Is he an alcoholic? Is there some past trauma he’s trying to forget? Does his hangover screw up the job the next day?
No. He just drinks. This bartender Nate pretends like he’s never had a glass of wine before. He doesn’t spill any secrets. He doesn’t let down his guard. Honestly, I have no idea who made the character choice nor what they wanted us to know, but it all amounts to nothing.
From that moment on, we don’t know anything about Nathan Drake, beyond what you might already know from the video games, or if you love Tom Holland or not. I think both of those are doing the heavy lifting here. Honestly, it’s a crap-shoot on whether or not the filmmakers even cared to craft a character beyond what the video games already did, instead deciding to put as many quips into the script as humanly possible. There’s not even an arch for our main character. Instead, the one arch in the film goes to -
VICTOR "SULLY" SULLIVAN
The mustache. That’s all that mattered. Mark Wahlberg’s Victor Sullivan is absolutely fine, and I don’t mind him as the character, but the one thing that mattered from the transfer between game to film was the mustache, and they clearly got that wrong. But then they decided to also make him...rich?
We’ve already talked about one New York loft, but Sully’s is on another level. Anything you might expect Nate to have, albeit in nice display cases with art gallery lighting, is in Sully’s loft. I’m sorry, I don’t know much about Sully in the games, but I can tell you one thing: he is NOT holding onto these treasures. Even if he does have money, one gets the idea that he spends it on traveling, booze, girls, and airplanes, and doesn’t have a place to call home, much less a fancy New York loft in a high rise that he probably never visits.
Which begs the question, who’s funding these exploits? In the video games, there’s always a backer, or some sponsor who has hired Nate and/or Sullivan to go after whatever it is they’re after. In this film, Sully is the guy bankrolling the operations, I guess? A far cry from the Sully we think we know from the video games.
I dunno. This is fine, but still a little odd in terms of understanding the characters of the game. No wonder it seems like Mark Wahlberg is doing the least amount of work on screen. I guess we’re supposed to be under the impression that he would betray his partners at any given moment, but they’ve also given us no reason to believe this. The ONE TIME he leaves Nate behind, it honestly seems like a Sully thing to do, but also, it’s not that huge of a betrayal. After that we’re constantly told he’s not the guy to trust, despite the fact that he’s the most trustworthy person on the team. But I guess the writers needed this lip-service so they could give him an arch by the end of the film. However -
Were we really supposed to believe that he was going to choose that bag of gold at the end of the film over saving Nate?
If I’m ever directing a film, I want moments like Sully’s to hit the audience in the heart, not just be a throwaway joke that’s remedied by the end of the film. Not to mention, it’s a very surface level, unoriginal, character trait to make your character love treasure; especially when the original Sullivan was always the first one to say “It’s not worth it” when it came to treasure in the games. Sure, he loved treasure, but he didn’t love it more than his life.
A puzzle in Uncharted is never what it seems. It’s not always about getting through a door into another chamber, or avoiding booby traps that are designed to kill and never work again; though the games DO have those elements. No - the puzzles in Uncharted often serve the purpose of - not just challenging the player - but enlightening the characters - and the viewer - of the culture that built the puzzles in the first place (also why they would have built something so extravagantly complicated.) The puzzles usually goes from simple, to complicated, to “goddamn this shouldn’t even work the way it does” beautiful. Often you find that the puzzle is present because the original puzzle was broken, and Nate has to find a way to solve the puzzle of the puzzle by figuring out how it works. Almost every time - and this is no joke - the puzzle will often break - and Nate will suddenly have to fall, climb, and fumble his way out of an increasingly dire situation. Every other time - the bad buys have caught up - and he has to fight his way out. The puzzle, therefore, was a moment in between the action, often revealing, breathtaking, and a respite before things went horribly wrong again.
In the film, we get a SINGLE puzzle. One. The answer is always the same: A key turns a thing. Sometimes you have to find the hole. Sometimes there’s booby traps. But the answer always comes back to a key that turns. It’s boring, lifeless, and ends very anti-climactically. No lore. No breathtaking monoliths. No indication as to why this thing survived hundreds of years without being found. Not even a destructive ending, causing us to lament the loss of such beautiful architecture. Instead, Nate gets knocked out, and we move on.
BOMBASTIC SET PIECES THAT KEEP ON GOING AND LEAVE OUR HERO -
Just like the puzzles in Uncharted, the set pieces in the video game are full of ever increasing, constantly shifting, difficult tasks that build on top of each other resulting in a trail of broken bodies, structures, and whole levels - well - leveled.
Take, for instance, the main set piece from Uncharted: Among Thieves, the second game in the quadrilogy, that takes place over several chapters.
- We start off trying to get to the train yard. This is normal stuff. A little bit of sneaking. Some gunfights. A small puzzle to solve to get you to where you need to go.
- In the middle of a huge gunfight, you have to get onto a jeep in order to chase down a train.
- After you chase down the train, trying to survive along the way, you get on the train, and you have to fight your way through it. You can be sneaky, if possible, but it all goes horribly wrong when...
- A helicopter showed up and tries to blow you away. Now you’re fighting a helicopter. From a moving train. A fucking helicopter. This is a boss fight.
- You defeat the boss, but it’s not over. There’s some betrayal, and you’re left wounded. In order to get out of the situation, Nate sets off an explosion.
- Well - that explosion leaves the train off the tracks - and you unconscious, as you dangle over a cliff.
- Now...you have to get off the train.
It’s important to note that you’ve been here before, because the game started us here at the very beginning, trying to climb off the train with no indication of how Nate got there. This is the same thing the film tries to do, albeit with a set-piece from the third game, Drake’s Deception, though in a less satisfying manner. I should also mention: the action isn’t over. After Nate gets off the train, he has to fight his way through the wreckage - wounded, alone, and having left his friends behind - and it starts to get to him.
This is just how Naughty Dog builds their set pieces, in a way that bombards the player, breaks them down, and puts the character in a situation that seems crazy, unbelievable - in a good way - and almost insurmountable.
I’d love to say that the film got at least some of this right; alas, as with everything else, it seemed like they were more interested in rushing to the point. There was no build up, there was no come down, and there definitely was no moment of “I can’t believe this is still going!” That one has grown accustomed to from the video games. If this really is inspired by A Thief's End, which has the most ambitious, ever evolving, and groundbreaking set piece of the series, then it's insulting to not even attempt to try and reach those same heights - budget or no. I understand that we have only two hours in a film here, and sometimes we gotta cut to the chase, but the whole point of the Uncharted games, arguably, was to deliver these bombastic set pieces, inspired by blockbuster films, and that assignment seemed to be ignored by the filmmakers altogether in favor of CGI - again - lip-service.
We also know it can be done. I point to the amazing sequence in Mission Impossible: Fallout, where Ethan goes from an armored car heist, to a car chase, onto a motorcycle chase, then a race against the tracking device, to a small standoff, and then to another car chase, all while revealing character moments, new revelations, and the occasional “this is going horribly wrong” scenarios. If there was ever a series to emulate for your Uncharted film based off a game inspired by a movie, it would be MI:5 & MI:6, where the set pieces feel like Russian Nesting Dolls that keep revealing themselves until we find our characters smaller, beaten down, maybe alone, and wondering how we got from here to there.
NODS TO GAMEPLAY MECHANICS
Non-existant. Nate doesn’t fire a gun once. He does get his shoulder harness (which I happen to own myself) but the only thing he gets close to firing is a cannon. I understand the controversy and absurdity that resulted from the original games, as Nate seemingly racks up a tremendous bodycount, and Sony's possible aversion to wanting to represent gun violence or killing in that manner. Despite this, I feel like we could have emphasized other elements of the combat instead and downplayed all gun stuff, including the sneaking, creative takedowns, grappling hook, or maybe the occasional rogue grenade. I'm not sure I would call what happened in the film "hand-to-hand" combat, as representative of the game, but they didn't even attempt to put in a proper sword fight - just like the very game they claimed to be taking inspiration from - which is pretty cowardly, in my opinion.
Happens once, when he tries to scale the side of a ship, and it’s filmed so strangely, like they knew it was going to be a big moment, but it was also like climbing a ladder for Tom. Don’t come for any literal cliffhangers or scaling of old church ruins.
He doesn’t have one. Nate doesn’t have a journal. Why did we even bother???
I could keep going, but by this point I've tired myself out from trying to understand the baffling decisions of the filmmakers. I didn't even get into the lackluster auction house heist, which suffers from the same misunderstandings of the puzzles and set pieces mentioned above, the non-existant motivations of the main villain, the fact that Nate and Chloe have a tit-for-tat while plummeting to the earth, nor the overall retcon that would have to happen after changing the character dynamics between Nate and Sam with a timeline that makes no sense and leaves me with more questions than answers. (In short: if my brother left me, never returned, and only wrote me postcards even after being out of the foster care system for five-ish years, I would probably be a little more hurt/angry about it all.) All-in-all, I was left with the conclusion that this film suffered from a lack of direction and vision, and couldn't help but imagine what this movie would have looked like had they kept Dan Trachtenberg attached.
The games do a LOT of the heavy lifting here, in terms of development and seeing some cool moments brought to life, but overall the film barely stands on it's own.
When I originally set out to write this...whatever this is...I wasn't sure what medium I thought this should be. I considered doing a podcast episode. I even considered a video essay. I even considered just doing a series of tweets, but that obviously would have been a bad idea. In the end, I decided to resurrect my old blog. I imported old posts from wordpress, medium, and blogspot. I re-designed my website, implemented the needed pages, and made sure everything worked just so I could post all these words and present my thought process in a way that best suited my creativity. To put it simply, I think I put more thought and preparation into the posting of this article than the filmmakers put into the making of the Uncharted film.
As I mentioned, Uncharted is a perfectly serviceable action film, and it suffers from the same problems that plague most mediocre action films of our time: Surface-level scripts, over-abundant CGI, and non-memorable characters. It has the potential here to have been great, not the least of which is that there's SO MUCH to mine from what the games already accomplished, if the filmmakers had ever cared enough to even investigate what those accomplishments were, or what made the games so great in the first place. The games do a LOT of the heavy lifting here, in terms of development and seeing some cool moments brought to life, but overall the film barely stands on it's own. I don't blame the film for not being like the games. After all, these are different mediums, and I applaud films more often than not for making changes outside of it's source material; especially when it's in service of a greater story. Instead, I blame the director, writers, and producers for not asking simple questions that could have elevated the script, brought more life to the action-adventure genre, and given us a film that justified it's existence beyond the games themselves. They had 14 years, but it seems like they didn't put any effort in whatsoever.
Which is a shame, because there's no doubt this movie will get a sequel, and probably more chances to misinterpret its source material. I am not of the belief that this is a bastardization of the Uncharted legacy. We've definitely gotten better at video game adaptations over the years, evident by my lack of cringing while watching the film, but we're still a far cry from treating these adaptations as anything more than a chance to make money from an established fan-base. There is hope, in the form of the upcoming The Last of Us series on HBO, which actually has the benefit of the man who created the games, Neil Druckmann, being attached as a writer, producer, and possibly director, that we might finally overcome this streak of lackluster adaptations. Though, based on the reception of the second game from the fanbois, who are also "die hard fans" of the Uncharted games, one can assume that we're living in the darkest timeline, where creativity, original storytelling, and risktaking is frowned upon and fan-service is otherwise lauded.
If that really is the case, then I guess Uncharted isn't all that bad after all.
Mattias is an actor, writer, filmmaker, and editor currently living in Los Angeles, CA. He often writes about his observations about life, the human condition, spirituality, and relationships. He also enjoys writing about movies, pop culture, formula one, and current events. Often these writings are 'initial thoughts' and un-edited, as authentic as possible, and should be considered opinions. If you're interested in commenting on his work, or continuing the conversation, you should consider following him on Twitter or share an article on social media, where he would love to engage even further. Consider subscribing via RSS for more.