By Ben Konuch
“Greatness From Small Beginnings. That’s You And Me.”
The Uncharted video game franchise started back in 2007 with the release of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, a fun, Tomb Raider-esque adventure game that sold well despite not achieving any great awards. That would change with 2009’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which became one of the best games of its era and won countless awards. It spawned two more sequels, a spinoff game, and worldwide love for its iconic lead characters Nathan Drake and Victor “Sully” Sullivan.
From as early as 2008, the possibility of an Uncharted film was in the works, but after a complicated history of directors coming and going, the likelihood of actually seeing Nathan Drake on the big screen looked unlikely. However, 14 years later, Ruben Fleischer, the director of “Zombieland” and “Venom”, has brought us an “Uncharted” film starring Tom Holland as Nathan Drake and Mark Wahlberg as Sully. While the film doesn’t reinvent the adventure genre by any means, it’s still an enjoyable and solid entry to its genre – even if it does fall a little short of the games it’s adapted from.
The film follows Nathan Drake, a history enthusiast currently working as a bartender who makes ends meet by stealing from his rich patrons. When prickly veteran treasure hunter Victor Sullivan approaches him with the score of a lifetime, the lost treasure of Ferdinand Magellan, it isn’t only the promise of treasure that brings Drake on board but the chance to finally find out what happened to his brother Sam. Drake’s adventure spans multiple continents and involves a vengeful crime boss (played by Antonio Banderas), old enemies of Sully’s, and new friends along with new betrayals.
Nathan Drake and Sully from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End versus their live action counterparts in “Uncharted”.
“Uncharted” is less of an adaptation of a specific game’s story, and more of a prequel side story that takes place before the games, even though one action scene is lifted straight from the third game and put in here. In other words, this is a young Nathan Drake we haven’t seen before, and one that both longtime Uncharted fans and newcomers alike can appreciate and enjoy, with a story that does a great job at introducing these characters and their world of treasure-hunting. Tom Holland did a great job at portraying this naturally charismatic, yet slightly-unsure-of-himself version of Drake, even though elements of other roles of Holland’s do bleed through. If you’ve seen the new “Spiderman” movies, Nathan Drake is still going to feel very much like Peter Parker, for better or for worse.
While a bit of a distraction at times, this wasn’t enough of a flaw to derail my excitement while watching the film. “Uncharted” may be many things, but boring is not one of them. It’s a good,. old-fashioned type of fun that echoes the spirit of “Indiana Jones” while being a little more “National Treasure” at times, taking place mostly in intricately trapped catacombs underneath iconic European cities instead of the exotic reaches of jungles (although there is a bit of that in the film’s final act). Seeing Drake and Sully solve ancient puzzles and crack jokes, aided by the beautiful and mysterious Chloe Fraser (played here by the painfully-underrated Sophia Ali), is just clean, good fun. While the plot may not be award-winning by any means, the chemistry between the three main cast members is wonderful to watch and feels incredibly natural. These actors definitely look as if they’re having fun in this film, which helps the audience have fun in return.
Holland and Ali, especially in the last act of the film, truly capture the energy of their characters from the games
While there have been many nitpicks from fans of the games, such as how Sully here doesn’t have his iconic mustache or how Drake is so much younger or that a specific actor wasn’t cast in the role that the fandom had decided they should play, these are all mostly nitpicks. Most of the casting “issues” are easily dismissed due to the fact that this movie is an origin story of sorts for Drake, Frazer, and Sully alike. However, one genuine complaint I did have with the movie is that there is a bit of a lack of action. There are action-packed scenes, sure, but most of them involve chases, parkouring, or big action set pieces such as surviving falling out of a plane. Nathan Drake isn’t exactly intentional in the action packed scenes he’s in, but in the games, a key component to Drake’s character is that he’s as good with a gun as he is with a treasure map. It isn’t a huge problem and it is something the film remedies very late into its runtime, but it would be an aspect I would very much like to see improved on in the future. Nathan Drake should head into some of his fights instead of just being dragged into all of them.
In conclusion, “Uncharted” is a fun, adventurous ride of treasure hunting, comedic characters, and wonderfully grand and over-the-top action sequences. While there is grounds for improval, especially in terms of becoming more accurate and representative of its source material, I found “Uncharted” to be quite a lot of fun, especially compared to other video game adaptations. With the way the after credits scene seemingly sets the stage for a more traditional adaptation of the story of the first game, I can’t wait to see where this franchise heads next.
I give “Uncharted” a 7.5/10.
‘Uncharted’ is currently playing in theaters.
Ben Konuch is a freshman strategic communications student and an A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and failing horribly at wallyball with his friends.