I’m a sucker for a good adventure film and the treasure hunting sub-genre is always a fun ride for me. Films like the Indiana Jones franchise, the 1999 version of The Mummy and the Uncharted video games are always swashbuckling fun times and personally, we don’t get enough swashbuckling these days. So I strapped in and watched the Uncharted movie starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. My knee-jerk takeaway is that those who aren’t familiar with the video games this movie is based on will likely enjoy this movie more than those who are. Let’s dive in.
Uncharted works as something of a prequel for the video games, but often contradicts or messes with the established canon. It stars Tom Holland as Nathan Drake, a young bartender in New York City who is also a big history buff who dreams of finding the lost treasure of the explorer Ferdinand Magellan (perhaps you’ve heard of him). Finding Magellan’s treasure has been an obsession of Nate and his older brother, Sam, ever since they were boys living in the orphanage. Then, seemingly by chance but definitely not by chance, Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), Sully for short, strolls into his cocktail bar with the chance of a lifetime: a clue to finding said treasure. As they travel the globe, from New York to Spain to the East Asian Ocean, they come across evil corporations led by Antonio Banderas and uneasy allies like Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali).
Now I’m a big fan of the video game franchise and could tell that this movie, directed by Venom’s Ruben Fleischer pulled heavily from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and that ended up feeling like a distraction for me as it lent itself to a cookie-cutter feeling, rather than a retelling. More important though, was how misguided the casting is. At no point in the movie was I convinced that Holland or Wahlberg were playing Nate or Sully. But if you never played the games, you probably got a good enough kick watching Holland play Peter Parker without the Spider-Man powers. Wahlberg is playing Wahlberg again, from his reactions to his snarky comebacks, it’s very much a Wahlberg performance so your mileage will vary if you’re a fan of his shtick or not. But nothing about the leading cast really jumped out to me as being either impressive or memorable, unlike the games.
In fact, unremarkable is a good way to describe Uncharted. It’s not terrible, it’s certainly watchable and has its entertaining values, but it’s so safe and cookie-cutter that it fails to reach beyond anything other than safe. As such, the script is full of plot holes and conveniences and the action feels very familiar and trivial, despite the swashbuckling roots of the games. The music as well, composed by the great Ramin Djawadi (Westworld, Game of Thrones) feels like some generic recycled stock music. Only when the theme from the game kicks in near the end does the music really stand out, which only makes the rest of the score seem that much more unimpressive. Antonio Banderas shows up here and there and it’s a big shame his character didn’t have a mustache to twirl as his defining character trait is “bad guy”.
It’s not all bad though. The movie is fun, despite not coming close to the films it’s so clearly trying to be (cough cough Indiana Jones). There’s plenty of humour and adventure and the movie has a good pace that never drags. Those who aren’t familiar with the games will likely see this as Indiana Jones-lite and enjoy it for what it is. But those who are fans of the games will likely find the movie feels alien to them. So in the end, your mileage will vary but the film is watchable, but also uninspired. I’d recommend you watch Nathan Fillion’s fan film, which I’ll embed below. It feels so much more like Uncharted.