I’m not a video game guy…never have been.
I’m sure it’s got something to do with my hippy wannabe parents severely limiting the screen time my sister and I were exposed to as kids, and that includes gaming consoles of any / every kind. I always had to go to friends houses to try out the newest Atari or Colecovision offering, to give you an idea of my age bracket. As a result, my attention span for playing games these days lasts for MAYBE an hour, then I have to move on to something else. But that being said, I do recognize that, just like comics and book adaptations, the video game industry is rife with stories and titles that can almost effortlessly lead to a cinematic vision, if handled with care and respect. The problem is that SO MANY of the adaptations we have gotten, have ended up being decidedly underwhelming and they almost always come off like the cheap cash-grabs that they usually are. Right off the top of my head and baring my historic lack of gaming in mind, the most entertaining adaptation that springs forth is Paul WS Anderson’s 2002 Resident Evil. Loads of people like to shit on that series as a whole (and mostly, they are 100% right in doing so), but I was genuinely impressed and entertained when I caught the first one on the Big Screen when it first came out. Since then, I’ve always hoped I would come across another game adaptation that would have the same effect.
Going into this, I am familiar with the Uncharted series and the obvious Indiana Jones influence (Full Disclosure: I’m a HUGE fan of the Indiana Jones Trilogy!), right up to actually having Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune in my wife’s modest PS3 (don’t laugh) game collection. I’ve started it a few times before, always getting a few levels in before my customary sense of video game disinterest would kick to life, forcing me onward. The point is that even as ignorant as I am to the vast majority of contemporary game titles, Uncharted was, at least, familiar enough that I was curious to see how this long-gestating (at least 10 years of development and numerous director / writers that came and went…and that’s not even getting into the Covid-19 delays) adaptation would fare. When it hit theatres in the summer of 2022, it did reasonably well at the box office, ending it’s run with an approximate $400 million global take on a $120 million budget. Not money that would set the world on fire but enough to classify this one as a modest hit. Had our world at the time not been stricken by that coronavirus bullshit, I may have drifted to the theatre on a slow day to check this one out, but alas, my sense of self-preservation got in the way and Uncharted came and went from my local multi-plex unseen by these here peepers.
But then, at 6 am on a dark Sunday morning, I came across it listed on Amazon Prime and thought…why not?
So, I grabbed my usual cauldron of mocha, along with my pad and paper and parked myself for what I hoped would be 1 hour and 56 minutes of mindless entertainment.
Uncharted (the movie), introduces us to ‘Nathan Drake’, first as a juvenile thief in a boy’s home with his equally thieving and seemingly doomed brother, then as a young 20-something man (played by Tom Holland) eking out a living as a bartender / pick-pocket 15 years later. He’s approached by a mysterious treasure hunter named ‘Victor Sullivan’ (Mark Wahlberg) who, after some reluctance and obstacles, recruits ‘Nathan’ to assist in a large score he has planned. Throw in a rich villain, a dangerous woman from the past, a group of mercenaries and lots of ‘Indiana Jones’ energy, and you have Uncharted.
PLAY…and the scribbles began.
–Fun intro, not at all realistic and sets a tone. Let’s see if it keeps it going. In a scene that was heavily featured in the advertising material, the flick opens with an unconscious ‘Nathan’ coming to and finding himself caught up in the cargo netting of a pallet that is dangling out behind a flying C-17 cargo plane, along with several others attached on a line. He then launches into a physics-defying feat of derring-do as he struggles his way back to the plane, while also fighting off various goons and dodging bullets. It’s a fun sequence.
–Cops just let bro go unsupervised? Not sure about that. After the opening scene, we flash back to ‘Nathan’ and his older brother as kids, a pair of orphans at a boy’s school somewhere. During an attempted B and E to try to steal an ancient treasure map, they are busted by security, who then calls the cops. Turns out this is a third strike for the older brother and he’ll be having to go with 5-O. The nun in charge then sends him off to gather his things and the cops…don’t do anything. No one escorts the brother, who is effectively under arrest, up to his room so it’s no surprise that after a couple quick and cryptic words, ‘Nathan’ gets to watch his sibling flee out into the night, immediately becoming a fugitive. Pretty sure that qualifies as shitty police work.
–Nice flair. ‘Nathan’, when we flash back to Present Day, works as a bartender, when he’s not pick-pocketing people who annoy him. Having once been a bartender myself for 3 of my years, I can appreciate the practice that Holland must’ve put in to effortlessly pull off the bar flair he shows when serving.
–Why is Photoshop ALWAYS so lame?! Banderas. Antonio Banderas (Desperado) turns up as the generic uber-rich villain of the piece and we first see him in a photo along with his character’s father and it’s laughable. How is it that, in this day and age of often amazing CG onscreen, are they seemingly STILL not able to convincingly Photoshop a photo of a character together. This one was hilariously obvious.
–Polaroids? From 2003? In what has long ago become a cliché, ‘Nathan’ pulls out a collection of Polaroid’s in a scene where he’s reminiscing about his missing bro. But given the established time and setting, I’m pretty sure Polaroid photos were WELL past their prime, having been a popular photographic novelty back in the 70’s and 80’s (trust me, I remember). A kid would NOT believably have Polaroid photos from the early 00’s…just can’t see that happening. So, nice try, movie…but I’m not buying it.
–Nice ‘Indy’ riff. Map sequence. This happens a few times when our main characters travel from one locale to another, with their journey being shown with a little CG plane flying over a map, red line and all…just like in the Indiana Jones flicks.
–Wahlberg ought to be aged up, ala the old guy jokes. The casting of Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights) is a bit of a shift from game, as ‘Nathan’s in game partner ‘Sully’, is definitely supposed to be an older fella. This is alluded to with numerous ‘old guy’ jokes but Wahlberg, with his jacked physique and full-head of non-grey hair, hardly looks like someone you would just dismiss as ‘over the hill’. They should’ve at least given him some ‘white walls’ or something to age him up a bit.
–Ha! ‘Indy’ name drop. Yep, ‘Indiana Jones’ exists as a movie character in this flick and gets referenced in direct relation to the adventurous hi-jinks the characters find themselves in.
–No club sounds? It’s a grate! OK, this was hilarious. During one of their many subterranean excursions, ‘Nathan’ and their questionable partner ‘Chloe’ (Sophia Taylor Ali), come to a grate at the end of a passage, with all manner of crazy lights filtering through. It’s only when they pop the grate that the heavy pumping club tunes present themselves, as the passage leads straight to some random night-club’s dance floor. They would’ve heard that bassline from 3 blocks away, but noooo…somehow this grate, that was porous enough to allow light to spill through, had the power to prevent loud sounds of any kind to pass by. I shook my head at that one.
–Ah, the ole conveniently oblivious crowds. I’ve seen a lot of this lately (looking at YOU, John Wick!), and that doesn’t excuse it. At least twice in Uncharted, very public action / violence / destruction ensues and just because there’s a TON of people around…nobody sees shit! No one acts, they just keep rocking out and partying like nothing’s nothing.
–Destroys Papa John’s, not one cop. This is another example that ties directly into the point above. There’s a scene in Barcelona where ‘Nathan’ and ‘Chloe’ are struggling to escape a flooding chamber underground and ‘Sully’, who’s been tracking them from the street above, ends up finding the key needed to open the chamber (which incidentally is quite far away from the actual door, just sayin) and it just happens to be enclosed in glass as part of the wall of a Papa John’s (product placement!) pizzeria. Because…sure. Well, ole Marky Mark goes all King Kong on the place, smashing and shooting shit up, while also fighting goons and trying to free his partners-in-crime. And not one cop shows up, despite ‘Sully’ having cleared the place out of customers AND employees with his shenanigans.
–A LOT of helpful convenience. Adventure stories like this usually rely on some degree of coincidence in their narrative and Uncharted CERTAINLY subscribed to that idea.
It was expected.
–Cleanest. Throat cut. Ever. Here we are, right back into toothless Morbius territory. During a scene at the tail of Act 2, a key character is betrayed (surprise, surprise) and they suddenly find themselves with the cleanest, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it slice across the esophagus. Consider that this flick was directed by Ruben Fleischer, who used a lot of gore to hilarious effect in Zombieland (2009) and Zombieland: Double Tap (2019), this HAD to have been mandated by the studio, right down to a shot where said murdered character is shown lying there minutes after the gash…and there’s literally a wee trickle from a red line across his / her throat. No puddle. No spray. No spurt. I shook my head at that one. The tone of the flick doesn’t need gore…but c’mon.
–Plane scene fun, physics be damned. By this point, the narrative has caught up with the opening scene and this crazy C-17 sequence is allowed to play out, with some hilarious and jaw-dropping examples of Fuck You, Physics on display!
–Shades of Terminal Velocity. Falling car. Terminal Velocity, the guilty-pleasure, wannabe action blockbuster featuring a parachuting, pre-HIV Charlie Sheen (back when he was cool) from 1994 that features a still awesome stunt involving two people and a Cadillac plummeting to earth, with one of them trapped in the trunk. There’s a scene that’s VERY similar to that here.
–How the hell were they found?! Bad guys. Heading into the climactic action set-piece after having successfully fooled the antagonists, said antagonists abruptly just show up at the scene, with no indicator (that I remember) on how they figured out the deception and caught up with our heroes so fast. They just kinda appear…and that’s that.
–Not sure that’s how autopilot works, but…ok. The climax features an aerial duel between two Sikorsky heavy-lift crane choppers, who are both carrying full-sized galleon-style ships underslung (completely impossible, BTW, as those choppers can lift about 10 tons in real life, while the ships are said to weigh something like 85 tons…but whatever) as they duck and weave among a bunch of small islands. At one point, the anchor on the one carried by ‘Nathan’ and ‘Sully’ is dropped and snags the seabed, freezing the action above in its tracks. As the chopper is straining to hold this huge, rotting ship aloft, ‘Sully’ activates the auto-pilot like its nothing and jumps into the back of the helicopter to help ‘Nathan’. Pretty sure that could never happen, especially with a helicopter under that strain, at low altitude…if at all. Ridiculous…but also in keeping with what had come before.
–Entertaining and disposable. That. Right there. Those two words do effectively sum up how I felt about Uncharted after the second mid-credit scene played out.
Maybe it was due to the coziness of the early morning hour at which I watched Uncharted, but I had a fun time with it.
Is it high art? Absolutely not. Does it have structural problems and underwhelming writing? Mostly, yes. But are the characters fun? For the most part, both Holland and Wahlberg bring charisma and humor to their characters, which kept a fun spark happening between them every time they were both on screen. Is the action fun? Yep, for the most part, it is. There are some cool stunt sequences, plus the expected fisticuffs and shoot-outs to rub up against the couple of “gimme a fuckin break” scenes that ensue. It’s got a decent amount of momentum and I didn’t find myself bored, even when I was rolling my eyes and laughing AT the movie.
If you want to pinpoint Negatives, many of the characters could’ve used some more ‘flesh’, there’s an overabundance of coincidence, some of the narrative (particularly in Act 2) feels clunky and choppily paced and the score is largely forgettable.
Having said that, if you’re a fan of characters like ‘Indiana Jones’ or ‘Lara Croft’, or flicks like National Treasure (2004) or The Mummy (1999), then I’d say that this would be a solid time-waster for the likes of you. Everyone else can either take it or leave it.
Entertaining and disposable. Like I said.