Uncharted

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Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland in Uncharted.
Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland in Uncharted.
Photo: 2022 CTMG. All Rights Reserved.

MOVIE:

Uncharted

WHERE TO WATCH:

Now showing in cinemas

OUR RATING:

2/5 Stars

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

Growing up as an orphan and left to fend for himself after his brother, Sam, fled the law when he was just a kid, Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) has been getting by as a bartender and a petty thief. One night, an experienced treasure hunter, Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), approaches Nathan with an opportunity to both reconnect with his brother and to make hundreds of millions of dollars by joining him on a quest for the long-lost treasure of Ferdinand Magellan. Despite some initial reluctance, Nathan knows an unbeatable opportunity when he sees one, but as he is drawn deeper and deeper into a world of deadly adversaries and deadlier secrets, ancient relics and double-crosses, he starts to wonder just why Sullivan approached him in the first place.

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

As someone who has never owned a Playstation (aside from my beloved fakey Nintendo from when I was a kid, I've always been a PC gamer, and a mostly retro one at that), the incredibly successful, highly acclaimed, and Playstation-exclusive Uncharted series mostly passed me by. Mostly, that is, except for the news that would routinely pop up on pop culture websites and in film magazines about a movie adaptation that was always just around the corner but never actually materialised.

Finally, some fifteen years since the first Uncharted game hit the Playstation 3, the long-awaited and constantly teased Uncharted film is actually hitting cinemas. Fans rejoice! Or should they? Could something with this much hype behind it and with this many years in development hell possibly satisfy all the hope, frustration, and expectations that have no doubt built in the heart and mind of the games' stalwart fans?

In short: No. No, it can't. Not just because very few things can live up to such heightened expectations, but because Uncharted is, frankly speaking, just not a very good movie. It's not a terrible movie either, to be sure, as it does what it does with at least some mechanical proficiency, but "mechanical proficiency" is, presumably, not what the game's legions of fans want from an Uncharted film – and it's certainly not what I wanted from it either.

Considering how much the Uncharted series, like Tomb Raider before it, owed to the Indiana Jones films (which themselves owed their debts to older adventure films and serials, but restructured – to mix a metaphor or two - those debts into the definitive examples of the genre), it was always going to be something of a struggle to make the film feel like anything more than just another Raiders of the Lost Ark retread. Well, as it turns out, it's nothing of the sort. Raiders – or any of the original Indy films, really – is so far out of reach that it is, at very best, warmed up Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but probably falls closer to the level of something like National Treasure 2.

Written by successful TV writer Rafe Judkins (Chuck, the Wheel of Time, Agents of Shield), and the team of Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, who previously brought us, Iron Man, yes, but also Transformers: The Last Knight, Punisher: War Zone and Men in Black: International, it's not massively surprising that the plot is little more than a lazy collection of clichés or that the "zinger-tastic" dialogue lands with a leaden thud. And consider me unsurprised that despite featuring more double and triple crosses than a blackout-drunk stroll through a Christian cemetery, the story is more monotonous than anything else.

What's perhaps a bit more surprising is just how little the stuff in front of the camera works, either. Sure, director Reuben Fleischer hardly has a spotless record, but surely the man who directed Zombieland would exhibit some sort of panache in his filmmaking? Instead, it all feels just a bit... rote. It has enough trouble setting itself apart in the writing, but even in terms of bringing that writing to life, Fleischer looks to be doing nothing more than going through the motions; taking what he can from other, often better films, and hoping that the end result suddenly manifests a life of its own. It doesn't.

The action scenes look like they come straight out of the video game and have about as much weight to them as that might suggest. While I have little issue with suspending my sense of disbelief for over-the-top action set pieces in these sorts of films, the action scenes in Uncharted are so disconnected from the basic laws of physics that it becomes all but impossible to actually invest in them.

Or perhaps it's even worse.

Perhaps, it's more the case that the film failed so spectacularly to hold my attention in terms of character and story that things that are not supposed to draw attention to themselves suddenly started irritating the more rational parts of my brain, which only drew me further out of the film. This is about as fundamental a failing as is possible to get in an action-adventure film.            

And then there's the cast. It is, in theory, a strong cast, led by one of the most charismatic young actors around, but however much I like almost everyone involved, they just never manage to gel as an ensemble – or they're simply hopelessly miscast. The latter failure already irked fans of the game back when the casting was first announced, and while that sort of thing usually just comes down to fanboy whining, in this case, they've been proven all too right. Even just a tiny bit of research on Wikipedia shows just how far off most of the casting is here.

In particular, Tom Holland is a terrific actor and a wonderfully likeable screen presence, but he's demonstrably not Nathan Drake; not even a younger version of him. Even with his Spider-Man muscles and undeniable good looks, he never comes across like he's on the way to becoming the tough-as-nails badass that the character apparently is in the game. As for Mark Wahlberg, Victor Sullivan is supposed to be a grizzled, ex-military professional, but Wahlberg plays him like your fairly typical Mark Wahlberg character; just less sympathetic and/or funny than usual. The theoretical "buddy chemistry" between the two is pretty much non-existent, as well.

So, yeah, so sorry Uncharted fans. I haven't even gotten into the more spoilery issues I have with the film (ugh, the villains...), but whichever way you slice it and however much past video game movies should have tempered your hopes in the first place, I can all but guarantee disappointment. This simply is not the film you've been waiting for.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:

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