After the dizzying heights set by “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, superstar Tom Holland graces the big screen once again as a beloved gaming icon in Sony Picture’s “Uncharted.”
The “Uncharted” games are some of the most beloved console adventures out there. It is no surprise that Hollywood loves adapting popular franchises. Nevertheless, it is no secret that such an adaptation has been caught in development purgatory for years (which was around the time the first “Uncharted” game, Drake’s Fortune” was released). Heck, baby Tom Holland would have still been practising his Billy Elliot moves back then.
So, after an unfortunate script leak and multiple cycles of directors later, we finally have the tale of Nathan Drake and his buddies to grace our screens and uhh… it’s kinda “meh”?
When we meet Tom Holland’s Nathan Drake in the movie, he is flipping bottles and shaking drinks for a living. Nevertheless, his street smarts and knowledge of the unknown draw the attention of seasoned treasure hunter, Sully (Mark Wahlberg). They agree to help each other gather clues that would lead them to the long-lost treasure of Magellan’s expeditions.
Nathan’s story here partly draws inspiration from “Uncharted: A Thief’s End”, whereby we explore the past of that character. Nate’s brother, Sam, is someone who has been out of sight for years. Nathan has no clue as to his whereabouts and when Sully shows signs of knowing where he is, Nathan jumps at that chance.
Alas, the duo isn’t the only party searching for the prize as Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) believes he is the rightful heir to the famed fortune. With the expedition becoming less of a heist and more of a reckless adventure, can Nathan and Sully put their differences aside to get to the gold?
Now, if you are one of those people who felt that the “Uncharted” trailer just does not possess the vibe of the games, the actual product will do nothing to alleviate that. We’re not sure if it’s the “Spider-Man” effect, but watching Tom Holland on-screen feels less like his Nathan Drake is another variation of Peter Parker. Wahlberg’s sardonic portrayal of Sully also feels off but this is the least of our concerns.
The problem here somehow lies within the characters, their relationships, and overall chemistry with one another. They don’t really anchor the audiences, and if you’re practically new to this world, it will frustrate you. While there are attempts to create dramatic character moments and emotional layers, it all falls short due to the lack of commitment to really double down on these ideas. Character development feels more and more like an afterthought as the adventure progresses.
There is a key relationship being explored here: Nate and Sully’s. We see how they meet and how they interact along the way. It is full of mistrust. They still don’t know how to open up. That is all fine for character development. However, the movie tends to shy away from this and only references it again once the momentum is lost. It consistently loses focus on reaching its best potential with the two.
The addition of Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali) and Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) into the mix are welcome wrenches to Nate and Sully’s plans. Nevertheless, their motivations are such a blur that after a while it becomes less clear as to what anyone is doing any longer. Poor Antonio Banderas suffers the same abysmal fate in his character, Moncada, whereby he’s the main threat to Nate and Sully’s plans but fails to display any fangs.
If there is one plus point, it is Tom Holland. Yes, we know what we said. He doesn’t really fit with the Nathan Drake we have come to know over the years. However, the movie benefits a lot from Tom’s presence as he exudes his wholesome charms and wit to his version of the character. He’s cool, quippy, and he flips bottles at the bar for fun. Without Tom, there would have been nothing to root for. The movie as a whole would have come crashing down into a barren desert without a parachute.
Speaking of crashes, the other bright spots in the film come from its action setpieces. The perilous circumstances make for some bombastic sequences. Be it running and leaping across rooftops, parkouring around, or hanging from chandeliers and cargo planes, it’s a nail-biting affair that showcases the performers’ peak physicalities. They’re being thrown around the set and balancing on gimbals. It helps that Chung-Hun Chung’s frames expertly navigate the scope and scale of the action.
One sequence that is particularly interesting to watch comes during the final act. It stands out due to the extravagant nature of suspending two 16th century boats in mid-air. It’s not every day you see something like that, ya know.
Ultimately, the messy nature of “Uncharted” can only thrill you in spurts and will not truly engage you. That’s a shame because we love the video-game franchise not just for its massive action-packed ideas but also for Nathan, Sully, and Chloe along with their dynamics. We’re not sure if this was the studio trying to rely solely on fans’ knowledge of the source material. Indeed, that would have been a crazy thought considering you have a general public audience who wouldn’t know of anything other than Marvel movies these days.
Indeed, we’ve seen better films of the same heist-adventure genre. If we’re talking about recent features, the Ryan Reynolds-Dwayne Johnson outing, “Red Notice”, comes to memory. Oh yeah, it was a dumb flick. But, hell yes, it delivers the fun, combining action, adventure, sarcastic humour, and heart in the best combo possible. In a way, “Red Notice” is somehow a better “Uncharted” film than what the “Uncharted” film itself attempts to be. If that doesn’t prove a point, we don’t know what else would.
Indeed, the film itself tries to balance its way out of being a complete trainwreck. It also attempts to set up a franchise future through its two credits stingers. By its end, there is a promise.
Even if this origin story doesn’t pan out the way fans or audiences would like, we’re still willing to give the benefit of the doubt to its future. What does the inscription on Drake’s ring state again? Oh yes, Sic Parvis Magna – aka greatness from small beginnings.
All throughout the film, the theme of trust pushes itself to the forefront. Can Nathan trust Sully? Can Chloe trust Nathan? In the same vein, it would be fair, as members of the audience, to reflect as to whether we trust this team of creatives to move forward with this property.
The movie ends on a promising note with Nathan and Sully. Again, with this whole drab origin out of the way, the franchise can now kick into high gear while fixing its very glaring issues to make audiences care more and make it stand out among the tons of heist-adventure films that have come before. Focusing on getting its characters right and getting us to care more about them should be their primary focus moving forward. Nevertheless, is it already too late for that now?
“Uncharted” releases in theatres nationwide on the 17th of February 2022.
Follow us on Telegram for more updates and breaking news: https://t.me/hypemsia
- "Uncharted" Review