Uncharted Review: An imperfect, but incredibly fun adventure
Back in 2019, Sony looked to capitalize on PlayStation’s success by creating PlayStation Productions, a studio tasked with turning PlayStation’s biggest franchises into hit movies and tv shows, and their first effort, a film adaptation of Naught Dog’s Uncharted, is surprisingly solid cinematic fun.
Look, video game movies haven’t had a good streak in, well, being good and based on the issues before Uncharted’s release, it seemed like it was heading down a bad path. From the revolving door of directors attached to the project until Zombieland and Venom director Ruben Fleischer stuck around to fan hesitation towards the casting of Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake and Victor “Sully” Sullivan, respectively, Uncharted didn’t exactly have positive momentum heading into its release. However, while it may not hit the heights of what Uncharted has become, it does a chart an interesting new path for Nathan Drake on the big screen.
The film acts as sort of a prequel to the game’s adventures as it sees treasure hunter Sully (Wahlberg) recruit a young Nathan Drake (Holland) to help him uncover lost treasure and the two end up being ensnared into a world of treasure and thievery. To be honest, the first act of Uncharted is surprisingly great in how it hooks you with every aspect. The chemistry between Holland and Wahlberg is full of great charm that evokes the energy of Drake and Sully’s dynamic in the games. It’s paced incredibly well in both the way scenes are stitched together and the balance between action and comedy. Even the way the story depicts the impact Drake’s brother Sam (Rudy Pankow) has on him and introduces the film’s villains Santiago (Antonio Banderas) and Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) feel right at home with the storytelling of Uncharted.
Now, Uncharted doesn’t exactly nail creating this new Uncharted world as certain departures and changes from the game’s lore pale in comparison. Honestly, things become off once Chloe (Sophia Ali), a fellow treasure hunter from the games, enters the picture, but its not because of Ali’s performance whatsoever. Ali definitely shows the strengths and smarts fans like about Chloe and shows some potential to lead a spinoff title like Chloe eventually did in the games. However, her characterization is a little off and it’s a little strange how everything revolves around Sully.
Chloe has been characterized as a love interest for Drake in the Uncharted games, but the relationship between Drake and Chloe in the film drastically feels forced. Holland and Ali have good chemistry, but the romantic element of it just doesn’t work and feels a little odd to have here given that Drake’s relationship with Elena Fisher, who is totally absent, is a central reason why fans love Drake’s story. It’s also a little strange that Chloe is depicted as a former underling to Sully, one of many in the film, and it’s an aspect that doesn’t work in the film’s favor. With Chloe, Sam, and even Braddock all being former disciples of Sully rather than just being other treasure hunters narrows the potential of the lore to one person and makes Drake and Sully’s relationship not as unique. Simply put, it just makes the world-building feel thin compared to the games.
Even just the overall pace and feel of the film in the second act slows things down a little too much with the mystery solving aspect of their adventure not as engaging and some of the story beats, mainly involving Sully being untrustworthy and secrets about Sam, becoming repetitive. However, Uncharted keeps itself on course for a wildly fun final act because its strengths continue to hold well throughout the film.
Holland and Wahlberg’s incredibly fun chemistry works very well with Fleischer’s direction, which is some of his best. Even though they don’t look like the characters, Holland and Wahlberg do a nice job evoking the essence of their dynamic and show potential to become stronger in future films. The action continually ramps up throughout Drake and Sully’s adventure and some of the action set pieces greatly pay homage to iconic moments from the games. The finale sequence is especially action-packed and even though it’s completely original, it feels like it belongs in the Uncharted world. Overall, for most, Uncharted will be an adventurous and fun watch in the theaters and there are some post-credit scenes that fans will certainly be interested in as they chart an interesting course for Uncharted’s future that could have the next film depict the events of the first game, Drake’s Fortune.
Uncharted is an imperfect adaptation of the iconic Naughty Dog series, but still tons of fun that shows a lot of potential for PlayStation Productions to build from. Holland and Wahlberg are incredibly charming throughout and there’s plenty of eye-dazzling action that makes for a fun time at the movies.