With the Uncharted movie having spent over a decade in production (also seemingly entering and then ultimately avoiding development hell in that time), it was easy enough to go into the film with lowered expectations. After all, when apparent shoo-in for the lead role Nathan Fillion was snubbed and Tom Holland cast in his place, then it subsequently being announced that the film would be an original story “inspired by the games” rather than based on specifically on any one of their stories, Uncharted didn’t seem like a particularly enticing prospect.
Still, as a huge Uncharted fan, it was worth a viewing – it is an adaptation, when all’s said and done – and it was one of Corner of Film’s most anticipated 2022 releases.
Uncharted opens with a brilliantly realized homage to the games, delivering immediate evidence that Holland brings an excellent physicality to the role of Nathan Drake. From the off, Holland is able to physically capture the spirit of the game character’s movements when climbing and fighting (the two key elements of Nathan Drake), and therefore, Uncharted sets itself up well as a part of the same mythology as the games.
Despite borrowing elements of its story – and lifting whole set pieces in some scenes – Uncharted really doesn’t follow the story as set out in the games. It incorporates elements of all four video games in the main series, but it doesn’t make particularly good use of any of them (bar the lost brother stuff relating to Nathan’s brother Sam, which was done relatively well, even if the pay-off is yet to come).
While Holland and Wahlberg share an excellent chemistry in their respective roles of Nathan Drake and Victor “Sully” Sullivan, they feel like two very different characters. In terms of the film itself, this works relatively well, but as a fan of the games, there’s still less joy in their versions of the characters than I’d hoped for.
Perhaps Uncharted‘s best casting is that of Sophia Ali as Chloe Frazer. Not only does she look remarkably similar to the game character, but she strikes exactly the same chord in her relationships with the film’s characters, setting herself up as an invaluable part of the (potential) franchise.
Uncharted‘s treasure-hunting, puzzle-solving adventure is done as well as could be expected. There are moments that require the suspension of disbelief, but that is, ultimately, the spirit of the games. While there is a little disappointment to be felt in Uncharted‘s handling of the source material, it was generally achieved as well as possible in order to establish a cinematic franchise independent of the games.
In a vague, spiritual-successor sense, Uncharted is a worthy evolution of the beloved video game franchise, and it’s in good hands with Holland and Wahlberg, who bring the right sort of comedy and chemistry to their roles.
Uncharted does a good job of appeasing fans of the games without alienating those uninitiated in the franchise, and it makes itself a reasonable alternative to its more self-serious action-adventure or superhero contemporaries.
In its capacity as the first film in an intended franchise, Uncharted ticks all the necessary boxes and still has that big blockbuster feel, even if it’s hard to brook the disappointment of its handling of the source material. Hopefully, it’s given the chance to expand upon its better aspects in sequels, because there’s a lot of promise in the film.
Summary: A cohesive, if predictable, action-adventure that pays homage to its source material without being held back by it. It is, by turns, thrilling and disappointing in equal measure, but it’s certainly not without franchise potential.
Highlights: A handful of visual nods to the video game source material are achieved organically enough to be genuinely impressive.