Not too long ago Paramount nearly set the internet on fire with their horrifying first attempt at creating a live-action version of Sonic the Hedgehog. Thankfully, someone came to their senses and the characters were faithfully translated to the big screen. The movies themselves weren’t exactly masterpieces, but they were kid-friendly fun and satisfied the die-hard Sonic fans. It’s a far cry from 1993’s bizarre feature film adaptation of Super Mario Bros. Theoretically, modern technology should have made it easier to make video game movies. Special effects have improved massively while the games themselves can sometimes be more cinematic than some motion pictures. Yet, we still haven’t had a great video game, just a few passable ones. Technology can’t supplant the human element when it comes to the screenplay and the direction.
For those unfamiliar with the games, Uncharted follows the globe-trotting adventures of Nathan Drake, a modern-day Indiana Jones. The feature film had been dragged through developmental hell for years with a long succession of directors dropping like flies. David O. Russell, Seth Gordon, Shawn Levy, and Travis Knight, just to name a few. At one point, fans were clamoring for Nathan Fillion to take on the role, which never panned out aside from a 2018 fan film. Sony eventually turned to Tom Holland to portray a younger version of Nathan Drake with the movie acting as an origin story and de facto prequel to the games. Similar to Tomb Raider.
As a child, Nathan grows up in an orphanage, alongside his older brother Sam (Rudy Pankow) who spins tales about buried treasures and their legendary ancestor Sir Francis Drake. Due to several run-ins with the law, Sam runs away and eventually the brothers lose contact outside of a few postcards. Present day, Nathan works as a bartender in the Big Apple, occasionally picking pockets and swiping jewelry from wealthy patrons for a little extra cash.
He is approached by Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg, who was previously attached to play Nathan), a disgraced Navy sailor, who had been hunting the long-lost treasure of Ferdinand Magellan with Sam Drake. Nathan and Sully reluctantly team up and are later joined by Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali), another treasure hunter with severe trust issues. The only thing standing in their way, besides themselves, is Santiago Moncado (Antonio Banderas), the last scion of a wealthy and influential Spanish family. The Moncados bankrolled Magellan’s voyage and sees the treasure as rightfully his.
Uncharted doesn’t do much to veer away from the standard tropes we’ve seen in The DaVinci Code or National Treasure. The heroes find clues that lead them to hidden catacombs beneath renowned landmarks that lead them to yet another clue. Rinse and repeat. Uncharted does have much better action sequences. The centerpiece sees Nathan dangling out of the back of a cargo plane in a set piece lifted right out of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The climax takes Nathan and Sully to the Philippines where they duke it out with the villains aboard two of Magellan’s ships as they are being taxied by helicopter. It’s equal parts Pirates of the Caribbean and equal parts Saturday morning cartoon. Just the type of scene you’d expect from the director of Zombieland and Venom.
Holland equates himself adequately in the lead role though he sometimes appears to be too young for Nathan Drake, despite being in his mid-20’s. Wahlberg does his usual smarmy Bostonian act and doesn’t quite feel right for the role of father figure Sully, especially when you know the character more resembles the late-William Hurt. Antonio Banderas breathes some life into his paper-thin antagonist, but never gives him much to do beyond supervillain monologues. Out of everybody in the Uncharted ensemble is Tati Gabrielle as Moncado’s henchwoman, Jo Braddock, an original character created for the film. Braddock is deliciously ruthless without being bogged down by a tragic backstory to explain her murderous actions.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The transfer is gorgeous with a bright and clean picture. Finer details such as the dirt and grime on Tom Holland’s clothing shine through.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Hardcore audiophiles would have preferred a Dolby Atmos track, the sound here is still well done. The action scenes sound sweet and the score by Ramin Djawadi is highlighted well.
Never a Dull Moment: Stunts & Action (5:54) looks at all the work that went into the stunt work and fight choreography.
Becoming Nathan Drake (3:59) sees Tom Holland discuss the original games and bringing the protagonist to life.
Villains, Backstabbers & Accomplices (4:20) is a featurette about the bad guys and supporting characters.
Charting the Course: On Set with Ruben Fleischer (4:28) sits down with the director and his approach to making the movie.
The Buddy System (3:49) focuses on the dynamic duo of Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland.
Big Action Breakdown: C-17 Globemaster (5:03) goes behind the scenes of the film’s aerial action sequence.
Theatrical Marketing (4:12) pairs Holland and Wahlberg to promote the film in humorous ways.
Rounding out the extras are an audio commentary track with director Ruben Fleischer and over 10 minutes of deleted & extended scenes. You’ll also get a music video for the song “No Mind” by Milkblood and previews for other Sony releases.
Film Value: 6
Long time fans of the Uncharted games will probably feel let down by this adaptation. However, those who don’t have a connection with the source material may not have the same quibbles. Uncharted is a decent enough action movie that provides all the loud, dumb fun audiences have come to expect from summer blockbusters. That might be enough to forgive the all-too familiar and predictable trappings.