It’s a good thing that Tom Holland has “Spider-Man”, because he hasn’t done great with films outside that franchise recently (“Chaos Walking,” and now “Uncharted.”)
“Uncharted” had a lot of things going against it, mostly its weird creative choices. “Uncharted” is a very narrative-driven video game series with a huge fanbase, and as such, it was important that this film be faithful to its source material — which it wasn’t. For some bizarre reason, this film is inspired by the fourth and most recent installation in the series, but presents it as protagonist Nathan Drake’s (Tom Holland) first adventure, which completely changes the context of the few moments the film is faithful to the game, alienating fans.
It also has Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) take the place of Nathan’s brother, Sam (Rudy Pankow), who is absent for most of the film, as he was left for dead long ago on a treasure-hunting adventure. This significantly changes the dynamic of the story and group, further distancing the film from the game and what worked in it. Most notably, film Sully doesn’t work as a mentor figure like he does in the game, sharing more similarities to Sam in terms of his recklessness and comradery with Nathan, which hurts the film a great deal, as its world of private intrigue, exclusive connections, and exotic relics needs someone like game Sully to serve as a mature, guiding figure. Film Sully is treated as a joke and has-been for comedic effect.
The film briefly tells Nathan’s story as a self-made bartender whose brother abandoned him years ago to escape from the police, but has been after the long-lost gold of the Magellan expedition for years, and has been in touch with him via postcards. An expert pickpocket, his talent is noticed by Sully, who previously worked with his brother, who gets him onboard his scheme to steal a golden cross that serves as one of two keys needed to unlock the way to the gold. They find it at an auction house, where it is also being pursued by Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), who is a descendant of the family who funded the original expedition, and Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle), a cutthroat treasure hunter he’s hired. Also in the mix is Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali), another treasure hunter who works with and against Nathan and Sully throughout the film, who has the other cross.
“Uncharted” works as a very average film, but it will be disappointing and strange if you’re a fan of the games it is based on. It clearly is trying to cram the basic story of this franchise into the Marvel formula, which becomes all too clear when its embarrassing end credits scene rolls. Its script is written by three writers, all of whom have credits writing for Marvel, and it feels like they based the film off of the Wikipedia plot summary of “Uncharted 4”, which they half-remembered.
The film is mostly harmless, but its third act is embarrassingly over-the-top, and the film essentially devolves into a cartoon, in which the two 16th-century Magellan ships they’ve been looking for are yanked from their hiding place via helicopters, and a ship is even dropped on someone. The mostly-digital effects look awful, and it completely breaks your immersion because it just goes too far. It feels like you’re watching a PlayStation 3 game, and a bad one at that.
Holland feels horribly miscast as Drake — Nathan Fillion, despite being 50, would have been a much better choice, as he is known to play character similar to Nathan Drake. Holland’s performance is almost indistinguishable from his performance as Peter Parker in the MCU — he’s essentially playing the same character, but thrown into different circumstances. Given how close this film came out to the premiere of “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, and how close Holland’s casting as Nathan Drake was to his debut as Parker in “Captain America: Civil War” (about a year), it seems like the film’s producers casted him to cash in on his good will in the MCU, knowing that it would put butts in seats. This is also not to say anything about Holland’s age — Drake is usually in his mid-to-late thirties in his games, and Holland’s version is 25, though I don’t think it’s a major issue, though it does cause cognitive dissonance seeing as most people just watched Holland play a high schooler in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
The film has somehow earned its budget back, and should be on track to make a profit, but it is a critical failure and a missed opportunity. It very well may get a sequel, but it doesn’t deserve one. Its lazy writing and production turns what should have been an easy home run into a boring base hit.
“Uncharted” gets a 4/10