Movies based on video games don’t have the best track record. The most famous example is the very first, 1993’s The Mario Bros Movie, but plenty of franchises have tried their hand at the silver screen. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Doom, Prince of Persia, and Warcraft are just some of the many lackluster attempts over the years however, it feels like nobody is willing to acknowledge the few that slip through. 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was popular enough to get a sequel, as was 1995’s Mortal Kombat. Despite underwhelming sequels, 2002’s Resident Evil is liked enough but they all seem to struggle with their core demographic. The youngest age that any of these films aimed for was 12, with 15 being the preferred age. The two most popular videogame movies of all time, namely The Angry Birds Movie and The Sonic the Hedgehog Movie, aimed for that sweet, marketable, profitable PG rating. Whether or not these were good videogame movies debatable but they were wildly popular with their core demographic, and even slightly older demographics with Sonic. The main comparison to be made between these two installments is that they vary from their source material, keeping names, designs, and very little else. Adaption seems to be necessary for adaptation, which is something that Uncharted never achieves.
The story follows thieving Nathan “Nate” Drake as he meets fellow thief Victor “Sully” Sullivan and they attempt to find the lost Magellan treasure. Along the way, they encounter a couple of Sully’s old associates, who have been individually hired by ruthless billionaire Santiago Moncada. This plotline is not lifted directly from the games, however, several key setpieces and relationships are. Uncharted tries to walk the line of “just like the game” and “a whole new story” which ultimately means that it never fully achieves either. The set pieces are fantastic, particularly during the finale, but one can’t help thinking how cool these would be to play through. These set pieces, and characters, are chosen from across the timeline of the game series, notably Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 4: A Thiefs End which means that they don’t function as they do in the games. It’s close enough to pay homage but not accurate enough to appease fans.
Meanwhile, the film itself is as standard as they come. It’s a little bit Indiana Jones and a little bit Goonies but both of these featured more fleshed-out characters and knowingly entertaining scripts. Films like those practically invented the cliches that Uncharted fails to utilise with any real meaning. The script is filled to the brim with zingers and one-liners, but that doesn’t make a character. The protagonist of the Uncharted games isn’t Nathan Drake…it’s you. You control his actions, you experience the story firsthand and you are the person being constantly screwed over by Sully. Nathan Drake is just a vessel with a backstory, which is why any adaptation is required to give him his own agency. This film doesn’t manage that and it sadly isn’t helped by the casting of Tom Holand. Tom’s natural charm and charisma are this films saving grace, as are his impressive parkour skills.
Uncharted is just another videogame movie. The score is lovely and the setpieces entertaining but Lara Croft: Tomb Raider achieved that 2 decades ago. Had this film come out then, it may have faired better…but it also would have preceded the game series by 5 years.
Here’s hoping Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is better.