The latest video game adaptation is Uncharted, directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) and starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. It is something to have to say that the video game has more character development and depth than the movie based on it. But that is where we are now. Video game adaptations used to have to expand on a thin world the game presented. Nowadays, games have rich 40+ hour stories with zero budget constraints. I mean really, how was Uncharted ever going to match what the video games do?
A start would have been to cast Nathan Drake and his long-time companion Victor Sullivan with actors who could capture the quippy relationship so central to the video games. The other key element missing from the film is a sense of adventure. The video games are cinematic odes to Spielbergian adventuring complete with great world-building and narrative complexity. While Uncharted is certainly not a disaster, it is not going to please fans of the games. In fact, I think the less familiar you are with the source material, the more you may enjoy the film.
Nathan Drake (Holland) is basically a sarcastic and smooth-talking treasure hunter in the vein of Indiana Jones. There has always been a moral greyness to the character who steals artifacts but isn't always saying "They belong in a museum." Holland has the physical agility to bring the character to life but lacks the world-weariness that is so central to the character. Drake was raised in an orphanage and has a scrappy nature to him. Holland plays him a bit naive. Drake needs to be the sharpest person in the room and Holland struggles to bring that quality out. How does someone with his past become so trusting of just about everyone? And why is Drake so wowed by everything here when we know his life would make him less enamored with new gadgets and sights? These questions get at the core issue with the casting here.
Drake is working at a bar and pickpocketing when Sully (Wahlberg) approaches him with news of his lost brother Sam. Sully is after the lost gold of Magellan. On the hunt for the same gold is Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas). Moncada has hired the fierce Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) to assist him in the hunt. Sully and Drake soon reunite with Sully's colleague Chloe Frazier (Sophia Ali) and are soon globe-trotting to find clues to where the gold is stashed.
Wahlberg is the other casting mistake. Sully in the games is a father figure to Drake. Older and crankier, he often is the voice of reason when Drake's obsession takes over. Here he is given one character trait, greedy, for the majority of the film. Wahlberg is charmless in the role and there is little chemistry between him and Holland. While they each have move star qualities and can be sometimes charismatic, they don't fit the characters that fans know. This is why I mention that you may enjoy the film more, the less familiar you are with this video game series.
Uncharted is often hampered by its $120 million budget. The video games are full of crazy set pieces that operate at a grand scale. The bad CGI here doesn't help things. Watered down, miscast, and featuring a convoluted third act, Uncharted may not be the worst video game adaptation of all time but it may be the one I am most disappointed by. There is so much potential here and in the end, this film adaptation is generic and dull.